Our members are part of a connected community of entrepreneurial enterprises, mentors and up and coming entrepreneurs who support one another addressing the business issues of the day. Below are some members experiences in their road to launching successful enterprises and the role our community played.
Members Journeys to Entrepreneurship
Curatif and Shubhra Sharma
At Curatif Inc. our mission is to offer meaningful, minimalist personal care products for maximum life-affirming affects. Our current offering is Cria, an all natural, vegan, gluten-free hair follicle energizer. The story of Cria began with a very obscure notation in my father’s diary. I am an anthropologist by training and in 2010 I was doing a diary project, looking into male diaries to understand how men in my culture construct their public selves through a very private, and forbidden (to others) document. In one of my father’s many diaries, I came across a notation, penciled at the top of the page. It looked like a jumble of numbers. So I asked my mother if she knew what it was. And she immediately exclaimed, “There it is . . .” Sure enough, it turns out to be a formula for what is now Cria! So Cria is how I honor my parents, and together we honor people—their bodies, their lives, their lived worlds.
My membership with TechRanch and the Venture Forth boot camp (made possible through the generosity of IAEC) came at the “right” time, especially as I was preparing to rebrand and relaunch Cria this year. The most valuable kernel for me has been participation—the opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs, hear their stories, and appreciate their com
mitment to solving endemic social problems. I was inspired by everyone’s very noble quests and this has fed the life-stream of my own quest. I am also grateful for the connections. This forum allowed incredible access to the Austin entrepreneurial community that is incredibly kind and supportive. Each member of this community is so willing to share and to teach. They offer their time with such generosity that you know you will pay it forward at any opportunity you get. So I wish to thank everyone at TechRanch and IAEC for offering resources essential to the success of my enterprise. I am very excited for the journey and real possibilities of present/future success. With appreciation—Shubhra Sharma, Ph.D.
Ignition Capital and Jonathan Colin
In 2015, I decided to leave my position as Director of a business incubator and accelerator in Mexico. Since then I had been working on several startups and building a Holding Company that could manage them all. Although I had made some progress, the Holding company was not attractive for investors.
I had the opportunity to meet Kevin in 2013 at Tech Ranch as part of a trip where he accepted to speak with Mexican students about the job they do at Tech Ranch and the Austin Entrepreneurial Ecosystem. In 2017, he was on a personal trip in Queretaro, Mexico where once again he accepted to hear my story.
After our meeting, we offered me the opportunity to enroll on the Venture Forth program to develop a new idea. Instead of creating a Holding Company I was going to create a private Investment fund, using my experience and the methodology we used to develop the startups we already had. This way we could be more attractive for investors and create more impact in the long term.
The program has allowed me to work on the Fund’s structure, fixing my pitch and forcing me to get feedback every single day. Today we have a well-rounded business plan and made 5 investments. We focus on early stage entrepreneurs and develop their ideas to the point where those projects are interesting for seed capital funds. We want to create the best educated and ready to grow companies for those funds.
Today we are talking with potential investors whose feedback on the model has been very positive, following a methodology and having international mentoring has served to gain confidence that our model has been and is being evaluated by experts in their respective fields. They know that we are working to keep their money safe and their profits high.
Baby talk and Annie Carosa
I have been a high school teacher for 20 years and although they say, “those who can’t, teach” I knew I could have a successful side job and I could nurture it into profitability. What I didn’t have was any proper guidance, business technique or a reliable road map. I had never taken a business class in all my years of education!
My company BabyTalk is a home-based instructional program that teaches babies and toddlers Spanish and other languages. I developed it when my daughter was born and took her to my class everyday along with other moms and their infants. Parents and preschools were clamoring for my materials and methodology, so I knew that I desperately needed a crash course on how to articulate my company vision, services and how to market and sell the language package, while still showing up for my day job, taking care of my two kids, and not go insane!
The Venture Forth class equipped me with everything I needed to shape and grow my business. The 2-month program was a deep inquiry and intentional evolution of ideas, from honing my business model to creating succinct elevator and investor pitches, all of which left me with great confidence that I could venture forth with success. Shortly after the class I was able to secure contracts with two nation-wide preschools and my online sales have doubled.
I was very impressed with the scope and sequence of the Venture Forth class and curriculum. Tech Ranch brings in some of the most talented and successful entrepreneurs of Austin, each with a different expertise and perspective. You must be ready to take your business to the next level if you opt in to Venture Forth, it is highly engaging and the participants are collaborating and creating and challenged at every turn.
An unexpected byproduct of my Venture Forth experience was discovering Tech Ranch is a place of visionaries who are looking to create powerful and positive impact on our community and around the world. Tech Ranch has a unique culture centered on empowering the whole individual – mind and heart. Kevin Koym and his contributors are masterful at getting to the source of the student’s bliss (Joseph Campbell) and understand that if entrepreneurs are working from a place of passion, coupled with entrepreneurial best practices, then success, however you define it, is an inevitable and undeniable result.
Target Evolution and Crystal Victoria
For the past year, I’ve been pitching investors and trying to put together the perfect pitch for Target Evolution. I wanted to learn and needed to be coached after adjusting my business model a few
times. I have created a dozen pitch decks, but still could not figure out how to tell my story in a succinct and simple way.
While pitching an investor from Austin, I realized that Tech Ranch would be a great place for me to learn and reached out to Kevin Koym. Kevin and I had met several years earlier, but because I lived in Dallas, I never asked about being a part of Venture Forth. This particular time, Kevin offered me the chance to participate virtually and I was ecstatic!
Practicing the pitch helped me learn to simplify and become clear on the most important aspect of communicating my business model. Gaining feedback from other entrepreneurs and mentors helped me see things from several strong perspectives. The cohort became like family as we shared our strengths and weaknesses. It truly helps to have other entrepreneurs who understand the growth process while developing a business model. There is no way for us to know everything and our relationships are crucial to the building process.
I have secured a partnership with University of North Texas Dallas and we are currently in the process of planning our first event together to empower teen entrepreneurs from low income families. We have committed participants from five high schools across Dallas Independent School District and look forward to impacting the lives of thousands of teens locally and nationally.
I am very grateful to have participated and to be Alumni of Venture Forth!
Electric Cab and Chris Nielsen
I was an alumni of one of the first Venture Forth Cohorts in 2011 when I was struggling to get my business, Electric Cab off the ground. We were the first to market in the emerging micro-transit industry so regulations had not exactly caught up with new technology. I joined the Tech Ranch community because I was basically in over my head and I finally realized how much I didn’t know about running a business, much less pioneering a new industry. After a great deal of searching I realized that Kevin’s program at Tech Ranch was the best fit for me and my business. The Venture Forth program helped me to distill my business model down into something manageable and helped me to figure out what was important for growth, and more importantly, what was just background noise that was wasting my time.
I’ll admit, I was very skeptical when I was introduced to Kevin’s team, mainly because I had already done my rounds through the accelerator/incubator community and found that they used a lot of buzzwords and recycled language that sounded great, but provided little to no value to me or my business. The first class that I took at Tech Ranch changed my mind pretty quickly, mainly because Kevin didn’t use the same old tired language that I had already heard a dozen times before. His approach was very different, the first thing that he focused on was having everyone take a short personality test to identify our strengths so we could figure out what to build upon, I couldn’t quite grasp why we were doing this at the time, but I decided to give it a shot and I’m very glad that I did, it changed everything about the way I was trying to run my business. I discovered why I was excelling in some areas and falling dismally behind in others. In other words, I was given a opportunity to do a proverbial Ooda Loop on my business model and was given the tools to make informed decisions on how to identify our weak points and make the appropriate changes.
I’ve come back to work with Kevin after 5 years in his new Venture Builder program because now my business is poised to disrupt how the entire urban mobility market functions in the future. Kevin has been instrumental in helping me to navigate through the amazingly complex realm of software developers and technology pertaining to the Smart Cities market. Without his guidance I would have still been going in circles trying to sift through the seemingly endless pitfalls that I was trying to navigate through in building our mobile app and also making our fleet autonomous, his experience in the tech community has given him an amazing ability to separate the viable from the BS when I’m working with multiple vendors and technology partners.
We now operate the largest for-hire fleet of low speed vehicles in North America, and we’re poised and ready to eliminate buses operating in urban cores and finally solve the elusive last mile quagmire that’s been plaguing mass transit providers and preventing the wide scale adoption of the CaaS market.
I would highly recommend that anyone that’s setting out on their own in the brave new world of startups, or even those that have been in business for a while and have hit a plateau, to stop by one of Tech Ranch’s Campfire sessions to find out what the awesome community that they have created has to offer
HealthStart Foundation and Heather Herskowitz
About 18 months ago HealthStart participated in Hack4Change where we had an opportunity to get support and help for our digital game, Monstralia. Kevin was one of the judges.
It’s typical of Kevin’s generosity that at the conferences conclusion he offered all the companies that had pitched at the conference to try Venture Start, Tech Ranch’s program to get new ideas and companies off the ground, on him. I jumped at the chance.
When HealthStart joined Venture Start we were trying to find support for our game, Monstralia: A Healthy Life For Your Little Monsters. The game uses baby monsters stranded on an island. Kids (aka players) find the island and baby monsters. The kids teach the baby monsters about foods that are good for the brain, bones, etc and how their body takes care of them thus learning how to take care of themselves. Venture Start helped us hone our “pitch” and mission statements, connect us with others at the same stage of development, and identify the questions we needed to ask to move forward.
I loved being able to come to the Camp Fires, a fast pitch, networking opportunity, Tech Ranch hosts, and learn about all the innovative and talented people in Austin working to find their niches. HealthStart made several great connections through Camp Fire.
Subsequently, Kevin allowed HealthStart to attend Venture Forth where we worked with a cohort of entrepreneurs to develop skills to grow our businesses. Each of us was to support the others with honest feedback as we worked through activities designed to expose us to specifics concepts and learn from the great speakers Tech Ranch recruited for the program.
Recently, HealthStart partnered with UT Austin on an National Institutes of Health (NIH) to future develop our game and evaluate its effectiveness in teaching kids good health concepts. The partnership with UT would have been unlikely without the push Tech Ranch provided us.
HealthStart is building a healthier future for us all through science-based health education for kids. We set a foundation for lifelong wellbeing by teaching 3 to 6 year olds how their bodies work and the food and fitness habits needed for good health. Beyond taking care of their bodies, HealthStart helps children connect caring of one another and their world to their own health and the health of their communities. HealthStart is a 501c3 nonprofit organization founded 2010, currently operating in Texas.