Vocal Media, a company that uses the dead-air time in international phone calls to advertise to U.S. immigrant populations, won the Texas round of the Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition (TVLIC) Feb. 16.
Hosted annually at The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, TVLIC (formerly, Moot Corp) simulates the process of raising venture capital.
With its win Vocal Media is entered in this year’s Global VLIC, to be held in Austin May 4-7. The company also won the opportunity to work with Texas Venture Labs and a Launch Package from the Austin Technology Incubator, which includes one year of strategic business consulting services and mentoring from a team of industry experts, office space, and access to discounted legal, accounting and other professional businesses services.
The TVLIC judges function as an investment group seeking to reach consensus on the business venture they would most likely fund. This year, the panel of judges was made up exclusively of former TVLIC finalists. They included Harlan Beverly and Mike Cubbage of Bigfoot Networks, Jiten Dalvi of Qcue, Jay Manickam and Matt Chasen of uShip, and Daniel Nelson and Robert Reeves of Phurnace Software.
“The judges’ feedback was blunt, honest and applicable, and we will be taking their advice as we get ready to compete in the global competition,” said David Saldana, co-founder of Vocal Media.
Saldana came up with the idea to place audio advertisements into the dead air that sometimes happens in long-distance (primarily international) phone calls. The audio clips could either be pure advertisements or sponsor-provided, value-added content — weather reports, local news, sports scores, etc. — played in the caller’s first language, as determined by the call destination.
Saldana explored the viability of this idea as a student this year in the university’s Master’s of Science and Technology Commercialization program. He formed a team and business plan with classmates Justin Dickstein, Arely Fontecha and Marty McCrea. This team became Vocal Media, and they were able to convince a panel of judges the idea had commercial viability.
“Vocal Media was the winner from a field of 18 campus-wide companies this year,” said Rob Adams, director of Texas Venture Labs and the TVLIC. “Vocal Media had a very creative approach to targeted marketing in a category that is growing exponentially.”
The three other finalists that competed with Vocal Media in the finals were:
ClearBrook Imaging — A specialty, development-stage, medical device company focused on the development of intravascular photoacoustic cardiac diagnostic imaging technology to address the shortcomings of the existing modalities within the industry. Ryan Miller, MSTC ’11; David Mortellaro, MSTC ’11; Jimmy Su, Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering.
Garage Fairy — A service that picks up unwanted items from homes and sells it for customers on sites such as Craigslist and eBay. Iva Paleckova, MBA ’11.
Urban Dish — A fast casual restaurant concept offering a simple, customizable menu for patrons who appreciate a modern sustainable approach to traditional food but also place a high priority on time and convenience. Aaron Lyons, MBA ’11.
The Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition is a program of Texas Venture Labs. Texas Venture Labs is an interdisciplinary education and research initiative at The University of Texas at Austin created to support entrepreneurship, innovation and company formation while providing a unique and directly applicable educational experience for participating students and a research environment for faculty.