AUSTIN, Texas — In the inaugural Female Founder Pitch Competition, hosted by the Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute (KS WELI) and the Texas Innovation Center at The University of Texas at Austin, 25 finalist teams competed for cash prizes, in-kind resources and future mentorship opportunities in a virtual, livestreamed event held Oct. 20.
The event showcased emerging businesses and technologies founded and developed by women in the UT and Austin community, who are paving the way to have a significant impact on the world.
Out of the 25 finalists, 10 teams were selected as winners across five divisions — UT Undergraduate, UT Graduate/Postdoc, UT Faculty/Staff, UT Alumnae, and Community. First-place winners in each division receive $7,500, and second-place winners in each division receive $2,500.
The 10 winning teams will go on to compete for a grand prize of $10,000 in March 2022 at the KS WELI Women’s Summit, where the startup founders will pitch to Kendra Scott and guest judges in a “Shark Tank”-style competition.
“Launching our Female Founder Pitch Competition has been my dream since we started planning our vision for the KS WEL Institute,” Kendra Scott said. “This is a big step forward in our goal of empowering and funding female-identifying founders, and I cannot wait to see the impact these young entrepreneurs will have on the world.”
More than 100 applications were submitted during the summer for a chance to compete. Semifinalist startups pitched virtually to a panel of judges that included seasoned entrepreneurs, investors and corporate leaders. They were evaluated on overall performance of their pitch, viability of company success and growth, and overall market impact. Five teams from each of the five divisions were then selected to move on in the competition. The top 25 finalists were connected to advisers, coaches and mentors who provided expert advice, pitch practice and professional services to help the startup founders create viable business plans and prepare to pitch their ideas. Of those, two teams per division were selected to win prizes to support their startups.
“All of our finalists showcased the incredibly talented women founders we have in the UT and Austin community, and we are so excited to give them a place to share their startups and technologies with fellow entrepreneurs, expert mentors and potential investors,” said Van N. Truskett, executive director of the Texas Innovation Center.
The 2021 Female Founder Pitch Competition winners are:
Psykhe, a data-driven matching service that facilitates the therapist search process for college students, founded by student Mansi Parikh (McCombs School of Business, KS WELI Featured Female Founder)
Clocr, an all-in-one digital legacy management and emergency planning platform using patent-pending technology, founded by student Apoorva Chintala (McCombs School of Business, College of Liberal Arts, KS WELI Featured Female Founder)
Locus Lock, a technology that enables low-cost, high-precision positioning solutions using GPS, founded by graduate student Hailey Nichols (Cockrell School of Engineering)
Project Xylem, sustainable hydroponic greenhouses built on abandoned oil platforms, founded by graduate student Nikita Patil (Cockrell School of Engineering)
InjuriSense, a monitoring system that will detect the presence of bowel perforations during laparoscopic surgery, founded by assistant professor Tanya Hutter (Cockrell School of Engineering)
Eyes on the Sky, the world’s first immersive experience focused on space environmentalism and sustainability, founded by professor of practice Erin Reilly (Moody College of Communication)
ClimaGuard, an all-weather protection cover for vehicles and home valuables facing the risk of flood damage, founded by Rahel Abraham (Cockrell School of Engineering)
ama biotech Inc., a completely at-home STD diagnostics test for women, founded by Mia Mihailovic (Cockrell School of Engineering)
Hera Biotech, the first nonsurgical, tissue-based test for women who suffer from endometriosis, founded by Somer Baburek
Euphoria.LGBT Inc., mobile apps and technology that supports the transgender community, founded by Robbi Katherine Anthony
The KS WELI and the Texas Innovation Center will continue to work with the top 10 finalists during the next few months as they prepare to take the stage during the Women’s Summit in March.
“We look forward to empowering these women to bring their ideas to our main stage to help encourage other women to pitch their ideas at future events,” said Lesley Robinson, director of the Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute.
In addition to the 10 winning teams, ClioVis, a data visualization tool, was named the Crowd’s Choice winner — determined by audience voting during the event — and will receive a custom technology package for their startup from Dell Technologies, the founding technology partner of the Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute.
“Dell Technologies was started in a dorm room at The University of Texas at Austin 37 years ago, and entrepreneurialism has been embedded in our DNA ever since,” said Liz Matthews, Dell Technologies senior vice president of global brand and creative. “Getting more women into technology and leadership is a business imperative, which is why we’re proud to empower the next generation of women leaders at the Kendra Scott Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute and the Texas Innovation Center by providing technology, funding, networks and mentorship to enable them to leave the Forty Acres and change the world.”
The KS WELI was established in 2019. The institute aims to strengthen the next generation of courageous, creative female leaders who will change the world and seeks to redefine leadership and entrepreneurship by growing the number of women-owned and women-led businesses through an environment of community, diversity, inclusivity and empowerment.