Privacy took home the win at Tuesday night’s Tech Fuel competition in San Antonio. Rectify, the auto redaction and data privacy company took home the $50,000 grand prize in front of an audience so filled it was bursting out of the Tobin’s Carlos Alvarez theater.
“I think we won tonight because privacy in general is such a hot topic right now in our society. And that people resonated with it,” said Linda McComb, chief executive officer for Rectify.
Tech Fuel is a collaboration between local companies, foundations and Tech Bloc — an organization that advocates for the local tech industry. Bexar County also gave $100,000 toward the competition aimed at supporting startups and potentially netting new ones from across Texas.
Bexar County officials received applause when they announced at the event that they will fund the competition again next year, based on the success. County officials said they were amazed by the response to the competition which saw 57 applicants total, as well as Tuesday’s turnout for the final event. Organizers and the county waited three years between the 2015 Tech Fuel and this one.
“[These Companies] just need that extra edge to get it to the market, I think it is a whole different category of economic development,” said Deborah Carter, director of Economic Development at Bexar County.
It was the second pitch competition, which increased the total purse from $30,000 in 2015, and opening eligibility to the entire state. Ultimately none of the five finalists were from outside San Antonio, but Tech Bloc staff say eight, or more than a third, were included in the semi-finals.
“This is helping develop a larger narrative about San Antonio,” said Dax Moreno, who was a lead organizer for Tech Bloc.
That narrative is of a city and county that are willing to invest and partner with companies, especially small ones, to help them grow. Both local governments have done it increasingly in the past five years through things like direct grants, pairing startups with city departments to solve problems as with the CivTechSA program.
“To be in a community that says to startups, ‘We value you. We pay attention to you. We’re invested in helping you grow and want you to grow here,’ is an important aspect to startup partners,” said Luis Martinez, director of entrepreneurship at Trinity University, and one of Tech Fuel’s judges.
They won’t get that kind of attention he said at the stand-in-line, startup-choking hubs like San Francisco or New York.
“That is really compelling,” said Melissa Unsell-Smith, president and founder of Rectify, of the pitch competition, of the community investment in startups. But $50,000 in equity free funding is compelling too,” she said.
Rectify will use the money to help them hire employees and deals faster, Unsell-Smith said. It focuses on automating redaction of documents for the legal space, but can see it growing into other avenues as well.
The four other finalists split another $50,000 based on how well the audience rated their pitches. The audience voted via smartphone app. Tuuk, the web-based digital experiences company took home $2,500. Sendspark, a video outreach company won $7,500. Train The Mind, which provides training for mental performance won $10,000. Finally CheckUps, an app based program that could allow social workers or parole officers to track clients and their compliance via phone, won $20,000.