North Texas-based incubator TECH Fort Worth recently presented this year’s IMPACT Awards at a luncheon last Wednesday, May 13th, honoring emerging technology companies in the region. The non-profit organization, which assists local entrepreneurs and startup companies in developing and commercializing their products, also announced the launch of a new donor program for supporting local innovation called “Friends of TECH Fort Worth.”
The IMPACT Awards luncheon is organized by TECH Forth Worth annually to recognize the work of its clients, as well as graduates from their programs and portfolio companies that are included in the Cowtown Angels program, which gathers together independent angel investors in the Fort Worth area and matches them with early-stage entrepreneurs that need funding. This year, the companies recognized included BearTek Gloves, Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company and Encore Vision.
“We are inspired every day by the technologies we see and the entrepreneurs we meet,” stated the executive director of TECH Fort Worth, Darlene Boudreaux. “Many others we meet are just as inspired and want a way to be able to contribute to our programs and the emergence and growth of technology in north Texas. The ‘Friends of TECH Fort Worth’ giving program is for them.”
BearTek is manufacturing a novel type of protective gloves that offer users remote access and control of target devices. Users of the innovative product can safely control devices with Bluetooth and GoPro products by touching their thumb to a specific finger to activate different functions. the gloves also include interchangeable modules inside the glove’s zipper pocket. Early sales projections for BearTek’s gloves indicate “$1 million [in sales] this year with an exit strategy in a few years when sales hit $40-$50 million,” according to the company’s partner and COO Tarik Rodgers.
The Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company specializes in manufacturing precision clubs for golfers. They offer irons from one to nine and wedges with personalized distance, precision, accuracy and playability, inspired by famed Texan golfer Ben Hogan. “We don’t just have a brand here,” said the president and CEO of the company, Terry Koehler. “We have a man’s legacy to maintain.”
The third IMPACT award was presented to Encore Vision in recognition of developing the first-ever therapy for presbyopia. Despite the fact that there is currently no treatment for the condition, characterized by the loss of the eye lens’ capacity to adapt its shape according to visual stimulus so that the eye can focus nearby objects, Encore Vision is studying a liquid solution that is expected to become a novel therapy.
At the luncheon, the People’s Choice Award was given to Ampcare, a TECH Fort Worth client that is creating a module kit to enable swallowing in dysphagia patients. The company was selected by the attendants of the TECH Fort Worth client showcases that took place the same morning at the Comerica Bank Showcase. “These entrepreneurs like to push the boundaries,” added Boudreaux. “They like to make life better and they like to make money. We’re spotlighting three and we’re proud of all our clients.”
Al Guillem, President of ZS Pharma, TECH Fort Worth’s most financially successful graduate, spoke to attendees about the journey from “$0 to $1 billion.” ZS Pharma, which has a treatment to control levels of potassium in the body, went public June 18, 2014 and is valued today at $1.26 billion.. “We’re thankful to TECH Fort Worth for helping build our infrastructure and to University of North Texas Health Science Center for its technology resources,” said Guillem. “And to Texas for $2 million from its Technology Fund when we were sucking wind. It also gave us additional credibility.”
Last September the organization had announced that two of their clients, Encore Vision and Lung Therapeutics, Inc. have successfully raised a total of $3.2 million from affiliated investors. TECH Fort Worth works with several local partners and its sponsors include the City of Fort Worth, the University of Texas at Arlington, the Fort Worth Business Press, Sabre, the University of North Texas Health Science Center, Lockheed Martin, Silicon Valley Bank, Dell, TriNet, Whitley Penn and the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University.