Startups Showcase their Ventures at MassChallenge Texas’ Austin 2019 Event

Moolah U’s Ben Aubin, Gayle Raume and Scott Burton at MassChallenge Texas’ Austin 2019 Startup Showcase

Austin-based Moolah U, which runs camps to teach students financial responsibility, chose to participate in the MassChallenge Texas accelerator to gain access to mentors and investors to scale its business.

“We’ve been running these programs for 15 years and we’ve found that the best way to teach kids is through real experience,” said Ben Aubin, Moolah’s 16-year-old developer. “We’ve supported 4,000 families and we want to bring that to 4 million more and the way to do that is through building

an app.”

Aubin is creating the app, targeted at children, ages 7 to 17. He’s previously developed a homework app and an app for driver’s education. The Moolah U app ties in with a debit card which integrates with financial tools and education information and allows kids to make smart choices with their money with parental supervision.

It’s all about building budgeting systems and solid financial habits from a young age, said Gayle Reaume, founder of Moolah U. The app is under development and should be live by the end of the program, she said.

Moolah U is one of 74 startups selected to participate in MassChallenge Texas’s latest Austin cohort, which kicked off this month. MassChallenge Texas held its Austin 2019 Startup Showcase last Thursday at Native Hostel.

At the event, the startups, including 22 from the Austin area, pitched their ventures in a private event for mentors and other invited supporters. Afterwards, they set up shop at tables in a demo area to provide the public with information about their companies.

Leah Cohen, co-founder of Guide Change

While Moolah U is developing a fintech app for kids, another fintech startup, Guide Change is an application to help older adults and their family members communicate better about finances. Leah Cohen co-founded Guide Change with Michael Curran. The app is designed for seniors to help monitor their finances and avoid fraud and unnecessary fees. It also allows them to budget for housing and healthcare and find ways to save money. Cohen, a geriatric care provider, previously participated in the Tarmac Texas accelerator at Galvanize. The app is in beta testing right now, she said.

“We’re really lucky to have made it into this program,” Cohen said.

MassChallenge Texas will help Guide Change take its app to a wider audience and will help with marketing and sales and all other aspects of scaling the business, she said.

All the startups participating in the MassChallenge Texas program compete for $500,000 in equity-free prize money at the end of the 16-week accelerator.

Mae Coffman, co-founder of Emergent Tree Education

Austin-based Emergent Tree Education, founded in 2009 by former educators Stacy Morgan and Mae Coffman, want to reach a wider market with their business through the MassChallenge Texas accelerator. They provide training, coaching and software in the area of behavior to more than 400 school districts and campuses across the state of Texas, Coffman said. It’s developing an online software as a service platform that will allow Emergent Tree Education to reach more teachers across the nation, she said. They joined the accelerator for mentorship and to put best practices in place to market and scale their business, Coffman said.

“We’re hoping MassChallenge can help us develop our business so we can be the most effective in helping teachers,” Coffman said.

Brother and Sister team: Julian and Diana Dussan, co-founders of Snack Jack

The startups participating in the MassChallenge Texas accelerator come from a wide range of industries including energy and clean tech, high-tech, social impact, general and retail and healthcare and life sciences.

One of the consumer products companies participating is Snack Jack, a plant-based jerky made from Jackfruit, founded by Diana Dussan and her brother, Julian Dussan. Diana came up with the idea for the product in 2016 and bought a used dehydrator to create samples. It was a hit with the friends and family she test marketed it with initially. Throughout the last three years, she has perfected the recipe. And when she became pregnant, she reconfigured the recipe so it would be free of soy, gluten, added sugars and other allergens.

Snack Jack has gotten rave reviews from foodies, Diana said. It has been called one of the most “buzz worthy foods for 2019” by Food Network Magazine and “Jerky of the Future,” by the Austin Chronicle. That word of mouth buzz has helped to fuel sales, Diana said. They are selling the product in eight states through select retailers and at farmer’s markets with plans to expand further nationally, she said. They are available in Whole Foods locally, she said. They are participating in MassChallenge Texas to work with mentors and to meet partners and work on distribution channels, Diana said. And they’ve got a lot more products in the pipeline, said Julian Dussan.

Allen Thornton, Founder of Grant Source

Allen Thornton, founder of Grant Source, based in Houston, is participating in MassChallenge Texas and plans to become the next big tech unicorn to come from Texas.

Grant Source helps non-profit organizations and for-profit businesses find funding through grants. So far, it has helped customers receive $4.8 million in funding since it launched its app in 2018. Grant Source is participating in the MassChallenge Texas accelerator to get strategic partners, mentors and to win the big cash prize.

“We play to win,” Thornton said. “By winning this competition, it’s an equity accelerator…We are the next billion-dollar Unicorn….We are disrupting a $40 billion industry.”

Reda Hicks, founder of GotSpot

Another Houston-based startup, GotSpot, founded by Reda Hicks, is participating in the MassChallenge Texas accelerator. GotSpot is like an Airbnb rental space for businesses. It helps them find short term commercial space for events, company meetings, art projects, culinary projects, fitness training and more.

Hicks commutes to Austin to participate in the program to get the most out of the office space provided by WeWork Barton Springs, to network with mentors and other startups and to participate in all the specialized programming.

“I have been really blown away by the program so far,” Hicks said. “It’s kind of like drinking from a fire hydrant because there is so much content.”