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WeekWise: Seven and Eight

We're closing in on the Seventh Annual Bayou Startup Showcase: mark your calendar for Thursday, August 6, and join us to celebrate the launch of the newest startups from OwlSpark and RED Labs! Stay tuned for details and registration.

Over the past two weeks, founders have dug into pitching and more key business topics:
  • Building a face for a brand: translating the key elements of a brand into a visual identity;
  • Public speaking: how to inform and motivate, plus the importance of nonverbal communication;
  • Storytelling and best-practices for writing a pitch; 
  • Navigating FDA regulatory pathways; and,
  • Legal considerations surrounding employment.
It takes a village to raise a startup—and at OwlSpark, it is no different. Our gratitude and kudos to our village, our speakers and subject matter experts who took time to dish out information, advice, and perspective over the past two weeks:
Christie Alcala
Vinson & Elkins

Drew Calabrese
auggie, OwlSpark Class 7

Quinn Edgecombe
Cali Balance
RED Labs Class 7

Alex de la Fuente
Spacecraft Brands

Rob McKee
University of Houston – Downtown
examtrom, RED Labs Class 4

Matthew Peña
OwlSpark Class 3 & 6
Blake Petty
McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship

Ed Teitel

Stephen Tsai
Tax Credit Hero
OwlSpark Class 6

Roslynn Velasquez
Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship

Rassul Zarinfar
Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company

Randy Zhou
Blume Laboratories
RED Labs Class 5

TeamWise: Ai-Ris

Millions of people around the world live with Diabetes, a disease marked by excessive blood sugar levels. Diabetes can wreak havoc on blood vessels in the body, causing complications to vital organs. One such complication is Diabetic Retinopathy—when damage to blood vessels in the eye leads to blurriness, dark areas of vision, difficulty perceiving colors, and eventually, blindness.

To combat Diabetic Retinopathy, TJ Falohun and Harsha Mohan founded Ai-Ris. Ai-Ris is an imaging system that takes a detailed picture of the retina to assess its condition. 


PeopleWise: Roslynn Velasquez

Roslynn Velasquez is the Marketing Director for the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, a program for launching successful tech ventures through entrepreneurship education, mentoring, and networking connections, and the initiative under which OwlSpark was founded. Graduating from Texas A&M University with her Bachelor’s in English and Communications, Roslynn has worked at the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University as well as The Black Sheep Agency, a Houston creative agency that works with impact-driven companies ranging from nonprofits to civic entities.

AlumniWise: Arovia

Arovia offers the Spontaneous Pop-Up Display (SPUD), a desktop-sized, HDMI monitor that collapses down to the size of a book for portability. Since 2015, they:
  • Sold $1M of the first product, the SPUD, and have shipped to happy customers all over the world.
  • Were awarded six patents, raised $1.5M in funding, and are preparing to launch their second-generation product.
  • Were featured on TODAY as a Technology Trend of 2017, and also on CNBC.
  • Won the Texas A&M New Ventures Competition, competed in numerous business plan competitions (including the Rice Business Plan Competition), and were awarded a $50,000 NSF I-Corps grant.

AlumniWise: Gethr

Gethr built a web-based platform that leverages social media influencers and machine learning to promote artists’ music. Since 2018, Gethr has:
  • Raised $20K from angels to bridge them into customer onboarding.
  • Completed alpha testing and are incorporating feedback in preparation for beta testing.

WordWise: Overhead at OwlSpark

“Are they trying to sell lumber to millennials who shop at IKEA?”

“If you try to jump on I-10 to go to Chicago, you’re an idiot.”

“We cordially asked people for more interviews.”

“I drink from the trough of sorrow for breakfast.”

“I’m calling it sanitary periwinkle.”
“As opposed to non-hygenic periwinkle?”

“Replicating the mastery of the thighmaster.”

“Did you say crush eyes?”
“Well, you’re a young thunder cat, so that’s why.”

“This just lays there like a fart in church. It's bad.”

“Ying Yang Twins Salt Shaker was deep.”

“The Tesla of burritos.”

“How do I look into everyone’s third eye when I present?”
“Look at their forehead. That’s how you look into their third eye.”
“Really? I just cross my eyes and I can see their third eye in a second.”

“You shouldn't be using Excel. It's garbage.”