2014 MBA Venture Challenge

Three members of the Innovation Underground were selected as case studies for Texas A&M May’s School of Business’ 2014 MBA Venture Challenge. Gratitude Initiative, NoFolder, and Hire Our Hero were each assigned a team of MBA students who spent two weeks researching the start-ups, developing an elevator pitch and conducting analysis, all culminating in a due diligence presentation to panels of judges. Innovation Underground entrepreneurs had the unique experience of watching a group of MBA students analyze and pitch their startups to a panel of expert judges. The team presenting Hire Our Hero took first place in the competition which included 12 teams, each representing an early stage company. In an interview following the competition, Hire Our Hero’s Founder and CEO Brandon Bunch expressed his gratitude for the opportunity be part of the MBA Venture Challenge. “We were extremely honored to have the opportunity to work side-by-side with these students, helping them to understand what challenges new startup ventures endure,” Bunch said. “It is a huge advantage for us here at Hire Our Hero to have an unbiased evaluation performed.  Having the winning team was just a really big bonus.  We are very proud to have been a part of the MBA Venture Challenge.” Hire Our Hero was only a concept until Founder and CEO, Brandon Bunch, attended the Mays Business School’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities program this summer. It was here that Bunch put pen to paper, making Hire Our Hero a reality.

Hire Our Hero is an online database where local Citizens can hire trusted “Heroes” (veterans, firefighters, police, and EMTs) to assist in home repair and improvement projects. This marketplace seeks to honor our Heroes’ service by providing meaningful work and additional income.

Gratitude Initiative is the IU’s newest non-profit member. Their mission is to provide college scholarships and educational support to the children and families of military service members, veterans, disabled veterans, and those killed in defense of our country. Over a decade of conflict and involvement in two wars has placed a stress on military and veteran households that is unparalleled in our nation’s history. GI and its supporters strive to ease some of the burden on these patriot families by helping their children achieve life-changing opportunities through education.

NoFolder is the first fully private cloud based online storage center. With NoFolder, files can be saved from any device in real time and are synchronized and available to all devices attached to your personal Nofolder account. Nofolder works on Windows, Mac and Linux Desktops as well as Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows mobile devices.

MBA Venture Challenge was established in 2001 by the Mays Business School in partnership with the Center for New Venture and Entrepreneurship. The competition is designed to give first year students the opportunity to apply their newly acquired knowledge to a living, breathing startup. Over the past twelve years, the event has continued to gain notoriety and respect. This year, more than 100 regional business and academic leaders participated in the event.

Inaugural Software Developer’s Cartel Event

Last Tuesday, the Grand Stafford Theater welcomed bright minds from Central Texas for the inaugural meeting of the newly created Software Developers Cartel.


The Cartel aims to gather passionate developers from Central Texas to share their personal and professional experiences. By creating a space where hackers can interact, the Cartel hopes to grow and maintain a community of curious and passionate developers while fostering and promoting best practices.

This very first event had two local speakers lined up. Mike Abney, VP of consulting at Improving Enterprises and Manoj Prasad, doctorate candidate at the Sketch Recognition Lab from TAMU.

Mike introduced the audience to the SOLID principles, a set of architecture design principles which, when followed, help produce cleaner code that is easier to read and maintain. The SOLID principles were first introduced by Robert C. Martin, a famous character from the software community that described them in detail in his book “Clean Code” and his screencasts at http://cleancoders.com/ To learn more about SOLID principles check out Mike’s presentation at http://www.slideshare.net/mikeabney/1-solidhttp://vimeo.com/87169888

Manoj then took the stage for a totally different topic. At the Sketch Recognition Lab, he worked on an interactive vest that can give gps-based direction instructions through vibrators positioned at different strategic spots. The whole technology is based on the Arduino platform and interacts with Android devices. Manoj gave the audience a demo of the vest and showed some of the code controlling the Arduino part. You can read more about Manojs’ vest on the CSNet news feed (http://www.cse.tamu.edu/NewsFeed/?id=3626), http://vimeo.com/87169889

The event ended on a lighter note as Cartel founder, Marc Lainez, led the group in a discussion of potential future events. Different activities were proposed and attendees voted.

The vast majority voted for two specific activities:

– Meet-ups with guest speakers

– Teaching kids how to code

The two activities that came second are:

– Organizing coding dojos (http://codingdojo.org/cgi-bin/wiki.pl?WhatIsCodingDojo)

– Setting up an openhack community (http://openhack.github.io/).

Following the result of last week’s vote, we can already announce that the next meeting of the Software Developers Cartel will be next month, March 18th at 6pm, and will follow the same mini-conference format.

Want to get involved? Let us know by filling out this online form! http://bit.ly/1bTrVsq

The Cartel is an initiative of Innovation Underground and AdventGX, supported by local organizations such as Improving Enterprises, Capsher, TAMU Product Innovation Cellar, HTRI and the ISSA. Should you want to support the Software Developers Cartel, drop us an email at developerscartel@adventgx.com


Voices for Children Benefit Concert Rocks Grand Stafford Theater

On November 15, more than 100 guests gathered at Grand Stafford Theater in Historic Downtown Bryan for the first Voices for Children Benefit Concert produced by Advent GX. With generous underwriting from Fred Davis of Davis & Davis Lawyers, Advent GX produced the event that raised funds to help Voices for Children and their staff provide court appointed special advocates for children in the foster care system in the Brazos Valley. The evening featured the Latino rock of Texas’ own Del Castillo at Grand Stafford Theater, Downtown Bryan’s premier live music venue. Guests started the evening with Latino dance lessons donated by Dr. Susan Quiring from Susan’s Ballroom Dance.

“We are always looking for ways to put our heritage assets, such as Grand Stafford Theater, to work to benefit local economic development,” explains Advent GX Managing Partner Joan Quintana. “In this case, we were able to work with generous local businesses and patrons of the arts to create a cultural arts event that was incredibly fun and supported some of the most vulnerable members of our community…kids in foster care.”

The event raised funds and, thanks to promotional support from arts and community advocate Denise Bermudez, raised awareness of Voices for Children’s mission through advertising and social media campaigns produced by Advent GX Media.

Fred Davis of Davis & Davis Lawyers supported the Voices for Children, Inc. benefit concert as part of the firm’s campaign to commemorate their 50th Anniversary in 2013 by donating $50,000 to local charitable organizations. Celebrating 50 years of Texans helping Texans, Fred Davis chose Voices for Children, Inc. as one of these organizations, understanding the importance of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in representing neglected and abused children in our community.

In FY 2013, Voices for Children’s 101 CASA volunteers advocated for 242 abused and neglected children in Brazos, Burleson, and Grimes counties, placing 80 children in safe, permanent homes. Each CASA volunteer serves as Guardian ad Litem for one child or sibling set throughout the child welfare court system. CASAs provide the detailed information necessary for judges to safeguard the children’s best interests and ensure they are placed in safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible.

Advent GX opened the 100-year-old Grand Stafford Theater in Fall 2012 as a community development project showcasing the economic potential of the arts and heritage preservation. The theater now features state of the art sound and lighting and has been host to Grammy-award winning artists, up-and-coming talent and local musicians across a wide variety of genre. Advent GX is a community and economic development consulting firm headquartered in Texas A&M University’s Research Park. Advent GX owns the Innovation Underground, a business and technology incubator in downtown Bryan, and serves rural and small urban communities throughout Texas and North America.


BCS Startup Launch Party at Grand Stafford Theater

BCS Startup’s launch party, held at Grand Stafford Theater in Historic Downtown Bryan was an overwhelming success. The eclectic group of entrepreneurs, designers, investors and all around creative types who attended totaled over 100. All who came were engaged as BCS Startup unveiled their new app, which aims to simplify the convoluted process of discovering startup resources in Bryan/College Station. The app, which maps out local investors, incubators and support services is a 100% free resource for local startups.

In addition to learning about BCS Startup’s innovative app, the event was a networking opportunity. Those in attendance were invited to pitch their business ideas to the crowd of fellow entrepreneurs.

What was most striking about the group of attendees was their shared optimism and entrepreneurial spirit. Watching some of Bryan/College Station’s sharpest and most capable pioneers rallying around one another’s ideas was an inspiration and a reminder that business is about more than making money.

BCS Startup will be hosting a second event November 5th at Grand Stafford Theater. Everyone is welcome to attend. RSVP online at http://cofounders-meetup-eorg.eventbrite.com/

Grand Stafford Theater to Host Voices for Children Benefit Concert

Advent GX is proud to announce the Voices for Children Benefit concert coming to Grand Stafford Theater on November 15th. The benefit concert will feature the music of Del Castillo. Tickets go on sale September 20th with proceeds benefiting Voices for Children, Inc.

Voices For Children is a non-profit organization that protects abused and neglected children by pairing them with trained child advocates. These advocates follow children through the long and difficult journey of the court system to safeguard the child’s best interests and ensure they are placed in safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible. Last year Voices For Children’s 106 volunteers advocated for 247 abused and neglected children in Brazos, Burleson, and Grimes counties, placing 81 children in safe, permanent homes.

Special thanks to Fred Davis of Davis & Davis Lawyers for underwriting the Voices for Children Benefit Concert as part of the firm’s campaign to commemorate their 50 years of serving the BCS community and to AdventGX for production support.

Del Castillo has toured nationwide with such diverse acts as Styx, Los Lonely Boys, Ozomatli, Don Henley, Los Lobos and Willie Nelson. Their music has become a symbol of the cross-cultural power of music with their eclectic blend of Flamenco, Rock, Latin, Blues, and World music.

The Grand Stafford Theater is an award winning music venue located in Historic Downtown Bryan and an incubated member of the Innovation Underground. Since opening their doors almost a year ago, The Grand Stafford has featured great musicians like Kopecky Family Band, Dave Ramirez and Ben Rector. This Fall they are honored to welcome Del Castillo as they preform a concert benefiting Voices For Children.

Ticket proceeds will directly benefit Voices for Children, Inc. in their mission to serve the neglected and abused children of the Brazos Valley. Tickets will be available for purchase at grandstaffordtheater.com starting September 13. General admission pricing is $30.00. A limited number of reserved seating benefactor tables for four are available for $200.


IU Presents the Small Business Development Series

If you are a small business owner, entrepreneur or freelancer you have probably found yourself overwhelmed by the multitude and variety of skills required to run a business in today’s highly competitive marketplace. From budgeting time and money to knowing how and when to advertise, the demands on your finite resume of skills and abilities never seem to let up. Just when you think you have a little breathing room, you realize there is some other facet of owning a small business that you have been neglecting.

You are not alone. At the Innovation Underground we have made it our mission to help passionate individuals maneuver through the often-confusing journey to success. We do this by complementing the skills and resources already available to our clients– essentially we fill the gaps. After opening our doors two years ago, two things have become quite obvious. First, small business is thriving in the Brazos Valley and these businesses need more resources. Second, many of the needs these small businesses experience are commonly shared.

These two observations have led the Innovation Underground to launch the Small Business Development Series. Each installation of the series will touch on topics that are relevant to success in business today. Each installment will not only be delivered by leading experts, but also serve as a networking opportunity for the innovators in our region.

The Small Business Development Series kicks off September 17th and will address the importance of social media in business today. Please join us as we bolster and encourage the community of innovators located here in the Bryan/College Station area.

Register before September 1st to receive a $50 discount.



Office of the Governor releases 2013 Texas Business Incubator Directory

Recently Innovation Underground received some honorable recognition. It seems the Office of the Governor has deemed Innovation Underground’s operation worthy of being included in their yearly directory, titled “Texas Business Incubators Directory.” Innovation Underground is one of only three business incubators in Bryan-College Station and we are honored to be mentioned alongside other organizations who share our passion for entrepreneurship!

Our profile, as well as many others can be seen in the 2012 edition of the directory found here! Thank you to all who have made our continued growth and success possible! We love being able to guide and support entrepreneurs as they lay the foundations of their businesses.

IU Welcomes Guide Buddy

Remember the last time you planned a vacation? Wasn’t it a hassle going through all those forums and guide books? Ever wondered how you could get access to all the unique knowledge about what to do and where to go in a new place without all the trouble? Our friends at Guide Buddy wondered that very thing.

Guide Buddy founders, Saurav, Mani and Cesar, met over the course of the 3 Day Startup entrepreneurship event held at Texas A&M University. They spent two sleepless nights coding and drinking red bull, brainstorming about an online platform that would connect travelers with locals around the world. Being lovers of travel themselves, they were all too familiar with the fear, frustration and complication that goes hand-in-hand with visiting new destinations.

Saurav and Mani spreading the word about Guide Buddy in Austin, TX

We became acquainted with the Guide Buddy team at the same Startup competition, and after watching them slave away for days, and learning about Guide Buddy’s vision for creating an international community for travelers, we wanted to make sure that this great project became a reality. We are excited to welcome Guide Buddy as the newest member of the Innovation Underground and are looking forward to supporting this rapidly growing platform.

Want to get involved? Within just 2 weeks of launching the alpha version, the website has Buddies available in Washington DC, San Francisco, College Station, Austin, New York and even New Delhi, India! Join the global network today by becoming a Buddy or booking a Buddy to show you around on your next adventure.

Happy Traveling! https://guidebuddy.me/

Beautiful Opens New Group Home

It’s been over a quarter of a century since Phil Haas, founder of Beautiful Abilities, embarked on a journey of service that would ultimately lead him to found his ground-breaking non-profit. Beautiful Abilities’ goal is the same as the day Phil got started – to advocate for the intellectually disabled and provide them with opportunities once thought incompatible with their challenging situations. Phil and his team glean inspiration from the belief that “each person is created by God with beauty, value and purpose.”

It is this belief that motivates Phil to continue to tirelessly serve those with intellectual disabilities. According to Phil, “the name ‘Beautiful Abilities’ signifies the overall philosophy of achieving dreams by focusing on supporting abilities instead of a serving a disability.” In this way, Beautiful Abilities represents a radical contrast to the generally accepted ways of treating and interacting with people with disabilities. Haas and his team are aware of the very real challenges that intellectual disabilities pose, but instead choose to focus their attention on abilities rather than disabilities.

One way Beautiful Abilities encourages individuals to achieve their highest potential is through providing a one of a kind living situation. Beautiful Abilities’ group living homes give residents a high level of autonomy and puts them in a position to learn valuable life skills. By giving them a place to live in a community of peers, Beautiful Abilities creates an environment where “each individual is engaged, loved and appreciated for his or her God-given gifts.”

Recently Beautiful Abilities had the pleasure of dedicating their newest Home and Community Services (HCS) house in Bryan. The dedication marks a huge milestone in Beautiful Abilities’ mission to help individuals with intellectual disabilities reach their potential. What is most important about these communal living spaces is that they are “more than a house and a service – they are a home where each housemate becomes a part of an extended family.” In a world that routinely undervalues and disenfranchises individuals with disabilities, Haas and his team are giving those in HCS homes something invaluable – a place that is all their own; a place where they are recognized for what they can do instead of being stigmatized for what they can’t.

If you are interested in volunteering with Beautiful Abilities, visit their website to learn more.

Bryan City Council Tours the IU

Special thanks to Bryan City Council for visiting the Innovation Underground yesterday. We are fortunate to have such wonderful partners. We look forward to many more visits.

Bryan City Council Visits the Innovation Underground