March 4, 2010
By SHERYL JEAN
The Dallas Morning News
Two young Dallas entrepreneurs are starting a boot camp to offer seed money and support to help others turn a cool idea into a business.
Gabriella Draney and Jon Feld recently started Tech Wildcatters, a new breed of venture capital-like business incubators focused on helping out amid a tough environment. The for-profit business will provide traditional venture capital investment – albeit small amounts – for a stake in start-ups in return for office space, mentoring and networking.
It's modeled after similar programs – Capital Factory in Austin, DreamIt Ventures in Philadelphia, TechStars in Boulder, Colo., and Y Combinator in Mountain View, Calif. – that have helped stimulate entrepreneurial communities in those areas. The first program appeared in 2005, but growth has taken off in the last year as entrepreneurs face increasing difficulties in starting a business.
Draney and Feld are searching for seven to 10 Dallas-area start-ups to participate in an inaugural 12-week program starting in April. Next month, Draney will trek to the South by Southwest Conference to promote Tech Wildcatters and scout for participants.
The application deadline is March 19.
"New start-ups today need only a little funding, but they need more help and support than ever before," said Feld, who co-founded Navigator Systems Inc. in 1991 and sold the 100-employee company to Hitachi Consulting in 2006.
The seed-stage incubator will offer up to $25,000 in cash, office space, mentors and a chance to pitch an idea to investors. In return, Tech Wildcatters takes up to 10 percent equity in each company.
The only criteria are that the start-ups must be in business-to-business technology and have more than one founder. Entrepreneurs must be local or move to Dallas for the program.
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