Two startups with UTA ties selected for accelerator program
Two startups with ties to The University of Texas at Arlington have been selected for an international accelerator program, illustrating UTA’s commitment to entrepreneurship and impactful research commercialization.
SolGro Inc. was founded by a UTA student with technology developed by UTA physics Professor Wei Chen. The company has created a patented canopy system that embeds advanced nanomaterials into greenhouse glazing to convert wasted sunlight into usable light for increased plant photosynthesis, technology with the potential to improve agricultural industries.
The other startup, Fade, founded and led by a UTA alumnus, is a mobile app that connects local barbers with new and existing clients through the convenience of 24/7 booking tools and in-app payments.
Both companies were selected to join MassChallenge, an accelerator that selects early-stage startup companies to participate in four-month programs. Startups receive support from top experts, free co-working space, tailored workshops and office hours, and the opportunity to win a no-equity cash award.
The program, in partnership with nonprofit startup incubator TechFW, invites faculty, staff and students, as well as members of the Dallas-Fort Worth community, to learn the skills and build the relationships necessary to start their own companies. Each summer, the Office of Innovation and Commercialization hosts Deep Dive, a seven-week accelerator that guides participants from the inception of a business concept to a complete business plan and prepares them to pitch to investors.
“When we first came to EpICMavs, we had an idea for a product, but didn’t know what it took to start a company,” Mayan said. “The program taught us how to do everything from creating capitalization tables to developing our business model to creating a pitch deck. Our time in Deep Dive inspired us to network with local barbers to identify their needs to ensure we developed a product that served them well and optimized their work.
“There is a wealth of talent, technology and innovative intellectual property at UTA,” he continued. “The University has made significant efforts to foster new businesses and ideas, and is in a prime location to be positioned as a leader in the booming startup ecosystem developing throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area.”
Both Mayan and Tyler Sickels, founder and CEO of SolGro, Inc., competed in and won top awards through the first ever Maverick Entrepreneur Program and Award Fund. The program was created through a generous gift made by an alumnus who supports the thriving start-up ecosystem at UTA. The program includes entrepreneurship courses, mentoring by faculty and successful entrepreneurs, and the Maverick Business Pitch, a competition that awards each winner with significant seed funding to launch their business ideas.
SolGro uses technology to convert natural sunlight into the red and blue spectrum, helping farmers decrease harvest time, increase crop yields and improve the overall quality of their produce.
“We conduct research with the goal of improving how we operate and live as a society,” Chen said. “Commercializing our technology is essential for taking our work from the laboratory to the marketplace where it can have an impact. We are grateful to see our technology involved in SolGro’s continued success and powerful momentum as they strive to improve our farming industries.”
Sickels is a UTA student who utilized resources within EpICMavs to develop SolGro’s business plan.
“Our involvement with EpICMavs in the early stages of our company helped us identify potential opportunities and develop a framework for our business that would set us up for growth,” Sickels said. “The relationships we built through that program were essential to our development.”
In addition to being selected as a MassChallenge competitor, SolGro was selected as one of five early-stage companies for the first-ever “agtech” cohort by The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator.
“We are very fortunate to be involved in both MassChallenge and the Wells Fargo incubator at the same time,” Sickels said. “The latter focuses on the development of our technology, while MassChallenge will allow us to concurrently focus on our business, effective marketing and the strength of our sales channels.”
Mayan and Sickels met in an EpICMavs seminar and have supported and consulted with each other as their companies have grown on parallel journeys. They even took a road trip to California together to meet with potential investors.
UTA is striving to be a hub for innovation in areas that address the problems and challenges of the local community as well as global issues related to health, sustainability, energy, security and education.
UTA’s Office of Innovation and Commercialization, or OIC, is responsible for the protection, marketing and licensing of campus-created inventions and intellectual property. OIC serves internal and external clients through education and collaboration, acting as a bridge to industry to make UTA technologies and innovations available to humankind.
MassChallenge is conducting its work in Austin under an agreement with UTA that is managed by TMAC, and is part of a $2 million award from the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment to UTA.