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How This Dallas Startup (And TW Grad) Built A $100M Company

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— Blog by Laura Reed

Startup accelerator Tech Wildcatters hosted a lively speaker series on Wednesday, August 12 starring their alumni company, FanPrint.

The TW office space downtown quickly began to fill with faces both new and familiar. The socializing began early and seats filled quickly. The speakers and TW executive director Molly Cain took the stage and it was suddenly silent. The spotlighted speakers included founder and CEO TK Stohlman, three time Dallas Cowboy Super Bowl Champion (and VP of Partnerships) Darren Woodson, and advisor and investor Gil Marmol. They were joined with Rachel and Mike, two other important members of the team, to explain the road to their success.

Molly began by asking TK about his humble beginnings and the conversation slowly transitioned into an in depth analysis of the importance of passion for what you do. TK was a member of the Tech Wildcatters 2012 class, and admitted he did not have the concept for FanPrint finalized at the end of the process, but that did not hinder his efforts. FanPrint is an e-commerce platform for passionate sports fans, but selling officially licensed products did not come without its trials.

TK owned the room when he spoke. His passion and energy was contagious. When asked about how to deal with his biggest company let downs, TK responded,

“It’s about relentless perseverance, no matter what happens. We will fight and get the deal no matter what.”

Darren Woodson recognized the intense drive that TK had when they met. Darren was quick to praise TK and the FanPrint team for their hunger for success. Darren said that when he heard about the idea and talked to TK, he instantly knew he was going to be an investor. When Darren spoke, he related his experience with FanPrint to his experience in the NFL. He stressed the significance of perseverance, teamwork, passion, and hard work, and no, he wasn’t talking about football. He recognized the drive that TK had and knew he wouldn’t stop when trials came his way. He said,

“It’s not always the most talented team that wins, but the team that works the hardest is always the best.”

Molly sat next to and (reluctantly and jokingly) shared her microphone with FanPrint investor Gil Marmol. They laughed throughout the series about this, and Gil’s humor shone through his many stories. Gil had wisdom and advice for TK about financials throughout FanPrint’s beginnings. He spoke of TK’s entrepreneurial expertise by saying,

“In the investment community, people have energy, high energy, and then there’s TK.”

(Cue the laughter) Gil also had praise for VP of Licensing, Rachel Duitch. Gil claimed that when Rachel shoots, she doesn’t miss. He talked of how she had gone on all of the ‘non glamorous’ trips to gain licensing deals. Rachel then told a story about how FanPrint landed one of their biggest licenses, the CLC, by using the ‘whatever it takes’ attitude that is their core culture.

The story began with a big ‘No’ from the CLC on recommending FanPrint to colleges, but TK doesn’t take no for an answer. FanPrint’s competitor was the only company being showcased at an upcoming expo in Miami with all of the CLC officials in one place. TK and his FanPrint team just happened to plan a trip to Miami on the same day of this event. When CLC officials got a whiff of what was happening, they agreed to recommend FanPrint as long as they didn’t show up in Miami that weekend. Long story short, the go get ‘em tactic worked and their perseverance, per usual, paid off.

Don’t tell TK that anything is impossible. His words of wisdom throughout the night were all substantial pieces of advice for anyone who wants to be successful. FanPrint didn’t always have big name athlete Darren Woodson to spark networking wildfire. He stressed that if you can make your business model work with smaller names, then you can do so much more when you secure the big ones. He said,

“At the beginning, people don’t have confidence in you. You have to build it up… As a founder, it’s not about the glory, it’s about doing whatever it takes for the team to succeed.”

The ‘Whatever It Takes’ mentality was a theme throughout the night. It was obvious that the determination of the team was what drove the company to its huge accomplishments.

The audience was eager to ask questions near the end. The common thread in the Q&A was simply, “How did this happen?” This was when TK said what every investor is terrified to hear,

“Burn your boats. We’re gonna be a success and there’s no turning back.”

TK sends out an investor update email every Friday for the past three years to keep in touch with those who helped him rise to success. The relentless attitude of TK and his team was apparent throughout the speaker series. The team stressed that you have to hire passionate people, and you can’t teach passion. The wrong people can kill a culture, and the culture at FanPrint is one to be envied. 

As the speaker series drew to an end, the mingling had just begun, as is so with the startup community. Many audience members eagerly walked up to introduce themselves to the speakers before they could even step off of the stage. An energy filled room of entrepreneurs talked with one another and networking ensued. Don’t miss Tech Wildcatters next big event next Thursday, August 20, Demo Day.

Hey, You! Wanna Intern?

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Interns-Wanted

This is a job listing for a fall internship at Tech Wildcatters. Your first task is to read this all the way through. If you like what you’re hearing, email us at info@techwildcatters.com and wow us.

Here we go…

At Tech Wildcatters, we put on killer events, execute the nation’s #5 startup program (at least that’s what Inc. Magazine and Forbes tells us) and plug into our world famous network to help ambitious startups become multi-million dollar businesses.

It takes a crazy, hard-working, all-in kind of team to make that stuff happen. Some days we work really late, other days we drive to NASA, sometimes we’re in San Francisco and all the time we’re working together to make sh*t happen in a beautifully chaotic and masterful way. Frankly, that’s how we (and the startups that graduate with us) have become nationally-recognized.

There’s absolutely no way we could make things happen around here with our staff. But there’s even less chance we could do it without another group of VIPs…our interns.

That’s where you come in.

WHAT: 

We’re looking for our next batch of interns to join us this fall. We have four positions available.

WHO: 

You’re a self-starter (meaning, you look around you to see what needs to be done), you’re kind of obsessed with learning, you’re curious about startups, you want to learn from a bunch of badasses, you can work in a fast-paced (sometimes ambiguous) environment, you can pivot and work on something else immediately. And you’re fun to be around.

WHY:

You’re really interested in learning, doing, shadowing, executing stuff like this (but not limited to):

  • Blogging/Video Blogging/Social Media’ing and other communications support.
  • Planning events and helping execute events at TW.
  • Manage your own special “project” (which you’ll select within the first few weeks).
  • Plug into the startup community in Dallas by attending networking events around town.
  • Being curious and helping us problem solve, or come up with something new!
  • Research — really, this could be anything.
  • Supporting TW staff and alum startups with special projects as needed.
  • Project management, planning, curriculum development and other business-related tasks.
  • Typical internship stuff (taking out trash, printing things, yadda yadda…it’s not THAT much)

It’s hard to fully define what you’ll be working on this fall — You’ll get a sneak peek into our 2016 year and get to know everyone in our community. We think it’s a pretty sweet internship. If you agree, send us a note.

Prateek

Where Are They Now? Prateek, Former TW Intern

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Spotlight by: Christy Torres

Each Tech Wildcatters’ class is accompanied by a group of bright-eyed individuals willing to dedicate hours of their day working as our interns. Coming from all walks of life, each intern brings a unique perspective to the atmosphere at TW.

The Tech Wildcatters’ intern program provides an environment that allows each individual the space to grow professionally, discover what their talents are, and hone in on those new found skills. Using the new platform TW has given them, many of our interns take what they’ve learned and put it to practice in their future endeavors.

We caught up with Prateek, former Class of #Twenty15 intern and current student at the UTD, shortly after he landed in India for what some might call a “summer venture” to hear first-hand how he felt about his experience as a TW intern.

What did you love most about working at TW?

“Meeting people. From the TW staff to the mentors, from investors to the genius brains behind the startups in the Class of 2015, and being a part of the Dallas Startup Ecosystem, I miss every bit of it! I would love to be back and help out in any way I could!”

What lessons learned help with what you’re doing now?

“The whole experience of working at TW was a lesson on its own. It taught me a lot of things, from how entrepreneurs should think, how investors think, how to overcome and pivot from obstacles, from appreciating the help you receive and to help anyone in any way you could. All these things and more really help me at my current job.”

What are you doing now?

“I’m working as an investment analyst at an early-stage investment firm called YourNest Angel Fund. My responsibilities are to look at different deal flows that come through our website and LinkedIn page and  help the Fund manager and Associates with their due diligence. Additionally, I’m also exploring different sectors and spaces to find hot new startups to invest in.”

Any additional comments you would like to add?

“It was a wonderful experience working at TW and I greatly appreciate the things I have learned there! Also, I wish TW the best of luck with their new EMERGE program!”

Interns!

Quick Pitch Recap: Through Interns, Startups and Pictures

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Quick Pitch was all kinds of amazing this year! And our interns really helped to make the event as great as it was. Deep in the trenches, they helped everything to run smoothly. So who better to recap than two of them? Carolina and Stephanie help us to get an inside look at Quick Pitch 2015.

Heels clicking on the floor, the snapping of camera lens, and groups softly mumbling were some of the sounds you might have heard at our Quick Pitch earlier this February. It was an exhilarating time to hear startup companies pitch their ideas.

But behind the scenes was where the real magic happened…

Our new Office Manager Dom shined as he furiously got everything ready for Quick Pitch. From carrying soda, ice bags and food to organizing and delegating tasks, our very own Hulk made Quick Pitch an enjoyable experience for the companies. Startups were bonding and actively listening over hot tea, others were helping each other to calm their nerves with jokes. Some kept to themselves and softly practiced their pitches in their designated work spaces/corners.

Once the pitches were over, Carolina recalls more than a few sighs of relief.

At the happy hour, some of the groups were like kids on a playground, nervous about who to talk to. But then the booze started flowing, connections were made, and everyone became more comfortable. There were more than a few intense foosball and ping-pong games!

As females, we were inspired watching women officiate a male dominated industry with professionalism and poise. Gabriella, Clarisa, Molly and Maggie were in their element as they led the Quick Pitch event.

Even though we’ve only been here for two weeks, our fellow interns have banded together and formed a unique bond. It was fun to watch some of the startups around us start to develop the same kind of friendships. Once the Tech Wildcatters Class of 2015 officially is set in stone, these relationships will only grow stronger. And it all started with Quick Pitch!

And what about our startup participants?

“We got a chance to meet a lot of the other finalists who all had great ideas, and we’re looking forward to being part of the best Tech Wildcatters class yet!”

“It was great to see everyone involved at Tech Wildcatters doing such a great job; it was inspiring to see their heart and soul.”

“[It was] excellent! We’ve pitched to a few other angel groups and TW was at the top of the list.”

“Awesome! I loved everyone’s no BS attitude. I think it showed a culture of accountability.”

“Thank god for the happy hour.”