Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl linebacker, Jaylon Smith, hosted the second annual Minority Entrepreneurship Institute (MEI) Showcase in Dallas on July 10 at The Star. Five finalists presented at the premiere pitch competition and were awarded $600,000 in investment capital.
Smith created the MEI as a way to help minority entrepreneurs gain access to capital and mentorship to grow their businesses.
The MEI Texas Showcase raised $350,000 pre-event to invest in the top three companies, but the entrepreneurs and businesses were so compelling that the MEI Texas Sharks and investors huddled together after the pitches and threw in another $250,000, investing a total of $600,000 in five new MEI portfolio companies, a news release said.
The top 10 finalists were selected from a competitive group of 147 applicants representing 42 Texas cities.
Winners were selected by celebrity judges to receive investment into their businesses and strategic counsel.
The Top 10 Texas entrepreneurs included: Afroland TV, Duke.AI, The Etho, Kanarys, Laundris, REV+, ShearShare, Snag My Wedding, Trinity Utility, and Zirtue. Outside of the finalists, several dozen companies qualified for the MEI Texas Marketplace, an evergreen online showcase of minority entrepreneur exemplars from across the nation.
The top finalists went through a rigorous pitch training session with consultant Brandon Andrews who scouts minority talent for ABC’s Shark Tank, the news release said.
After the top five finalists were chosen, entrepreneurs broke out into 1:1 sessions with Andrews to prepare for the competition.
“This is one of the best pitch competitions I have seen anywhere,” said Andrews. “All five of these businesses are building incredible solutions. Thanks to Jaylon and the team for supporting entrepreneurs of color.”
Afroland TV, Duke.AI, Kanarys, ShearShare, and Zirtue, presented in front of a small group of investors, Smith and the MEI Texas Sharks. The MEI Texas Sharks were five-times MLB All-Star Torii Hunter, founder and CEO of S2 Capital, Scott Everett, and CEO and owner of Parrish Restaurants LTD Roland Parrish.
The presentations were in as room at The Star lined with the Super Bowl trophies and championship rings.
The news release said the final presenter stole the show.
Dennis Cail founded Zirtue to help tackle the $4 trillion consumer debt problem in America. His relationship-based social lending app simplifies loans among friends, family, and trusted relationships with automatic monthly or deferred loan payments.
The MEI Sharks and investors were motivated to put money into his fast-growing company, but also admired the social impact.
“I grew up in the housing projects of Monroe, Louisiana, and came from very humble beginnings,” said Cail. “Everyone needs a financial lifeline from time-to-time. My way of paying it forward is to help people access low-interest loans in times of need. MEI is helping us create a more financially inclusive world.”
Companies and individual supporters and included Corporate Partner Reliant Energy, Investment Partners: Jaylon Smith, S2 Capital, and COHatch. Event included S2 Foundation, Goldman Sachs, Stifel|PearlStreet Investment Management, Beck Group, Michael K. Hurst, SVP Dallas, and Dallas Entrepreneur Center.
– FWBP Staff