Startups, small businesses take home funding at Impact Venture's showcase event

And winning the third place $10,000 prize was Language Learning Market, an online marketplace for language learning and other educational content based in McKinney.

Startups, small businesses take home funding at Impact Venture's showcase event

Impact Ventures is holding to its name by investing in female and BIPOC founders across North Texas.


On Saturday, the Dallas-based nonprofit accelerator program hosted its Spring 2021 Virtual Startup Showcase, highlighting its most recent cohort members. Between grants and cash prizes from a Shark Tank-style competition, seven local organizations walked away with new funding. 


“Our time at impact ventures has really elevated our business and positioned us to be ready to tackle the global market,” said Hiba Hamati, VP of strategy and marketing at local edtech startup Language Learning Market, at the event.


For its spring cohort, Impact Ventures split companies into two tracks. Eight companies participated in the small business-focused Local Entrepreneur Accelerator Program track, which focused on companies located in southern Dallas looking to grow through flexible debt capital. In the other, 12 companies took part in the tech-focused Inclusive Innovation track, which was aimed at pre-seed and seed-stage companies.


At the pitch competition, $50,000 was up for grabs. The top prize of $25,000 was Houston’s Church Space, a platform for religious institutions to rent out their spaces for events. In second place was Cybershield Security, a cybersecurity software and solutions company, which walked away with $15,000. And winning the third place $10,000 prize was Language Learning Market, an online marketplace for language learning and other educational content based in McKinney.


Both Church Space and Language Learning Market have been making moves in Texas recently. Throughout last year and 2019, Church Space ran its pilot program. Over its course, Day Edwards, the company’s CEO, said institutions on the platform could earn a minimum of $23,000 renting out their spaces. Locally, Language Learning Market landed a grant from the McKinney EDC’s Innovation Fund to expand its headquarters in the city. The edtech startup plans to create 17 new positions with the deal, bringing its headcount to 20.


“Impact Ventures has really helped us not only understand the impact that Church Space is making, but also how to measure that impact and how to translate that impact to investors and, most importantly, how to get us investment ready,” Edwards said at the event.


In addition to the pitch competition, four companies from Impact Ventures’ Local Entrepreneur Accelerator Program track landed Project Amplify Grant Awards from Jabian Consulting, which partnered with Impact in April to provide funding to its cohort. Winners included: Fort Worth’s The Good Jerky ($15,000), a maker of fish-based, health-conscious snacks; Le Rouge Cuisine ($5,000), a Dallas-based catering and private event company focused on Creole cooking; Milkspace ($2,500), a Garland e-commerce platform selling breastfeeding products; and Dallas’ BCM Engineering Solutions ($500), a process improvement consulting service. 


The most recent Impact Ventures cohort was also supported by a recent three-year $450,000 grant from the Communities Foundation of Texas’ W.W. Caruth, Jr. Fund, Impact’s largest gifts to date.


The Impact Ventures showcase comes on the heels of the organization’s launch of its Dallas Inclusive Capital Fund, which focuses on providing flexible loans and “patient equity” investments through various routes like credit lines, revenue-based financing, and convertible note options to founders, addressing structural barriers that have long prevented founders of color from accessing capital.


Ultimately, the Dallas Inclusive Capital Fund is looking to raise $20 million and is currently raising $5 million for a pilot fund. For that pilot fund, Benjamin Vann, Impact Ventures’ founder and CEO, said it is looking to invest in pre-seed companies with about $100,000 and seed-stage investments between $250,000 to $500,000. It will also make "entrepreneur-friendly" flexible loans between $50,000 and $250,000. It’s looking to make between 12 and 15 investments with the pilot fund. 


“The idea is how do we democratize access to capital in terms of who gets to build generational wealth through entrepreneurship, but then also who gets to benefit from those said investments,” Vann previously told NTX Inno about the fund.