Helping Startups Get Capital-Ready

Capital One recently launched an Accelerator Program designed to help entrepreneurs propel their businesses forward


The National Venture Capital Association recently released new research which found that employment at venture capital-backed companies grew 960% from 1990 to 2020 at a pace eight times that of employment at non-venture capital-backed companies. 

Venture capital has enabled startups to support their entrepreneurial journey for years, turning ideas and basic research into products and services that have transformed the world. And while capital fuels startups, the benefits don’t stop there. Local economies have reaped rewards in the form of company growth, competitiveness, and job creation.

That’s why Capital One is proud to use our scale and resources to support startups, and why we recently launched our Accelerator Program, designed to help entrepreneurs propel their businesses (or business ideas) forward. 

“Innovative thinking is at the heart of startup businesses, and we must encourage and invest in entrepreneurs to build strong leaders and communities, furthering economic and cultural prosperity across Dallas Fort-Worth,” said Sanjiv Yajnik, President of Financial Services at Capital One.

Introducing The Accelerator Program

Developed and facilitated by Capital One, in partnership with The DEC Network and University of Texas at Dallas, the Accelerator Program took ten founders through a 12-week intensive, providing curriculum to develop their business plans, build new connections and fine-tune their business pitches through workshops, growth consulting and special projects. 

“The Accelerator Program aligns with our mission to harness the potential of technology startups to accelerate innovation,” said Bill McNulty, Operating Partner for Capital One Ventures. “The program reinforces the value of mentorship as early stage companies find product market fit and build defensible positions. Scaling a company often involves raising outside capital and the program paves a path to get entrepreneurs ready for that process. The Accelerator Program illustrates how corporations and startups can work together to drive innovation and prosperity in local communities.”

Capital One’s mentorship-style programs are a foundational component of Capital One’s Impact Initiative, a multi-million dollar commitment to support growth in underserved communities and advance socioeconomic mobility by closing gaps in equity and opportunity. The Impact Initiative builds upon Capital One’s mission and supports racial equity, affordable housing, small businesses, workforce development and financial well-being.

At the culmination of the 12-week program, founders presented live at Dallas Startup Week, the largest entrepreneurship event in Dallas Fort-Worth, to a group of investors and industry experts. Each founder had five minutes to pitch and three minutes for Q&A to sell their business. 

Presentations were judged by a panel of industry experts based on:

  • Articulating a specific, relevant and sizeable problem
  • Presenting a product or service solution that is compelling, fulfills the value proposition, and has the ability to be implemented
  • Proving the viability of the product or service by identifying target customer segments and markets, and assessing the competition and market
  • Sufficiently managing the business in its current stage and/or addressing the need for additional key people and the strategies to attract individuals
  • Having an advantage that differentiates the business from the rest and sets them up to be successful
  • Pitching the business well, making good use of time available 

To be successful, startups typically rely on four “Cs” – coaching, curriculum, capital and customers, with access to capital being the hardest to obtain. Through both the Accelerator Program, and important conversations like “The Funding Landscape and its Role in Building Dallas Fort-Worth as an Innovation Hub” at Dallas Startup Week, moderated by Dave Kang, Senior Vice President of Data Insights for Capital One, we can help grow the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“Dallas-Fort Worth has made a name for itself as an innovation hub with its prestigious universities, presence of Fortune 500 companies, Venture Capital investment that’s driving startup growth, and thriving arts community,” said Kang. “What makes all the difference is the collaborative ecosystem in DFW that brings together these unique and diverse resources to foster creative collisions and opportunities to spark innovation together.”

The pitch competition awarded $15,000 in grants to the first place winner, $10,000 to the second place winner, and $2,000 to all other participants of the Accelerator Program, with additional awards offered by The DEC Network, like crowd favorite, best program engagement and more.

Additionally, select startups were chosen for extended pro bono support from Capital One through the end of the year. 

Through pro bono volunteerism, Capital One associates, who are experts in their field, will partner with the selected startups to develop core business strengths, including: how an organization should brand itself and communicate its values, services, or impact; manage cybersecurity risk; capture, analyze and effectively use data collected; plan, manage and maintain accounting and finance records and practices; attract, develop and retain talent to foster inclusivity; build digital tools to enable client experiences and outcomes; and more.

Read on to learn more about the winners and their businesses.

1st Place Accelerator ($15,000) – Jake Hamann, AUTIX

“In late 2016, after my wife of 14 years passed away, I purchased a ‘grief gift’ for myself – my dream Jeep: a highly modified 2015 Wrangler JK Unlimited,” said Jake Hamann, Founder of AUTIX.

Intending to take his new purchase off-roading and to car shows, he requested a detailed build report of all the Jeep’s modifications both for himself and for anyone who asked. When the report came back as a copy-and-paste bulleted list from the dealer website, he was surprised.

“I wasn’t just looking for factory specs, I wanted factory specs plus detailed specs on all modifications made. Things like gear ratio, axles, and engine output – you know, the things that made my Jeep unique.”

After getting involved in the local car scene, Hamanna thought, surely, he wasn’t the only one who wanted a detailed list of their vehicle modifications.

And his instinct was right. Not only Jeep owners, but car enthusiasts young and old, dealerships, and custom shops were frustrated by the lack of ways to keep track and share all of a vehicle’s modifications completed by themselves, different shops, dealerships, or even previous owners.

Countless enthusiasts also struggled to get value out of their asset when they went to trade it in to a dealer or sell it to another individual. Many times even removing their modifications prior to selling – primarily because they weren’t even coming close to getting the appropriate value out of their assets.

That’s why Hamann created AUTIX.

AUTIX brings automotive hobbyists, enthusiasts, vendors and dealers together by offering a one-of-a-kind platform dedicated to highlighting not only factory vehicle specifications, but also the unique story and a curated value metrics for their specialty rides.

“The Capital One Accelerator Program provided a ton of value through programming, as well as various connections and introductions that have been made – many of them specifically focused in the automotive industry.”

2nd Place ($10,000) – Jarrett Wright, Higher Rewards

Higher Rewards was born out of a desire to give back to local communities, and help shift back power to those who have been historically marginalized. 

“We believe that nonprofit, membership, and faith-based organizations have some of the largest direct impact on communities,” said Jarrett Wright, Founder of Higher Rewards. “However, they also have limited resources and struggle with raising much needed funds for their operations. This insight led to our idea to leverage the rewards system to create a financially inclusive solution that would invest back into local communities.”

Higher Rewards builds sustainable fundraising tools for organizations that serve the most marginalized communities. Using innovative solutions, we make fundraising simple, so organizations can focus on advancing their missions.

It’s democratizing philanthropy by offering nonprofits the ability to offer their members a self-branded credit card that passively donates 2% of purchases to the organization as a tax-deductible donation. 

“Now in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, our work is more important than ever before: 1 out of every 3 nonprofits are in danger of closing. With this in mind we’ve doubled down on our efforts to make donations easier and maximize our impact on the communities we serve.”

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