Tech Wildcatters soon will be operating out of new digs. The Dallas accelerator is leaving its office at Alto 211 for WeWork’s Thanksgiving Tower location in January.
“When we started [Tech Wildcatters] … there weren’t many co-working spaces,” said Ricky Tejapaibul, Tech Wildcatters CEO and managing partner. “We had to build up the tech community. But now, with what’s out there … we can come back and focus on what we do best, which is helping entrepreneurs build companies. And WeWork can build the community, which is what they do best.”
Tejapaibul told investors and those affiliated with Tech Wildcatters that the accelerator was evaluating different options for space during a town hall meeting last July. After researching various alternatives to Alto 211 over the past several months, the group chose WeWork. The space will be large enough for 45 people, Tejapaibul said, and Tech Wildcatters will have access to WeWork’s conference rooms and event space to host its workshops and larger networking events. It also plans to leverage WeWork’s network of locations for possible recruiting and expansion opportunities, Tejapaibul said.
Tech Wildcatters has operated out of Alto 211 since July 2014, after it left its original Uptown office that fondly became known as the “Tech Church.” The accelerator was one of the first tenants in recent years to occupy space at downtown building. At the time, Alto 211 was being redeveloped by Mike Sarimsakci after remaining vacant for almost 20 years.
Tech Wildcatters’ relocation news comes just two weeks before the graduation of Tech Wildcatters’ latest class. The class, which began in October, is the smallest in recent years, comprising six companies. “Last year, when we did our first Gauntlet class, we did a larger program and there are a lot of things we learned from it,” Tejapaibul said. “We can add staff and space, but we can’t multiply mentors. So we want to make sure all the companies we bring in have a good experience.” The fall class is also the first group of startups under Tejapaibul’s direction following co-founder and former CEO Gabriella Draney Zielke’s decision to move into an advisory role in June. Draney Zielke still serves as a partner and helps out the program part time with mentor and curriculum development.
Since Tejapaibul took charge, Tech Wildcatters switched back to a seasonal schedule as it had prior to the launch of the Gauntlet, an infrastructure the accelerator launched in 2016 to award companies funding based on milestones. At that time, the accelerator accepted startups on a year-round schedule. Though the accelerator still uses the millstone-based infrastructure, with a few tweaks in parameters for each milestone, it returned back to seasonal 12-week programs. Tejapaibul said that the accelerator will gear up for its next class in late spring or early summer. “We have to have an off season to strategize and learn what works and doesn’t work,” he said.
It is unclear whether the fall class will end with a pitch day, which previously has been one of the accelerator’s largest events and allowed graduates to publicly pitch their companies to investors and advocates. Tejapaibul said the group has found smaller intimate meetings with investors more effective for fundraising.
The accelerator also plans to raise a larger fund moving ahead, Tejapaibul said. Though he would not disclose the size of previous funds or the goal moving ahead, he said the accelerator will move from a fund of “a few million” dollars to a fund “with eight figures. “In the past we’ve been too small,” he said, adding that some investors weren’t interested in contributing to a small fund. “We’ve built a track record over the years and continued to improve the Gauntlet. We’re at the point where we want to raise a fund that’s attractive for larger investors.” The current fund has not yet closed. But Tech Wildcatters continues to add new investors in recent months, Tejapaibul said.
The following startups participated in Tech Wildcatters fall class:
- Bevv.co — A craft beer delivery and shipping startup.
- Bid Ops — A platform that aids procurement managers with low-cost sourcing.
- Kaizen Collab — A platform that helps groups manage continuous improvement projects.
- Meowtel — A platform to help cat owners find trusted cat sitters.
- RaftUp Technologies — A software startup that helps reduce response times first responders.
- Refine(RE) — A platform that provides commercial real estate clients with real-time reporting, dashboard visualization, and analytics.