CodeLaunch: The Evolution of a Seed Accelerator
We’re just a few months away from CodeLaunch VII!
Over the years, the Code Authority team has used their amazing talents and skills to make CodeLaunch a premier event for entrepreneurs from across the country. (It also takes a whole lot of coffee, energy drinks, and late-night tacos.)
Let’s step in the Wayback Machine for a moment and look at how far the CodeLaunch event has come, from its humble beginnings back in:
2012: The Year of “The Idea”
Code Authority was an 11-year-old company — and like most 11-year-olds, some big changes were about to take place.
“We’ve always loved helping startups in the best way we can,” says Jason W. Taylor, Founder and President of Code Authority. “We consider it a responsibility to help save startups from making the wrong first steps when it comes to technology.”
Jason and the Code Authority team saw that they had the resources to incubate companies that needed their services to “get off the ground” and succeed.
The First Step
“We incubated a startup called School Office Pro,” says Jason. “We brought their team into our office to work with our staff for a year. They ‘graduated’ about a year later and moved out with $400,000 in funding, go-to-market products, and clients ready to go. And they’re still alive and kicking today!”
After that successful experience, Code Authority decided to formalize the incubation process and create an annual, repeatable program.
“The idea was to put a unique spin on the software seed accelerator concept,” Jason continues. “It was all about giving deserving startups the tools they need to get off the ground.”
So, Jason and the Code Authority team set to work on developing the first event.
CodeLaunch I: Overcoming Obstacles
When CodeLaunch I took place on September 11, 2013, it was the result of a lot of hard work and determination.
To prepare for the event, Code Authority consulted mentor Raamel Mitchell on many of the important details. It was Mr. Mitchell who coached the team on how CodeLaunch should work, and he was instrumental in putting together the panel of judges — which included Trey Bowles, who also served as the event MC, and would go on to found the Dallas Entrepreneur Center.
While CL1 had no sponsors, only about 40 attendees showed up (they were hoping for 150), and one of the finalists had to withdraw due to background check issues the night before, the event was a great start. We knew it had a lot of potential and positive energy, but definitely had a long way to go.
Our First Success Story
The six CLI finalists were all from the DFW Metroplex, and the winner was Cheri Garcia and her startup, RentEval.
“Cheri was a great investment,” declares Jason. “She worked hard, and we provided over 1,000 hours of work to build her 1.0 product. Together, we got her to the next level.”
In fact, Cheri’s company attracted investment from a local angel investor, who bought out all of Code Authority’s shares.
And Code Authority began its relationship with Optimus Business Plans — a partner who is still with us today. Optimus agreed to provide free services to the event winner, which led us to the idea of giving each year’s winner seed services in lieu of seed capital.
“We were batting 1.000,” says Jason. “One event, one investment, one exit.”
CodeLaunch II: Learning and Growing
2014 brought a rollercoaster of activity for CodeLaunch II.
Many things stayed the same. For example, the venue for CLII was the old NTEC Building — which is now the University of North Texas’ Inspire Park. And the event still had no official sponsors.
Although we had an issue with our judges — two of the three canceled on the day of the event (although one found a substitute for himself) — we did establish the tradition of bringing back the event’s previous winner as a judge. It holds us accountable, so we make sure to provide our winners with a positive experience, so they come back and continue to be a part of CodeLaunch.
(And we’re proud to note that Cheri has continued to have a close relationship with Code Authority and CodeLaunch to this day.)
Notes from CLII:
- We added more seed services providers — increasing our number to five
- For the first time, a finalist was from outside the DFW area, InspireVive from Houston
- Unfortunately, a mutual agreement couldn’t be reached with them and they turned down our offer
- The other winner was eCharts, an aviation safety tablet app
- Despite the infusion of $100,000 worth of services from Code Authority, the founder eventually gave up a few years later
All in all, the event was growing in every way, with more companies offering seed services. It was full steam ahead!
CodeLaunch III: More Twists and Turns
In 2015, Code Authority moved into our current offices in the 3001 building of Hall Office Park in Frisco. As part of our lease, we got to use the entire top floor (which was finished, but empty) as a one-day venue for CodeLaunch III.
In continuing with our tradition, our 2nd year winner was back as a judge. And CLIII was the first time we had finalists from outside of Texas — one from Mississippi, and one from Idaho.
Notes from CLIII:
- Our winner from Idaho was given $80,000 worth of services from Code Authority, which went towards building the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) of her real estate concept — in addition to services from other vendors
- Sadly, the idea never got much traction in the marketplace
Other finalists found success:
- Anthony Ball’s startup RAAPS (now known as “Skrible”) got accepted into Dallas incubator “Tech Wildcatters”
- Brian Teague’s startup FaceOffers got invited to Tech Wildcatters as well
So, while CodeLaunch had a successful “exit” under our collective belt, we didn’t have a whole lot to show for all of our hours of labor, event planning, and stress. (Yet…)
CodeLaunch IV: Improvements and New Ideas
“We wanted to ‘level up’ in 2016,” recalls Jason. “So, we added the Startup Expo to the event. Essentially, it’s a tradeshow for networking after the party. It allows us to showcase our financial sponsors, community partners, and the finalists — and even some semifinalists.”
“And in the big picture, it turned CodeLaunch into an event with even more potential.”
Notes from CodeLaunch IV:
- First time, #1: CL IV took place at the Dr Pepper Arena for the event
- First time, #2: Actual financial sponsors came on board for CL IV
- They contributed $17,000, although our total costs were $30,000
- The winner was ParkUpFront, who wanted an app built within a couple months
- Unexpected business challenges prevented us from delivering on that expectation, which disappointed both us and them
- The Code Authority team worked hard to support them in an advisory and consultant role, eventually winning back their trust — and helped them launch their app in the summer of 2017
- ParkUpFront is a great partner with a vibrant and growing platform to this day
- Moving forward, we realized we needed to set expectations better and make an Impact on our winning startups quicker
Jason continues: “We’re proud to have been an important part of their growth. And they’ve helped us grow, in the sense that they inspired us to quantify the amount of seed services provided to winners. And that’s where the Winners’ 3-day CodeLaunch Hackathon was born.”
CodeLaunch V: Introducing the Hackathon
With the Hackathon concept, we set very specific limits to what Code Authority would be “on the hook” to provide for winners.
They would get a 3-day Hackathon — with a five-person team from our company being selected to spend three straight days in one big room — and at the end of the session, the winner is a LOT further down the road. This model offered a rapid burst of more than $17,000 worth of services.
“This allowed us to provide services to the winner without any strings attached” says Jason. “We used to take equity from the companies in order to build their product; now, we get a lot done with this highly sustainable model.”
“It can’t be understated how different CodeLaunch is in that it doesn’t cost anything to enter, AND the winners walk away with all the benefits — without giving up any equity.”
Notes from CodeLaunch V:
- Finalists from Atlanta further established CodeLaunch as a national competition
- The winner was Cortex, who was thrilled with their outcome and experience (they’re still an important part of CodeLaunch)
- Cortex got lots of interest from investors and incubators, and got accepted into a Tier One incubator (located at UNT Inspire Park, our old stomping grounds)
- Several other finalists went on to great things
CodeLaunch VI: More and More Growth
With the success of the Hackathon model, we connected with another local professional software development consultancy called Improving, which is run by our good friend David O’Hara. His company agreed to test the waters and provide another Hackathon team to a second winner.
The CodeLaunch attendance continued to grow, and the tradeshow expo/after-party was a great opportunity for attendees to meet up and learn about other entrepreneurs.
Notes from CodeLaunch VI:
- The Code Authority winner was Kidstrong from Frisco (interestingly, the first winner from Frisco)
- The Improving winner was CountertopSmart from Austin
- This year’s finalists included companies from Houston, Austin, Atlanta, and Utah
“We loved the entire CodeLaunch experience,” says David. “In fact, we’re now all-in on CodeLaunch next year!”
CodeLaunch VII: Bigger and Better
The 2019 event will take place on Wednesday, July 31 at the Comerica Center (the former Dr Pepper Arena) in Frisco. For the first time, the competition will begin after normal office hours — starting at 5:00 p.m.
Improving is back and will offer a Hackathon to their chosen winner.
NOTE: We are currently looking for additional professional software companies to contribute a 5-person team for a 3-day Hackathon. Interested? Contact us now!
— “It’s our goal to make every CodeLaunch event better than the last one,” says Taylor. “This year is no different!”
To that end, CodeLaunch VII will feature:
- New partners and sponsors
- Even more robust seed services for the winners — working towards a goal of $100,000 value!
- An all-day-long Startup Expo trade show for networking.
- Speakers and workshops during the day
- The bar will be open before the competition begins
- And even more to come...
Got an idea? Apply by May 31!
CodeLaunch VII is now accepting applications! Visit the official CodeLaunch site and complete the application form.
For great reasons to apply, check out our blog on the subject.