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Highlights from the Established Lounge at SXSW 2023

· SXSW,SXSW23,entrepreneur,investors,venture capital

We were thrilled to make it back to South by Southwest for yet another year of programming events and powering connections that bring innovators together! SXSW23 marks our 12th year hosting startup events at the Austin conference. We're thankful to all those who joined us, and for those who couldn't be there in person, stay tuned for our Podcast episodes and other content from a day full of exciting conversations!

Established® is a global innovation company. Thank you to our partners who helped make today happen!

LaunchTN empowers Tennessee’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at all stages of company building, from ideation and launch through commercialization and growth. From their capital programs to their statewide Network Partners, mentor networks, and universities, LaunchTN is taking a collaborative approach to serve Tennessee’s entrepreneurs.

BoothEasy is a local Austin Photo Booth Company focused on creating customizable, memorable, and engaging experiences for events.

America's Seed Fund awards $4.2B in non-dilutive funding to startups and small businesses to develop technology and chart a path toward commercialization.

We kicked off the day with the Startup of the Year® Morning Meetup to provide all our guests with coffee, breakfast bites, and startup networking. We are always creating opportunities for startup founders to engage, learn from each other, and make new connections, whether in person or online. Did you know that our (free!) Startup of the Year® Community has a Slack channel to keep the conversation going?

A gathering of people drinking coffee and networking at SXSW23

Startup of the Year® Podcast LIVE

Throughout the day, we produced multiple interviews with tech and startup changemakers, allowing the in-person audience to get a first listen to our live podcast recordings. Here's who we talked to:

Josh Williams, Founder & CEO @ GoWalla

If you're a veteran of the SXSW conference, you might remember GoWalla from 2009 when Josh and a small team of designers and technologists introduced this social connector app to the world at SXSW! GoWalla helped inspire millions to “check in” on social media. The app was later acquired and sunsetted by Facebook, but Josh announced a re-launch just in time for SXSW 2023! Josh shared his thoughts on where he would like to take Gowalla, explaining how he'd like to keep people more present IRL (in real life).

Frank Gruber of Established and Josh Williams of GoWalla speak onstage at the Established Lounge during SXSW 2023.

Kathryn Finney, Founder and CEO @ Genius Guild

Kathryn Finney is a serial entrepreneur and investor. She is the Founder and Managing General Partner of Genius Guild, a Chicago-based venture fund that invests in scalable businesses led by Black founders using innovation to build and promote healthy communities. A Yale-trained epidemiologist, Kathryn founded digitalundivided after selling her media company, The Budget Fashionista, making her one of the first Black women to successfully exit a startup. Her new book, "Build The Damn Thing: How to Start a Successful Business if You're Not a Rich White Guy", launched in June 2022, and made the Wall Street Journal bestsellers list in its first week of release.

Kathryn chatted with Frank about her journey from fashion blogger to successful exit and how her rejection from an accelerator for her next startup in women’s beauty space led to her creation of digitalundivided to make change and help other founders like her. This ultimately gave her the inspiration to found Genius Guild to invest in diverse founders.

Frank Gruber and Kathryn Finney are seated in armchairs, conducting an interview at the Established Lounge during SXSW 2023.

Rohit Bhargava, Founder @ Non-Obvious Company

Rohit Bhargava shared stories of startups and innovations from his new book, "The Future Normal". Rohit is on a mission to inspire more non-obvious thinking in the world. He is the 3-time WSJ bestselling author of nine books on marketing, innovation, diversity and trends.

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Mike Evans Founder & Author @ Fixer, Previously Founded GrubHub

Mike Evans co-founded GrubHub, and is the author of "Hangry: A Startup Journey". He previously came on our podcast to talk about Hangry - check it out here!

Mike founded, an on-demand handyperson B-corp that trains its employees from scratch. He is passionate about professional and personal vision, and a strong proponent of impact businesses: for-profit companies that use their power to bring about positive social change. During this podcast recording, Mike shared news about a Fixer pivot to a recurring subscription service to provide ongoing home maintenance for homeowners.


Frank Gruber and Mike Evans hold an interview onstage during SXSW 2023.

Future of Startup Investment Panel

Four investment experts discuss startup funding: Frank Gruber, Erica Duignan Minnihan, Aziz Gilani, and Maria Pope are seated on barstools during SXSW 2023.

Frank Gruber, Co-CEO & Co-Founder, Established & Established Ventures led panelists Erica Duignan Minnihan, Founder & General Partner, Reign Ventures; Aziz Gilani, Managing Director, Mercury Fund; and Maria Pope, Head of Venture Growth and Partnerships, Republic; in a lively conversation about startup funding.

Venture Capital emerged in the 1970s and policy changes led to more capital flowing into the VC market, transforming it into a more institutionalized structure. Angel investing and crowdfunding also rose in popularity, providing startups with more investment options. We invited an expert panel of investors to discuss topics related to the types of funding startups can utilize in the future, but current events were definitely part of our focus: As of this recording on Sunday March 12, the entire startup world had been thrown into uncertainty when regulators took possession of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) on the Friday before.

Panelists Erica Duignan Minnihan and Aziz Gilani passionately debated what should be done about the SVB situation and how VCs should be handling it, who is responsible, and how to help startups in crisis. And Maria Pope shared some thoughts on how the Republic platform offers another option for startups.

Are you a startup founder who is experiencing hardship or looking for guidance as a result of the disruption at Silicon Valley Bank?

Join the Startup of the Year Community, where we share resources, support, connections, and mentoring for these and other challenges that face entrepreneurs.

Speaking of startups getting funding, we held our Startup of the Year® ATX Fast-Pitch event at high noon! You can check out our recap of that event here.

Startup, ESOs, & Government Funding Opportunity Sessions

Private venture capital and angel investments are only a few of the ways that startups can receive funds that help them start or scale their businesses. We chatted with mutliple ecosystem leaders to get insight into non-dilutive funding available to startups and the Entrepreneur Service Organizations (ESOs) that support them! We heard from America’s Seed Fund Investments and ESO innovation network, United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Launch Tennessee (Established® Lounge sponsor and SBA FAST Awardee), and TampaBay Wave (Growth Accelerator Fund Competition winner).

Frank Gruber and Hope Shimabuku sit on barstools in conversation at SXSW 2023

Hope Shimabuku Regional Director @ Texas Regional USPTO

The USPTO’s Hope Shimabuku spoke about what startup founders should be thinking about when they have an idea or invention they want to protect. She shared the free resources available and shared some trends she has seen in Texas, where she resides.

As the Regional Director of the Texas Regional United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Hope Shimabuku carries out the strategic direction of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and is responsible for leading the Texas regional office. Focusing on the region and actively engaging with the community, Ms. Shimabuku ensures the USPTO’s initiatives and programs are tailored to the region’s unique ecosystem of industries and stakeholders.

Frank Gruber, Jennifer Shieh, and Michele Schimpp sit on barstools for an interview at SXSW 2023

Jennifer Shieh Director of Ecosystem Development @ U.S. Small Business Administration

Michele Schimpp Deputy Associate Administrator for Investment and Innovation @ U.S. Small Business Administration

Jennifer Shieh & Michele Schimpp from SBA took the stage to discuss the America’s Seed Fund, and all they do to support not just innovative startups but also those programs and organizations that support them. This led to an impromptu reverse pitch by a few of the agency leads from DARPA, Navy, Afwerx and Spaceforce!

Frank Gruber and Richard Munassi conduct an interview during SXSW 2023

Richard Munassi  Managing Director @ Tampa Bay Wave

Tampa Bay Wave is one such organization that supports startups and is eligible for funding from America's Seed Fund programs. Dr. Richard Munassi is the Accelerator Managing Director at Tampa Bay Wave, which is a four time Growth Accelerator Fund Competition winner. Dr. Munassi also discussed the recently announced expansion plans to St. Petersburg for their second physical location and gave some pretty solid numbers on the amount of funding Tampa Bay Wave companies have secured.

Frank Gruber,  Monique Villa, Charles Layne, and Khrys Hatch hold a panel conversation during SXSW 2023.

Charles Layne Innovation Manager @ Launch Tennessee

Monique Villa Chief Investment Officer @ Launch Tennessee

Khrys Hatch Senior Associate @ Launch Tennessee

Launch Tennessee shared the launch of a new $70M fund to invest in both startups and in other funds with strategic alignment. Charles Layne, Monique Villa, and Khrys Hatch discussed their investment strategy and efforts to strengthen the small business region in Tennessee. They cited recent statistics pointing to Nashville as the number two destination (behind Austin!) for tech relocation the past few years. Launch Tennessee is an SBA FAST program award winner, so they were able to share how the support of SBA and America's Seed Fund has been instrumental to their success.

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