Updated: Jun 16, 2020
Cowtown Angels Portfolio Company Wins Global Mobility Innovation Award
It takes a village to produce technology that saves lives.
The village that supported the launch of a new automotive safety installation consisted of investors and partnerships across Arkansas, Texas, Boston and Detroit. This is a prime example of what our Executive Director, Hayden Blackburn, calls the ‘network effect.’
TechFW and Cowtown Angels are honored to have been a part of the entrepreneurial journey of Tesseract Structural Innovations, a Fayetteville company that produces innovative automotive solutions for safer driving.
Henry Renegar knows cars well as a long-term automotive structures engineer. So when he was involved in a crash that caused more injuries and damage than he expected, he was determined to find a better solution.
The specific type of crash Henry endured is called Narrow Offset, where the front corner of the car is compromised, often just missing the vehicle frame. These vulnerabilities are evident when a car strikes another vehicle, a tree, a utility pole or a highway barrier on a front corner. These crashes account for 17% of all crashes, but as much as 34% of deaths.
Renegar formulated a patented product called the Uniform Deceleration Unit (UDU), a composite structure that fits into the wheel well or other parts of any light vehicle, including cars, trucks, minivans, SUVs and crossovers. The first patent was issued in February with four more patents pending.
The UDU absorbs up to 75% of the entire vehicle crash energy and prevents intrusion of vehicle components into the passenger space, leaving less serious injuries or risk of death to passengers.
Tesseract Structural Innovations started to take off when VIC Technology Venture Development, a company that develops innovative healthcare and technology companies focused on improving quality of life, came into the picture.
It has an investor network (VIN) that engages with companies backed by the VIC Technology Venture Development ecosystem. Tesseract is one of its portfolio companies.
James Lancaster was working in College Station when he was named Managing Director of the Texas Branch of VIC and the interim CEO of Tesseract.
Soon after, he inquired about TechFW and Cowtown Angels. After establishing rapport and recognizing common interests, VIC became an Annual Sponsor of Cowtown Angels. And some of our Angel members joined VIN, the VIC investor group.
Lancaster applied to Cowtown Angels for consideration of funding for Tesseract and then was selected to present at our November 2019 Forum.
“My experience with Cowtown Angels has been really good,” he said. “Great people looking to make investments into innovative companies. The process can be rigorous at times, but that is due to members doing their homework and asking challenging questions. That can help us become a better company.”
Tesseract then moved into the Deep Dive/Due Diligence of the investment process and eventually received investment from several Cowtown Angels members.
Win, baby, win!
At the end of April, Tesseract Structural Innovations won the “Conventional Vehicle Technology Innovations” category of the Global Automotive and Mobility Innovation Challenge. Twelve teams were selected from an international pool of 24 semi-finalists to compete in the 2020 final. It was a rigorous competition started by 100 companies from around the world competing in regional competitions to get to the semifinals.
The finalists were seven U.S. companies and five international. They competed for more than $300k in cash and in-kind commercialization support.
“This is a great honor in a prestigious Detroit auto industry competition,” Lancaster said.
Will Tesseract disrupt the automotive industry? There’s no telling how many lives Tesseract might save or serious injuries it might prevent. We at TechFW and Cowtown Angels are pleased to have participated and to be part of the village of community and strategic partnerships that continue to take tech to the next level.