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On Friday, May 27, five finalists were notified that they were selected to compete in the live pitch competition for the 2022 Austin FC Dream Starter Competition Presented by Q2 and in collaboration with DivInc. The second annual business initiative invites Austin entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups to apply and compete for $100,000 in “Dream Starter” funds to accelerate their entrepreneurial venture.

The finalists will participate in a Pitch Contest on Wednesday, June 8 at Q2 Stadium. Each finalist’s presentation will be evaluated by a diverse group of representatives from Austin FC, Q2 Holdings Inc., and other executives from the Austin entrepreneurial community. The Austin FC Dream Starter Competition winner will be announced to the public and honored with a check presentation during halftime at the Austin FC vs. FC Dallas match on Saturday, June 25.

Swella

Founded by Zanbria Asante and Brooke Hill in Pflugerville, Swella is standardizing and automating the hair braiding experience. The company integrates robotics to deliver a premium salon experience, and is creating standardized systems within its braid salons that utilize robotics to automate the process of hair braiding. Swella seeks to help the over 13 million Black women in America who lack access to reliable quality hair braiding service. Click here to learn more.

"Growing up it felt like there was one standard of beauty. As two curly-haired girls from the South, we saw no room for us in that definition," said Asante. "That’s until now. Swella is expanding the definition of beauty one braid at a time! We’re grateful that little girls will soon be able to walk throughout the city and see that expansion of beauty everywhere they go."

Mach1 Services

Founded by Rick and Laura Narpaul in San Antonio, Texas, Mach1 Services is a fully automated and digitized dispatch platform for emergency roadside assistance. The company seeks to change the roadside assistance industry by creating an experience which mirrors ordering a ride share service. Click here to learn more.

"I couldn't be more proud and honored to be affiliated with this organization that makes the underrepresented a priority," said Rick Narpaul. "I am humbled by being selected as a finalist."

Paradigm Robotics, LLC

Founded by Siddharth Thakur in Austin, Texas, Paradigm Robotics "FireBot" is the world's first unmanned robot that can be deployed into burning buildings to efficiently locate human life and identify any hazardous situation, eliminating the risks for firefighters who must physically enter structural fires. Click here to learn more.

"Being named a finalist of the Austin FC Dream Starter Competition was a thrilling surprise and a dream come true, as it affirmed the importance of developing a solution to this pertinent issue, and motivated our team to drive forward and continue our passion through the pitch finals of the competition and beyond," said Thakur.

Changing Lanes CDL School LLC

Founded by Delbert Crawford in Austin, Texas, Changing Lanes CDL School teaches individuals from diverse backgrounds how to safely drive a commercial vehicle. The school's training programs helps its students, many of whom are unemployed, get the skills necessary for jobs driving commercial vehicles, changing the trajectory of their lives. Click here to learn more.

"It is a privilege and honor to be recognized as a community impactor in the Austin area," said Crawford. "When a person is selected for an opportunity of this magnitude, it should make them want to do better and be better for themselves and the community at large."

Independent Identity

Founded by Jenna Taylor in Austin, Texas, Independent Identity is an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) day program for adults with autism/IDD who exhibit challenging behavior. The program is center and community based and works with each client to master goals for independent living and increasing quality of life. Click here to learn more.

"Being chosen as a finalist, I feel excited and grateful for the opportunity to expand our program," said Taylor. "Winning this money would allow us to serve more adults with special needs, clients that otherwise would have no other opportunities due to the high level of support they require. It would also help us purchase transportation and promote inclusion by getting our clients out in to the community more often. This would change the lives of our clients and their families and help Independent Identity further our vision of a world where people with autism and I/DD are respected, happy, and satisfied with their lives."