Under Fire was not something that just happened over night. Well we did pull it together in 10 weeks from the time the team committed to the inaugural Under Fire in March 2018. But the success of Under Fire took 10 years of relationships, clients, partners, assembling the right team and building the trust of my TEEX Leadership to accomplish. At TEEX PDC we have two guiding principles that we try to stick to (granted we do work down into earlier stage startups from time to time), they are:
- We prefer to work with prototypes;
- We selfishly want to find the most innovative technologies that will enhance public safety and homeland security.
We have the Defense to Response program that requires a company to have or had DoD funding in its development cycle. We had been supporting DHS S&T’s EMERGE program for two years at the time we dreamed up Under Fire and you had to be selected through a DHS process to participate. Given our two guiding principles, mentioned above, we wanted to hold a global call for solutions to find the most innovative technologies with potential to enhance first responders. We did not have a lot of startup capital, we had maybe $5,000 to start with. We are a State Agency and don’t have deep reserves to start new projects, ask anyone inside a government organization. Ideas are easy, but getting the approvals and funds to implement is next to impossible. We knew that in order to have success, we needed to get startups to apply. We knew there would need to be a significant upside for startups to travel to College Station. With the help of our year one sponsors and the famous facilities, Brayton Firefield and Disaster City®, at TEEX we focused on three key drivers to attract applicants for Under Fire:
- Progressive Prize Pool,
- 30 minutes to demonstrate their technology at Disaster City®,
- And a curated audience of first responders from both fire and law enforcement.
Under Fire was then on a mission to find the sponsors for the prizes, companies for the demos and attendees for the audience. This is point of the story, where I must stop and introduce the WHO. TEEX PDC had just assembled an incredibly talented, passionate, technology loving team that without them Under Fire would not have happened:
- Shelby Payne, is a natural technologist that is savvy on business. She has unique ability to create brilliant marketing and branding from hand scratches that I draw on scratch paper.
- Lou Blinn, is an excel wizard that managed all PDC business options. Lou was a critical component to helping TEEX provide our first cash prizes in our 85+ year history.
- Ryan Mills, who as I write this is fully activated and deployed with the U.S. Army, is our ballistics and weapons expect. Ryan has helped TEEX PDC establish ourselves in testing innovative ballistic-resistant solutions for our first responders
- Paul Siebert, retired Assistant Fire Chief from Frisco, Texas is my right hand for all things first response technology. Paul had to plan the logistic layout for all 20 finalists, when only 10 companies advanced to demonstrations on Day 2.
Furthermore, our year one sponsors were critical in making Under Fire a success. They trusted TEEX PDC to pull together the finalist and ensure we provided the cash prizes to the companies. We raised $50,000 in prizes, $30,000 in cash and I am forever grateful for their partnership. I also am thankful the finalist came, even though I did not know the final prize amounts until the morning of Day 1. The following partners helped make Under Fire 2018 possible:
- Aggie Angel Network
- Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation
- Defense Equipment Company
- Ricochet Manufacturing
- Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station
- WS Darley
We intend to make Under Fire the nation’s premier conference bringing together our nation’s first responders from FIRE, LAW, US&R and EMS with the 20 most innovative technologies for public safety and homeland security. Every March in College Station, Texas. We have some really exciting announcements for Under Fire 2019, stay tuned or learn more at teexpdc.com/underfire