By Nathaniel Luce
NewsCart, a news aggregator startup launched by James Murray (MBA ’17), took first place at last week’s PitchTexas event in Austin, Texas.
PitchTexas 2017, hosted by University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business, featured 16 business school startups competing for a $5,000 prize, with finalists delivering their pitches to venture capital firms and entrepreneurs in SXSW’s Startup Village.
Murray had high praise for the competition and the event. “Half of the startups were already live,” he said, “and all of them gave really impressive pitches. The feedback we received was worth the trip alone, because it really helped us see ‘the pitch’ from the investor’s perspective.”
Prize money aside, “the best thing that came out of the experience was the exposure,” he said. “Within 30 minutes of the event ending, we had three VCs approach us, as well as some potential customers.”
James Murray (3rd from left) and his NewsCart team celebrate their victory at SXSW.
NewsCart is a cloud-based platform that utilizes artificial intelligence to help companies discover and share news with their employees. He describes the product as a “Flipboard for companies.”
“Communications teams spend a lot of time reading through news, aggregating, and publishing out to their audiences,” he says. “We learn the preferences of an entire organization, automate the collection process, and tailor content to what employees want to see.”
Murray began forming the idea for NewsCart last year in Professor Michael Burcham’s Launching the Venture class, which “changed my life,” he says. “It provided me the framework to build a viable business.” Subsequent independent studies with Professor Burcham and Professor Germain Boer helped him refine the business plan and launch the concept.
That concept has fast become a reality – NewsCart now has a CTO and several developers. A beta service launches later this year, with three leading US media and technology companies on board and prospects in the pipeline.
Murray’s startup is also a finalist for the Sohr Grant, a $25,000 grant offered to young entrepreneurs at Vanderbilt Business. The final presentation round will take place on March 22.
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