The funding was awarded to Austin-based Tankee, a company that provides a mobile platform offering a safe environment for children ages 6 to 12 to discover and watch streaming gaming videos free from objectionable content.
More good news for Tankee arrived Feb. 12 from Kidscreen, an international trade publication for kids’ entertainment professionals. Tankee learned it had won a 2019 Kidscreen Award for Best Streaming Video Platform for Kids.
Gerald Youngblood. MBA’10, started Tankee with co-founder and fellow gaming enthusiast Dan Chiu after they had some unsettling experiences while watching gaming videos with youngsters — Youngblood with his son and Chiu with his cousins. They were discouraged to realize that the content was not always family friendly. They set out to curate and create age-appropriate gaming videos, and the idea for the company was born.
The name Tankee comes from a class of character in battle video games called a tank, Youngblood said. When that character has built up enough vitality to withstand enemy fire, gamers call that becoming “tanky.”
“Our company name came from being the first line of defense for kids,” he said. “We help them become unstoppable with tips from the best gamers. We want all kids to feel ‘Tankee.’ ”
“The UT Dallas Seed Fund supports the most competitive new ventures started by students, alumni and faculty, and even qualifying for an investment can be difficult in itself,” said Bryan Chambers, director of the UT Dallas Blackstone LaunchPad and a member of the Seed Fund Advisory Committee. “As a starting point, founders need to be fully committed to the venture they are pursuing, and not just working on an idea part time.”
Tankee is the fifth company to receive seed funding from UT Dallas Seed Fund, an Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship program that invests in technology startups founded by UT Dallas community members. Funding comes from private investors, with matching funds coming from the Jindal School. CollBox, EverThread, Fan Guru (formerly known as Cosmunity) and ShearShare previously received funds from the investment program.
Tankee has the growth metrics, and its leadership team has the vision and commitment to support a venture-scale business, Chambers said. The timing is also favorable; the company has attracted interest from other investors because of a booming gaming industry.
“Timing is critical when you take a business to market,” Chambers said. “From a funding perspective, investors look at both macro and micro trends. The trend around gaming and esports is significant. We felt a high degree of alignment with Tankee’s direction and the performance that was unfolding before us as we closely observed the company’s key performance indicators — like downloads and daily active users — week after week, month after month.”
“A lot of ideas are birthed from your own necessity,” Youngblood said. “I think that’s where our story starts — being the dad of a 9-year-old and being close to technology. The way that children are consuming media is far different from the way we did when I was a child. I don’t know that the ecosystem has caught up with that.”
Often, Chambers said, startup ventures build a product or service and then set out to identify a problem that it will solve. Tankee reversed that approach.
“Gerald did it the right way,” Chambers said. “He keenly understood the problem and then went about trying to solve it.”
Part of what makes Youngblood’s story unique is that, being immersed in technology both professionally and as a gaming enthusiast, he took advantage of the Jindal School’s Professional MBA Online program — the entirety of which can be completed online. Prior to starting Tankee, he worked as a senior marketing director for AMD, a multinational semiconductor company. In his role, he logged more than 150,000 flight miles every year. The first time he set foot on the UT Dallas campus was when he applied for the Seed Fund in 2018.
“I’m an advocate of the program because I think many working professionals such as myself — I traveled all the time for my roll — are looking for a way to get a good, quality education but trying to find a way to fit it into our hectic lives,” he said. “UT Dallas and the Jindal online MBA program were a perfect fit for that.”
Youngblood said that the online program helped him see the business ecosystem holistically.
“What I found in going through the MBA program was that I got to see so many types of businesses and so many aspects to business overall,” he said. “I knew while going through the program that eventually I would want to start my own company. Going through the program got me into a big-picture mindset versus focusing specifically on my industry or the company that I worked for at the time.”
Seed funding will help Tankee further its development efforts. It is currently an iOS only platform, but the funding will allow it to expand into the Android ecosystem.
“The funding will also help us build out our team,” Youngblood said. “The main thing for me is that it is a huge opportunity for me to get better connected with the UT Dallas community. I’m really excited to be able to represent a school that provided me an extremely valuable education.”
— Jimmie R. Markham
Students at the Naveen Jindal School of Management enrolled in a unique elective course last semester that allowed them to play a key role in selecting children’s mobile video platform Tankee as the fifth recipient of the UT Dallas Seed Fund investment.
The course, Special Topics in Entrepreneurship - Seed Fund Support (ENTP4V00, ENTP 6V99 and ENTP 6v99 XS1) offers entrepreneurial students unique insights into the world of venture capital analysis.
Jay Dave, a senior fast-track accounting major, and Raza Siddiqi, who graduated in December with a bachelor’s degree in finance, joined three other students in the class last semester.
“Venture capital has always been a huge interest of mine — I’ve watched Shark Tank since I was 13 — and the Seed Fund class gave me a lot of responsibility,” Raddiqi said.
Students who took the experiential class identified and curated potential Seed Fund program applicants. The students performed initial screenings and evaluations of about 40 applicant businesses and then conducted due diligence and risk assessments of those businesses. The class members analyzed the deal structures and valuations, made investment recommendations to the Seed Fund supervisory committee and provided a follow-up report of fund investments. They went through the full venture capital cycle — all in a single semester.
“I think everyone who takes this class is pretty motivated and wants to start their own business one day,” Dave said. “It helped me see things from a different point of view. It’s really hard to get into venture capital, so having this experience at 20 years old is pretty awesome for me.”
Paul Nichols, director of JSOM’s innovation and entrepreneurship academic programs, said that highly visible programs such as the UT Dallas Seed Fund helps JSOM alumni who are in the business community better understand how vital the innovation and entrepreneurship programs are at UT Dallas.
“Once they learn that they’re eligible for seed funding for their own business startups, then our hope is that they will be more willing to get involved with our programs as mentors and donors,” said Nichols, who is a member of the UT Dallas Seed Fund supervisory committee.
— J.R M.