Class of 2018
The 2018 ATXelerator class will always have the distinction as being the “inaugural” cohort. When the ATXelerator launch announcement went out on Oct. 4, 2017, announcing the new program to start in January 2018, we had no idea how many applicants would apply. It was a pleasant surprise when 54 applications came in by the deadline in December.
After a great opening weekend retreat (Jan. 12-14) at The Native Hostel, where the class jelled and left very energized, the first weekly sessions began the following Wednesday and continued for the next eight weeks. Topics ranged from land use and transportation to utilities and public safety, among others. The class then took a break for spring break/SXSW and started “The Pitch” competition on March 21 and 22.
For the Pitch, each class member gave a four-minute presentation to a panel of four judges, including former councilmember Chris Riley, on a platform they would espouse in a fictitious council race from the district in which they lived. Nine finalists were chosen for the program-ending Center4ATX Games I: Jennifer Deegan, Samuel Franco, Kyle Kerrigan, RC Rondero de Mosier, Leigh Salinas, Danielle Skidmore, Lonny Stern, Chris Treadaway and Herb Watkins.
At the Center4ATX Games, a lively and engaged crowd packed the North Door in East Austin and watched as each finalist responded to a scenario they had to solve as a “councilmember.” As this was during the time that Amazon was searching for a city to land it’s “HQ2” headquarters, each finalist gave a two-minute presentation on how city policy should or should not accommodate their requests among a variety of other considerations. They then got on stage and hashed out an ordinance led by former Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell. Other class members posed as citizen communicators to comment on the proposed ordinance, including the “greedy developer,” the overzealous neighborhood association president and the chamber of commerce, pro-business representative. In the end, a great night ended with medals awarded to Samuel Franco (gold), Kyle Kerrigan (silver) and Jennifer Deegan (bronze).