A couple years ago, Rooster McConaughey, a successful oilman and rancher with a famous younger brother, launched a TV series on CNBC with his oil and ranching business pal, Butch Gilliam. It gave Texas entrepreneurs a big audience to pitch products to and, potentially, win investment.
“West Texas Investors Club” was like a friendlier version of ABC’s “Shark Tank” with plenty of cold beer and conversation.
It was more focused on founder’s backstories than business metrics. But it brought dry powder to the table. The two invested almost $2 million in the first season. They tacked on another million or so in season two, according to some tallies. Then, it basically vanished.
But it had caught the attention of Angela and Michael Smith, founders of Yip Yap, an Austin startup that aims to provide a safe and guided version of smartphones for parents to give to their kids. They submitted their pitch to the producers of “West Texas Invests Club” in hopes of getting on the show.
Nothing happened. The show disappeared. They thought ‘that was that.’ Then, a casting producer called in April last year saying he had seen Yip Yap’s pitch and wanted them to consider being on a new show. The producer didn’t say what show he was talking about.
“We had like no information,” Angela, Yip Yap’s CEO, told me. “They wanted it to be a surprise because it’s reality TV. I said I need to know that this is legit.”
“We had to step out a little bit and have faith there,” she said.
It paid off.
After Skype interviews to see whether they were camera-ready entrepreneurs, they got a contract that hinted of A&E’s involvement. And, soon, they learned they would be on a new show, “Rooster & Butch.” They were stoked.
Their episode airs Wednesday evening at 9 p.m. Central on A&E.
As is the case with founders appearing on “Shark Tank,” Yip Yap’s founders couldn’t talk to me about whatever investment they were promised or not promised before the show airs. They also couldn’t talk much about what happens on the show, other than to say they spent a whole week with the team in West Texas and were basically always on camera when hanging out with Rooster and Butch.
Also, they said, Rooster really does have a Miller Lite in hand at all times — and really does have a son named Miller Lyte.
Angela, and her husband, Michael, figure the show will focus on how a husband and wife duo deal with the pressures of managing a startup. But they haven’t seen the episode themselves.
They hope it demonstrates their cornerstone product, the kid-friendly PIPSQUEAK phone, and their new app, which can be used on older iPhones that hook up via Wi-Fi.
They also want people to understand the company’s purpose is to help introduce kids to smartphones in a safe and controlled way — fitting in with an emerging theme about the dangers of kids and smartphone use.
That was part of why they started their company. They wanted their own children (they have four now) to have a way to talk with their dad, who was traveling for work, and friends and relatives without getting hooked on phones or putting an expensive device at risk of breaking.
Yip Yap has raised about $700,000 from friends and family. They also won a recent pitch competition, and they’ll soon be meeting with four VCs in San Francisco as part of the prize.
“We’re hopeful there will be some momentum that comes out of the show and translates to interest with investors,” Michael said.