Finalist: Davis Sprinkle - Jenga
Davis Sprinkle's "Jenga" won second place in the "Wild Card" of the Build Your Own Broadway event in March of 2016.

The San Antonio chapter of the Urban Land Institute is requesting proposals for its first Developer Shark Tank event, a program that will bring together new developers, real estate investors, and industry veterans, and let aspiring real estate moguls cut their teeth on an actual deal.

Open to anyone with a feasible plan and a place to build it, the local Developer Shark Tank program is being billed as an entertaining but real-world experience, much like the reality show of the same name that has had aspiring entrepreneurs swimming for their livelihoods on ABC for six seasons.

Shark Tank Committee Chairman Juan Cano is urging small and medium-size developers to submit proposals by the March 31 deadline. Two proposals will be selected for a May 23 pitch to the “sharks” – Texas Capital Bank Executive Vice President Laurie Griffith, Silver Ventures Director of Development Bill Shown, Overland Partners Principal Madison Smith, and a special guest yet to be announced.

AREA Real Estate Owner David Adelman, who has seen the event conducted at the ULI national conferences, will moderate San Antonio’s own version.

“One of the things we always try to encourage is people sharing ideas to make our industry more collaborative,” Adelman said. “It is said that a rising tide lifts all boats, and in that spirit of sharing, you end up with overall better outcomes in real estate development and practice. For aspiring young developers, it’s a good opportunity to see the other side of the equation in real time, and I think they can gain better understanding of how the industry works.”

As moderator, Adelman is hoping for high-quality submissions to the contest, the most critical part of a successful Shark Tank event.

“If nothing else, you can be sure there will be some zingers coming from the panel,” he promised.

Developer Shark Tank is modeled after similar events that have been held across the country. At a 2013 Shark Tank event in Arizona, for example, architect Jason Boyner pitched a condominium project still in concept. According to a report in a ULI publication, Boyner proposed a 25-unit residential urban infill development adjacent to a Midtown Phoenix arts district. ArtHAUS was eventually funded through relationships he formed during the program and completed last year.

The event puts future developers and their project in front of a panel of experts, and gives others an inside look at how proposals are made and financed.

“Since it’s from an equity perspective, these presentations will have a heavy finance viewpoint,” said Cano, 31, real estate development manager at the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation. “It has to come with real, feasible pro forma financials that we can dig into and understand. There should be a lot of sustainability factors as far as community building and affordability goes.”

He added that his committee will soon release a grading matrix to guide prospective presenters in putting together their proposals. Requirements are spelled out in the call for proposals, but the primary one is that plans are real projects with real land holdings and real returns that an investor can visualize, Cano said.

“There is no money, there are no prizes, no winner and no loser [in this event]. The prize is being a part of it and getting feedback and making those connections,” he added.

Two proposals will be selected for the event and presenters will notified on April 10. Proposal reviews start April 18, giving presenters an opportunity to meet with senior ULI partners and learn how to strengthen their pitch and make it more appealing to investors and bankers.

“Initially, we saw this as an opportunity for newer or smaller developers to have an audience with real estate veterans in the community. But we also began to see it as an opportunity to link investors to developers in town,” Cano said. “We’ve started to see that there are a lot of smaller investors, guys with $50,000 to $250,000 that want to invest in real estate, but they really don’t know how to vet a project, and they don’t know where to find these projects.

“This may be a really great opportunity for investors to be part of this audience and start making those connections between the city’s future builders and the people who want to invest in San Antonio.”

Cano heads up the ULI young leaders group which represents members age 35 and younger. He joined ULI as a finance and international management student at the University of Texas San Antonio, and met Hemisfair CEO Andres Andujar through a mentor program.

“Next thing you know I’ve got an amazing opportunity to transform San Antonio,” Cano said, “and it’s very much a credit to being involved with ULI.”

Shari Biediger has been covering business and development for the San Antonio Report since 2017. A graduate of St. Mary’s University, she has worked in the corporate and nonprofit worlds in San Antonio...