Homecoming floats constructed in half the time as usual

Pi Beta Phi deviated from its original plan for Float to instead highlight its philanthropy. Photo courtesy Pi Beta Phi. By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer. This …
Pi Beta Phi deviated from its original plan for Float to instead highlight its philanthropy. Photo courtesy Pi Beta Phi.

By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer

This year’s Homecoming float participants will be showing their work at McLane Stadium for a pep rally on Friday night where the audience can get an up-close look.

“McLane on Friday night will be the big event, the Homecoming event,” Frisco senior Ashley Madden, parade chairperson, said.

Kappa Alpha Order with Alpha Phi, Phi Kappa Chi with Kappa Alpha Theta and Pi Beta Phi will present their floats for judging on Thursday and will be awarded in front of everyone on Friday.

“It’s kind of like after a normal parade they get parked in front of Tidwell to be able to walk over and look at. That’s the general idea,” Madden said. “We’re hoping to draw more of a crowd this year because they’re more front and center, so people can see the work that has gone into them. There will also be a video shown during the prep rally about the work that went into the floats.”

Madden said groups usually work eight weeks on floats, but this year they only had about four weeks to finish.

“They lost originally two weeks when we came back to school, when no organizations could meet and then they also lost an additional week when Baylor extended that,” Madden said. “And so that was the official build time, but I feel like they lost a lot of time over the summer. In normal years, they submit their themes and their designs in the summer. Then, they get approved, and they can start ordering materials and start on the first day of school, but because everything was so up in the air over the summer, it got pushed back.”

Celina senior Ben Whisman, float coordinator, said his expectations in the beginning also changed over time. There were plans for 13 floats from organization chairs, he said, and only three floats remain now.

Portland, Ore. senior Kate Pitcher, float chair for Pi Beta Phi, said they decided to stick with plans for a float because it has been the only activity chapter members are allowed to do together.

“We felt like it would just be unifying for our organization and fun and to be able to take advantage of that opportunity to see each other in person,” Pitcher said.

No float design rules or requirements have changed except for determining the float class, Whisman said. Floats are organized into classes, depending on how much money each group plans to spend. They are judged by class and a grand champion is awarded across all classes usually. This year is a little different.

“They do not have to designate a class standing until they finalize everything and then go, we spent this much money, so we will be in this class,” Whisman said. “That’s completely fine with me. I think we’re going to have one in each category, but that might change to where they all end up in one class. No matter what, I think all of them are still going to be fantastic because I’m still blown away with the amount of time that they’ve had yet the level that they’ve done.”

Pitcher said they stuck with a simpler theme and promoted their philanthropy this year. In doing so, she said that Pi Beta Phi was able to donate $3,000 to their philanthropy with the leftover float budget and plans on donating the 2,000 books used in the float display to elementary school kids.

“Originally, we had picked a theme with the fraternity that we paired with, but when they dropped out, we didn’t feel like we had the building capabilities to continue with that theme,” Pitcher said. “And so because it is kind of a weird year with COVID, we decided to make our float theme our philanthropy, which is ‘Read, Lead, Achieve.’ So chapter members actually donated books to our book displays on the float, and the main feature on our float is a giant rainbow made out of books.”

Baylor alumni won’t be able to see these floats in person though. The pep rally was approved as an in-person event, but to meet social distancing guidelines and safety requirements, only students are allowed to attend in person. Up to 1,000 students will be allowed in each event location at McLane: the stadium, alumni tailgate area and student tailgate area, Madden said.

Telstra Ventures wary on over-heating start-up valuations

Matthew Koertge, who is the co-managing director of the $735 million investment fund Telstra Ventures, says the competition for deals in the current …

While we are not seeing the mega floats of that period during this cycle, Mr Koertge said “the market is definitely at the high end”.

“There are companies raising much, much larger sums. There [is] just a lot of capital and lots of multibillion-dollar funds.”

Mr Koertge said Telstra Ventures was very focused on liquidly – that is, investing in companies with a clear path to a sale or an IPO in the current climate.

The firm is also carefully stress-testing its investments to ensure they have a strong enough business model and sufficient capital to come through a crisis.

“The worst kind of companies are the ones that are spending like there’s no tomorrow.”

Telstra Ventures recently celebrated a successful liquidity event when cyber security firm CrowdStrike listed on the NASDAQ in June. The company has since soared from its issue price of $US34 – which was itself raised from $US19 at the float process – to a staggering $US92.

The company is now valued at $US19 billion ($27 billion). The size of Telstra’s stake has not been disclosed.

Telstra Ventures, which invested in 2017, has retained its stake under a typical escrow arrangement and Mr Koertge said he was thrilled with the success of the IPO.

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CrowdStrike’s booming float capped a year of change for Telstra Ventures, which 12 months ago was effectively spun out by Telstra into a separate vehicle under a deal that saw giant US fund manager HarbourVest take a 25 per cent stake in the vehicle.

Mr Koertge said the deal had helped take the shackles off Telstra Ventures, and not just because it saw a reported $US125 million increase in its capital base.

Under Telstra’s ownership, the investment approval process involved sign-off from the Telstra Ventures board, which included several Telstra executives. Under the new structure, Mr Koertge, fellow co-managing director Mark Sherman and four other partners can make a decision on an investment.

“We have a lot more capital and we have a lot more autonomy in the way that we make decisions. So we can actually move more quickly,” Mr Koertge said.

As under Telstra’s more direct ownership, Telstra Ventures still invests in areas adjacent to the telco giant’s business, including cyber security, cloud services, network services, media business and mobile businesses.

Mr Koertge said the fund tries to take a different approach, putting an emphasis on targeting themes, sectors and then potential companies to invest in, rather than just fielding inbound pitches from start-ups.

He said the company’ relationship with Telstra is also an important part of its advantage. In many instances, Telstra can provide a channel to market for the start-ups that the venture fund invests in; this has helped Telstra Ventures portfolio companies generate $300 million in revenue over the fund’s eight-year history.

“It doesn’t always work, but when it works, it can be very powerful,” Mr Koertge said of the ability of Telstra Ventures portfolio companies to sell via Telstra.

“I think it’s really important for VCs to differentiate themselves by how they can help entrepreneurs.”