5 BREAKOUT STAR­TUPS THAT WON SXSW

Some wow with their pitches; oth­ers pitch over-the-top par­ties.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Lilly Rock­well and Lori Hawkins lrock­well@states­man.com lhawkins@states­man.com

For star­tups, the South by South­west con­fer­ence can be the ideal place to launch, meet in­vestors or gain new cus­tomers. And as a bonus for Austin com­pa­nies, it’s right here in their back­yard, so no pricey plane tick­ets or ho­tel rooms needed.

After spend­ing the past week ex­pe­ri­enc­ing and writ­ing about SXSW, we put to­gether a list of five Austin star­tups that stood out dur­ing this year’s con­fer­ence. Some drew at­ten­tion dur­ing pitch com­pe­ti­tions, while oth­ers put on big, splashy par­ties.

This year there weren’t as many high-pro­file mo­ments for Austin-based star­tups. For in­stance, last year Hon­est Dol­lar an­nounced dur­ing SXSW that it was be­ing ac­quired by Gold­man Sachs. And PopUpPlay won the top prize in its cat­e­gory at the SXSW Ac­cel­er­a­tor pitch com­pe­ti­tion.

Vir­tuix

At a pitch event for vir­tual re­al­ity and aug­mented re­al­ity star­tups based in Austin, Vir­tuix re­ally stood out. It of­fers a spe­cial­ized tread­mill that al­lows play­ers to walk, run and jump when play­ing VR games or en­gag­ing in other vir­tual re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ences.

The plat­form, called Omni

On­line, launched after a $1 mil­lion Kick­starter cam­paign in 2013. Founder Jan Goet­geluk said the com­pany has sold more than 5,000 units, which re­tail for be­tween $3,000 and $5,000. Cus­tomers in­clude gam­ing cen­ters and shop­ping malls.

EPX World­wide

There’s al­ways a startup at SXSW that de­cides to spend its mar­ket­ing bud­get on an os­ten­ta­tious pub­lic­ity stunt or party. This year, that startup was EPX World­wide. The Austin com­pany de­scribes it­self as a mem­bers-only group of en­trepreneurs “ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ad­ven­tures around the world, com­bin­ing travel with net­work­ing and men­tor­ing to ac­cel­er­ate busi­ness suc­cess.”

EPX de­cided to an­nounce it­self by host­ing a “Mys­tic River White Party.” Here’s how the com­pany de­scribed the party in a news re­lease: “The Great Gatsby, white cloth­ing, a mas­sive man­sion, mu­sic by a top un­der­ground in­ter­na­tional D J, a yacht, tea in a gi­ant yurt and an in­vite-only party on both sea/boat and land.”

FlashPark­ing

FlashPark­ing stood out dur­ing a pitch event for Austin-based trans­porta­tion apps. The com­pany, which pre­vi­ously was called Klever Logic, pro­vides both hard­ware and soft­ware to help man­age valet sys­tems, park­ing garages and sur­face park­ing lots.

For in­stance, some­one park­ing their car at a FlashPark­ing garage would man­age every­thing through their phone, rather than push­ing a but­ton for a pa­per ticket. The com­pany has raised $3 mil­lion in ven­ture cap­i­tal and was launched five years ago.

FishViews

Wim­ber­ley-based FishViews won a spot at the SXSW Ac­cel­er­a­tor Pitch Event, and took the stage to show off its river map­ping tech­nol­ogy.

The startup cre­ates 360-de­gree HD wa­ter­way maps of rivers, coasts and shores that can be de­liv­ered to desk­top, mo­bile or VR de­vices. In other words, it’s sim­i­lar to Google Street View, ex­cept watch­ing a video feels like you’re head­ing down a river. Hence FishViews’ tagline: “We get you on the water with­out putting you in the boat.”

Mak­er­arm

Mak­er­arm also was a fi­nal­ist at the SXSW Ac­cel­er­a­tor Pitch Event, giv­ing CEO Zaib Hu­sain the chance to pitch her “desk­top fac­tory” ro­bot.

Mak­er­arm is de­vel­op­ing a ro­botic arm with 20 snap-on heads that do the work of a dozen man­u­fac­tur­ing ma­chines, in­clud­ing 3D print­ing, milling, laser en­grav­ing, vinyl cut­ting and cir­cuit board assem­bly. The amaz­ing thing: It fits on a desk­top.

Mak­er­arm has raised more than $435,000 on Kick­starter. The com­pany is pre-sell­ing its de­vice, with ship­ping to be­gin this year. Prices start at $1,499 for the main tower and three ba­sic tool heads.

CON­TRIB­UTED

Austin-based Vir­tuix stood out at a SXSW pitch event his year. The com­pany has launched a spe­cial­ized tread­mill that al­lows play­ers to walk, run and jump when play­ing VR games or en­gag­ing in other vir­tual re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ences.

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