5 BREAKOUT STARTUPS THAT WON SXSW
Some wow with their pitches; others pitch over-the-top parties.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.