By DAVE MICHAELS
Special Contributor to Silicon Hills News
The Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs hosted its Venture Expo last week, the capstone in its accelerator program.
The accelerator program pairs participating startups with UT graduate students and Accenture employees across various disciplines to validate the market need and business model, as well as refining the marketing strategy and product itself. According to Director Dr. Rob Adams, the design of thoroughly addressing all pertinent questions facilitates (and accelerates) the investment decision process.
The event, which took place Thursday at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, featured 15 companies, spanning a range of industries and stages, pitched to prospective investors, partners, and the larger entrepreneurial community. Four companies are profiled below with the complete list at the end of the article.
While NOOM Cofounder Sara Rodell was working round the clock in New York, time was in short supply and a generous network of friends and neighbors helped her with a host of errands. She wanted to say thank you, but with time scarce, couldn’t take them all out to lunch.
In the gift spectrum, an email thank you may not be meaningful enough whereas a traditional gift may not be appropriate. In between is buying someone a drink or lunch. With limited time and larger social networks, it’s not always possible to say thank you in person. An opportunity has developed in the middle of this spectrum.
NOOM works by allowing people to purchase thank you’s in 3 categories—treats, beer, or bar & bites—delivered virtually that recipients can redeem at a variety of restaurants, bars, etc. NOOM is currently accepted at 42 venues in Austin and 18 venues in Houston.
They are finishing up a successful Beta test of their service where they have validated the need and identified business professionals as the segment that critically needs this service. Venues have also been very receptive to participating. Ms. Rodell says that their sales meetings typically get to “why wouldn’t we do this?” because it really helps them increase the volume of their business.
NOOM has already raised $545,000 and is looking to close the round at $1 million to start the next phase of product development.
Admittance Technologies (CardioVol)
Pacemakers regulate rate and rhythm of the heartbeat in a complex operation that needs to be constantly monitored for complications. To help correct an irregular heartbeat, many pacemakers are coupled with implantable defibrillators. Assessments are made by an imperfect algorithm that consistently leads to unnecessary shocking of patients’ hearts. The resulting trauma increases mortality rates.
Chief Scientific Officer Dr. John Porterfield characterizes Admittance Technologies as a think tank that utilizes patient experience from its founder Dr. Marc Feldman to identify problems in cardiology to then determine if a feasible solution is possible. CardioVol is their first product, software that works with the existing pacemaker and defibrillator hardware. It significantly reduces the problem of inappropriate shocking by measuring blood volume in the heart to inform a more reliable algorithm.
Four large US players and heavy competition has essentially commoditized the pacemaker. Companies differentiate themselves by adding features. For every feature, a company typically gains one to four percent market share, roughly $30 million to $50million. CardioVol’s software enables three separate features which could dramatically add market share for one of the four companies.
Admittance Technologies received a state of Texas grant for $2 million and is looking to raise $2 million during the next 30 months. CardioVol has been successfully tested in animals and is ramping for an additional study with chronic animals during a period of six to twelve months to further prove out the concept. At the end of the study, they are considering an exclusive deal with one of the pacemaker companies, supporting them through human trial and integration.
As traffic continues to worsen, people are realizing things have to change or sit in traffic longer. In the words of Ride Scout Founder and CEO, Joseph Kopser, “We’re faced the situation where transportation is an inhibitor to our lives.” An estimated 4.8 billion hours are lost each year in traffic.
New solutions such as ride sharing, as well as existing public transportation options are available but larger participation rates are needed. Some modes of transportation have apps that alert potential riders of up to the minute route schedules. However, no app currently advises riders of all options at once.
RideScout dubs itself the “Kayak of ground transportation” and works by aggregating data from various modes of transportation, including social data from Facebook, to provide users a dashboard. Each option includes the time and cost to allow for informed decisions.
Millennials are the first target customer segment. Research has revealed them to be actively interested in the possibility of being car-free, being much more protective of their smart phones and highly active on social media. RideScout will make its money through referral fees that increase business to taxis and other publicly available transportation options, an industry generating $63 billion/year in revenue. Additionally with millions of rides anticipated to be going through the system, valuable travel pattern data can be packaged for marketers, planners, and others.
RideScout is in the process of launching its minimal viable viable (product) focused on ride sharing and taxis in the Austin market. It has currently raised $350,000 and is looking for an additional $400,000 to continue building out its app to make it more robust in anticipation of moving into new markets and additional modes of transportation.
Climate change is driving the need to deal effectively with carbon dioxide emissions. The most established and talked about approaches tend to treat carbon capture and storage strategies exclusively as a cost to industrial processes which will ultimately increase prices.
Skyonics has developed a process that transforms decarbonation from a cost center to a profit center. CFO Scott Gardner said that President and CEO Joe Jones had been thinking on idea for years, originally in the context of space travel and decarbonating crew cabins, but as climate change took hold, the larger market spurred action on the problem.
Skyonic locates its chemical plant next to an industrial operation and as the carbon and other pollutants are captured, they are treated as feed stocks to create three finished products: hydrochloric acid, bleach, and baking soda, all high demand chemicals. By contracting Skyonic, plants can make money by selling these products and depending on government action can also receive carbon credits.
Skyonic has already successfully built a demonstration plant and secured several high profile strategic partners such as Conoco Philips and BP for market expertise and investment. They are into their series C totaling $35 million, the first tranche of $9 million already completed, needing another $6 million in the second tranche to begin construction of the first commercial plant in San Antonio.
Next One’s On Me
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