The Importance of ATI to Austin’s Tech Industry

Isaac Barchas, director of the Austin Technology Incubator, at its 25th anniversary celebration and graduation.

Isaac Barchas, director of the Austin Technology Incubator, at its 25th anniversary celebration and graduation.

The Austin Technology Incubator started off as a lab at the University of Texas at Austin 25 years ago.
No one knew what an incubator was in 1989 but they understood labs so George Kozmetsky, dean of the business school and ATI’s founder, called it a lab for students to learn about entrepreneurship and technology transfer.
Today, that lab is one of the oldest and most successful incubators in the country. ATI has graduated 142 companies and six of them went public, 40 more merged or were acquired with larger firms and another 50 are still operating, according to a new report “The Economic Impact of Austin Technology Incubator Alumni Companies on Travis Country.
The report found that just in the last 10 years, ATI companies have had an $880 million economic impact on Central Texas and they have created 6,524 direct and indirect jobs.
“ATI has had a tremendous economic impact on Austin,” said Juan Sanchez, vice president for research at the University of Texas at Austin. “It’s not too bad for a 25 year old.”
On Wednesday night, ATI graduated 25 companies, which have raised $60 million so far in venture funding. Two of those companies, Black Locus and Hoot.me have already been acquired. Home Depot bought Black Locus in 2012 and Civitas Learning acquired Hoot.me last summer.
“In a very real sense, ATI was the only game in town 25 years ago,” said Isaac Barchas, ATI’s director. “Today, ATI is not the only incubator.”
Austin has Capital Factory, DreamIt Ventures, Techstars, Incubation Station, Tech Ranch Austin and more.
“Now Austin is the incubator,” Barchas said.
At the event, Josh Alexander, co-founder of Toopher, gave a humorous graduation speech. Toopher, founded in 2011, now has 23 employees and plans to expand in 2014, he said. Toopher has created software to detect identity theft and fraud online. The company, which created two-factor authentication security software, received $2 million in Series A funding last year.
ATI also handed out awards.
Manoj Saxena, founder of Webify and now general manager of Watson Solutions for IBM Software Group in Austin, won the Laura J. Kilcrease Civic Entrepreneurship Award.
“I want Austin to become the hub for cognitive computing in the country,” Saxena said, upon accepting his award.
The inaugural John Butler Distinguished Alumni Award went to Michael E. Webber, former ATI intern and now Deputy Director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.
More than 400 RSVped to attend the graduation event. Greg Kozmetsky, son of the late George Kozmetsky, attended along with Pike Powers, a long time economic development proponent for the technology industry who worked closely with Kozmetsky. Other attending included Laura Kilcrease, the founding executive director of ATI, Robert Peterson, director of the IC2 Institute, Gregory Fenves, UT executive vice president and provost, Bob Metcalfe, UT professor of Innovation and many more.

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