By LAURA LOREK
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
The original team behind Cerebri won the inaugural IBM Watson University Competition in January. They received $100,000 and are working with the United Way Texas to develop a 2-1-1 social services app. But the company sees broader applications for the Watson technology in the call service industry.
“We applied to the Longhorn Startup Lab the day after we won,” Connelly said.
Connelly didn’t plan to launch a company and become an entrepreneur when she graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. But that’s exactly what the senior majoring in computer science is going to do. She’s hoping to join the Capital Factory Accelerator this summer and a team of three full time employees will work on the project.Cerebri was one of 13 startups that pitched their ventures at Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium Thursday night as part of the Longhorn Startup Demo Day. The Longhorn Startup Lab, which kicked off in 2011, has held eight Demo Days so far. Bob Metcalfe, professor of Innovation at UT, Ben Dyer, Entrepreneur in Residence and Joshua Bear, founder of Capital Factory, teach the class. Mentors also help the students market themselves, prepare business plans, perfect their pitches and seek partnerships and financing.
Cerebri has already signed a commercial partnership agreement with IBM and Connelly is speaking at the World of Watson in New York next week.Pame Valdes, an engineering exchange student from Mexico, signed up for Longhorn Startup Lab to launch Beek.io, a social network for book lovers in Latin America. The bootstrapped company just launched its alpha version and has a Facebook fan page with more than 23,000 followers. Its goal is to have 100,000 active users by October and then to seek funding, Valdes said.
“The program has been amazing,” Valdes said. “Bob Metcalfe, Josh Baer and Ben Dyer have been great. And the mentors have been great too.”
Mentors like Damon Clinkscales helped Valdes to get her minimal viable product out.
“The best advice was to get the main features out,” Valdes said.
Another exchange student, Lukasz Pietrasik, a junior studying mechanical engineering from Poland, founded Sensus, a company that makes a variety of sensors that communicate with a mobile phone app for K-12 Science Technology Engineering and Math experiments.
“The students want to see what’s happening,” Pietrasik.
His sensors measure things such as acceleration and can provide data to the app in real time.
“We wanted to make something to help schools,” Pietrasik.
The app isn’t yet available. Pietrasik is testing it now and plans to have a product on market by next summer.
“The program helped me a lot,” Pietrasik said. “I had no idea how to write a business plan.”
Four of the startups focused on the restaurant industry. They included Tastebud, a restaurant deal app, Who’s Hungry, a social network app that gathers friends to find a place to eat, Entrée, a software system to streamline the restaurant sales process and FreeBee, a rewards system. FreeBee’s founder actually announced on stage that the startup would not continue with its idea because of all the competition.
Several of the startups had taken the class before and those companies included
Grey Matter Technologies, which is developing G-FORCE, a mouth guard with sensors that communicate with a smartphone to alerts the athlete when they have been hit hard enough to have a concussion. HapBack is a matchmaking service for events to find sponsors. Prepify makes apps that help students study for the SAT. And Lyte Labs is making a ring to monitor glucose levels for diabetics.
Other startups included Retell, a software platform for property managers and MyCoachLive, an online service that matches provides people with life coaching sessions online.