Austin Startup one of SXSW Accelerator’s top winners

By SUSAN LAHEY
Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Austin’s Pop Up Play won first place in the Entertainment and Content category at the SXSW 2016 Accelerator Awards. The company creates cardboard play sets—castles, spaceships–that children can design and customize online then order. Winners in other categories were Enterprise and Smart Data: Parknav uses real time data to provide users with parking information. Accelerator event producer Chris Valentine said he saw some 50 parking apps in his search for Accelerator competitors but Parknav’s technology is truly “smart” and predicts parking spaces to within 80 percent accuracy, despite the fact that cars are always moving.

Health 
and Wearable: MUrgency. Ninety percent of the world does not have an emergency responder system like 911. MUrgency provides the software so that countries where mobile phone use is widespread, or where people have sensors or wearables can quickly access emergency responders such as ambulances or fire departments.

Innovative World: Rorus makes filter packs that carry and instantly purify drinking water, removing both biological and chemical contaminants. The system can provide water for a family of six for a year for a cost of only $40.

Payment and FinTech: 
Chroma is a block-chain based exchange that allow financial firms to build and trade stocks and bonds for software-defined early stage companies.

Virtual Reality: Splash is a social virtual reality app that allows users to capture a 360 degree video in seconds, share it to any social network and view it in VR.

Valentine, who scours the globe for the cream of the crop companies, said he believed Virtual Reality would define SXSW Interactive 2016. The VR session was the first Accelerator program of the day and the room was always completely packed.
“I’m not a gamer,” he said. “So I was always like ‘meh’ about VR.” But this year, he realized, while some companies are using VR for games and entertainment, VR is also being used to help people learn skills and enhance medical treatments. A mental health professional treating someone with a fear of heights, for example, could use VR to virtually help someone ascend a set of stairs. Athletes use virtual reality to practice skills they want to enhance. It can even be used to teach surgical procedures. The brain often can’t differentiate between the virtual reality and physical reality so that learning something in virtual reality can accelerate acquisition of a skill exponentially.

Accelerator generally takes up several days of the Interactive conference and this year there were 48 competitors in six categories with two rounds of competition. It makes for an exhausting period for both competitors and judges and even the audience. Next year, Valentine said, they will expand the categories to ten, the number of competitors in each category to five, and only have one round of pitches. He’ll begin getting ready for next year’s competition right after SXSW ends. He will visit several tech competitions all over the world. This year, 15 of the 48 competitors were from other countries including England, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain and Norway.

Accelerator also has three other competitive categories.

Best Bootstrap Company (the company who has done the most with least): Hearken

The winner of the Most Innovative Company: Vantage.tv

And the winner of the One-Minute Pitch among alternates: Knocki

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