By Laura Lorek
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
A year ago, Ryan Norton didn’t have a car and he needed to get to the dry cleaner and back from the University of Texas at Austin campus.
“Dry cleaning is really inconvenient,” Norton said. “As we looked at this space we recognized the entire industry is outdated. We figured there had to be a better way to do it.”
So his team built an app and they created Press, what they call “the Uber of laundry and dry cleaning.”
Press is one of 15 startups that pitched Thursday night at Longhorn Startup Lab Demo Day at the Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium at UT. The semester long class, taught by Joshua Baer, founder of Capital Factory, gives students instructions on how to become entrepreneurs by founding and running a startup. The students also learn from a group of volunteer mentors, successful Austin entrepreneurs, who meet with the students once a week. The latest class is the 10th class to go through the program, which started in 2011.
Most of the startups are early stage.
Press launched three months ago and has had more than 600 orders. It is averaging about 40 orders a week, Norton said. They have done $13,000 in revenue so far. The startup is bootstrapped right now and is looking to raise a seed stage round of funding soon.
Norton, a junior majoring in electrical engineering, founded Press along with Nelson Tao, a senior in economics and Tyler Amodio, a sophomore majoring in economics. They are going to have a fleet of independent contractors that pickup and drop off clothes, Amodio said.
While many of the startups that participated in Longhorn Startup have failed, a few have gone on to success. Burpy, co-founded by Aseem Ali, went through the Techstars Austin program and is about to launch a new product. Occipital, based in Boulder, Colorado, acquired 3-D camera maker Lynx Labs. And two of last year’s Longhorn Startups, Cerebri, an artificial intelligence startup, and Beek, a Spanish book review site, are now part of Capital Factory’s accelerator program.
And many of the former students have gone on to work for startups in Austin and beyond. Throughout the years the program has helped to foster an entrepreneurial spirit at the University of Texas that might someday help to inspire the next Michael Dell, who founded his company his freshman year at UT in a dorm room. Dell has spoken to several of the Longhorn Startup classes.
“The program is awesome,” said Tao with Press. “The environment they put you in with all of the other student entrepreneurs lets you know you are not alone in this. And also it brings out the competitive side in you. Friendly competition is always good.”
The mentors have given the startups so much knowledge, Norton said.
“I’ve learned so much in this class about how to raise a seed round,” he said. “I never would have known that before.”
The mentor network helped by providing valuable feedback and advice, Amodio said.
“It’s gratifying to have provided an outlet for these young entrepreneurs,” said Bob Metcalfe, who originally founded the program with Baer, founder of Capital Factory and UT Professor John Butler. “Before they even get here they know they want to do something like this. It’s not like we have to convince them. They volunteer. They show up.”
In February, the Genesis program launched at UT at Austin to provide funding to student entrepreneurs looking to found companies. It’s open to any student in any degree program.
Thursday’s night program kicked off with 15 student run startups pitching for four minutes each. A brief description of each is listed below.
BeepBeep Advertising – The startup provides car wrap advertising on the cars of independent contractors who work for companies like Lyft, Uber, Postmates, Instacart, Favor and others. The average car wrap creates 603 impressions per mile. The outdoor advertising market accounts for $17.4 billion annually. The company is currently in negotiations with advertisers and ridesharing drivers.
Coil – a group messaging tool launching at UT Austin for college courses and organizations. It is moving students away from email and to mobile messaging to communicate about all educational matters. It is going to be integrated with Canvas.
ConcertCam – an app that enhances the sound quality of smartphone video recorded at live concerts. It creates quality content from video clips uploaded to soundcloud and then delivers it back to the fans and bands.
Cal-Me – an alarm clock for student’s upcoming assignments. Students take a picture of their class syllabus and upload it to Cal-Me and the platform sets up reminders for every assignment that is due for the class. Reminders are sent via text messages. One class is free. If a student wants to upload all of their classes they pay an annual fee of $20.
DelegateIt – is a solution for vacation rentals that provides a concierge and short term management service. The on-demand concierge service provides renters with grocery delivery, activity scheduling and transportation.
DrivenATX – is a platform that seeks to provide jobs for exceptionally driven homeless people in Austin. It’s a marketplace for small jobs kind of like TaskRabbit. On the platform, a person can create a job and it will be assigned to a homeless person to complete.
eBik – a smart lock system, mobile application and data sharing service for easy bike sharing programs at university campuses.
Entrée – an application that lets people text their orders to pre-pay and skip the lines at Austin food trucks.
Hey Athena – a voice activated artificial intelligent agent that acts as someone’s personal assistant.
Hylio – has created an autonomous commercial delivery drone called Pegasus that lets anyone deliver goods to consumers. They plan to launch a crowdfunding IndieGoGo campaign in a month.
Infusey – is a device that attaches to a shower and infuses the shower with essential oils to create a spa-like aromatherapy experience. They are currently running a Kickstarter campaign.
KickIt – an app that lets college students connect with their friends for social engagements.
Press – A dry cleaning app that lets people in downtown Austin order pickup and dropoff for laundry services and dry cleaning.
Sanare Solutions – is scheduling software for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.
Texas Guadaloop – a team of 30 UT engineers at UT Austin are building the Hyperloop transportation pod in a competition sponsored by SpaceX. They are scheduled to demonstrate their prototype this summer. They currently have a GoFundMe page to raise funds for the project.