InnoTech Austin’s Beta Summit Showcases Five Innovative Startups

Gibran Gaytan and Nina Ho with Jackrabbit Mobile, show off Face Labs at InnoTech Austin's Beta Summit.

Gibran Gaytan and Nina Ho with Jackrabbit Mobile, show off Face Labs at InnoTech Austin’s Beta Summit.

By LAURA LOREK
Reporter with Silicon Hills News

The InnoTech Austin Beta Summit is where Austin startups go to get exposure – many for the first time.

In the past, Bryan Menell, Chief Operating Officer at AngelSpan, has hosted companies like Spredfast, OtherInbox, Trust Radius and Compare Metrics. The Beta Summit has a good track record of picking and spotting things that turn out to be really cool, he said.

“These are ideas that are just getting off the ground,” Menell said. “They are probably things you have not seen before. Many of these companies just launched or just announced or are just about to launch.”

On Thursday, five companies gave six minute presentations each which included a live demo of their product. The companies included Stacks, Get Involved, Cingo, Meretz and Face Lab by Jackrabbit Mobile.

Ian Clarke, founder and Chief Executive Officer at Stacks, a financial technology startup, kicked off the presentations.

In 2015, Clarke founded Stacks, which is based at Capital Factory, as an app that connects to a person’s bank account and other data sources and then uses machine learning to figure out ways to save and cut personal finance expenses.

Stacks is the fifth venture-backed startup that Clarke has founded or co-founded including OneSpot, Thoof, Revvr and the Freenet Project.

When people get a salary, and have limited time they don’t keep good tabs on where all of their money is going, Clarke said. When Clarke left his previous company a year and a half ago, he decided to audit his expenses to find out where all his money was going. He ended up shaving hundreds of dollars off his monthly expenses just by eliminating unnecessary charges like a credit reporting service and negotiating for a lower rate on his cable and cell phone bills.
“At the end of it I was able to save $400 a month,” Clarke said.

He commissioned a survey to find out if others experienced the same problem. He found that on average, people waste $100 to $200 a month on unnecessary expenses. That is the problem he set out to solve with Stacks, an iPhone app, that keeps tracks of monthly expenses. The app is free and makes money from advertisers and sponsors.

It’s like Google Search for your own financial data, Clarke said. The app is in beta testing right now. It will be launching in about a month, he said.

Next up, Eric Abrahams, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Meretz, gave a demonstration of his company’s app that provides rewards to gamers for exercising throughout the day.

Obesity is a huge epidemic in the U.S. and worldwide, said Abrahams.

“The problem is people would rather be playing games than working out,” he said.

That’s the problem Meretz seeks to solve. It provides gamers with points or rewards for being active. People can trade those points in for virtual currency in a game or other perks. The app connects to a fitness tracker like Fitbit or through Health tracker apps on a mobile phone.

The Meretz platform is free. The app makes money from game developers that pay fees for Meretz users who connect their games. The points can also be used toward gym memberships, restaurant discounts and merchandise.

Meretz, with five employees, is also based at Capital Factory. The app launched in February and is currently in beta testing.

Carol O’Brien, founder and chief executive officer of Get Involved and Michael Wisor, founder and chief operating officer

Carol O’Brien, founder and chief executive officer of Get Involved and Michael Wisor, founder and chief operating officer

The third startup to present, Get Involved lets people contribute to fundraising campaigns by volunteering time, sharing campaigns on social networks, creating wish lists of items needed, money and other resources.

Carol O’Brien, founder and chief executive officer, came up with the idea for Get Involved and enlisted her brother in law, Michael Wisor, founder and chief operating officer, to help bring the idea to reality. The site launched two weeks ago and has users raising money for a block party and a band booster club.

The penultimate startup to present, Cingo, is a customer service application that provides technology for companies to engage with customers in real-time through messaging, chat, voice and video chat within one app. The product is designed so conversations can go from chat to voice to video and even from different devices like mobile to desktop without a hitch, said Kobus Marneweck, Cingo’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer.

Lastly, Jackrabbit Mobile, a mobile app developer and design firm, demonstrated Face Lab. The Android app captures photos every few seconds and aggregates data based on those photos along demographic lines including age range, sex and mood. The app can give retail store owners information about customers while they are in the shop. It can even connect to a customer’s purchase history and more. Gibran Gaytan, Android developer, created the app at Jackrabbit during his 20 percent time, in which employees get to work on new projects of their own creation. Nina Ho, manager of strategic partnerships at Jackrabbit Mobile, showed a demo of how the data analysis software works.

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