Gerardo Interiano with Google presents award winners at the Austin A-List Awards.

By Laura Lorek
Publisher of Silicon Hills News

For the eighth time, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce celebrated Austin’s hottest startups at its A-List Award ceremony.

“Startups are trailblazers, risk takers, and pioneers,” said Hugh Forrest, programming director of South by Southwest, which co-sponsors the awards.

At the event, the A-List awards went to 25 companies in four categories: emerging, growth and scale and a new category, culture. A standing room only crowd turned out for the evening at ACL Live at the Moody Theater.

“It’s my belief that innovation and Austin are synonymous,” said Doreen Lorenzo, master of ceremonies for the A-List awards and assistant dean of the School of Design at the University of Texas at Austin. “I really do think it’s in our DNA.”

In addition to the awards, the event featured a series of speakers from the Austin innovation ecosystem. First up, EverlyWell’s Founder Julia Cheek and SailPoint Technologies’ Founder Mark McClain spoke to the crowd about their entrepreneurial journeys.

Last year, EverlyWell won in the Austin A-List emerging category, and at the time the company had just five employees. Today it has a team of more than 40, Cheek said.

“The journey has been fun so far,” McClain said.

SailPoint went public last fall.

“What kills a lot of great companies in not lack of a good idea or funding, it’s people fighting,” McClain said.

Teammates in companies need to be hungry, smart and humble, McClain said.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less,” McClain said.

Next up, Samantha Snabes, co-founder and CEO of re:3D spoke about what it’s like to bootstrap a high-tech company in Austin, Texas. Her venture started in 2013 when re:3D raised $50,000 on Kickstarter to create its first Gigabot, an industrial size 3D printer to print large objects. The company then joined the Startup Chile accelerator and has won a series of pitch competitions and run more crowdfunding campaigns. Snabes won $1 million in the WeWork creator awards last year.

“You got to hustle for every dollar,” Snabes said. “And it’s really hard to take money and put it into R&D when you’re still working on raising the salary of your discounted teammates.”

Today, re:3D has created a new 3D printer that prints items from recycled plastic trash. It launched the project at SXSW and it just raised another $55,000 on Kickstarter from 50 backers for that project.

Snabes credited Bunker Labs with helping it win the WeWork pitch competition She also thanks Capital Factory, WeWork, Dell, Mass Challenge Texas, Austin Chamber of Commerce and others in the Austin community for helping the company to succeed. Last year, its factory in Houston and its operations in Puerto Rico both got hit by massive hurricanes. The Austin community banded together to provide resources to help the company and its employees recover, Snabes said.

“When people ask me every day right now why we are successful, I tell them it’s because we’re a Texas company, I tell them it’s because we have roots in Austin and I tell them about you, from our product, our team and our community, thank you,” Snabes said.

The quote of the night came from Colette Pierce Burnette, Ph.D., president and CEO of Huston-Tillotson University. She gave the featured inspirational speech.

“I am a badass,” Burnette said.

“Moments like this go beyond keeping Austin weird. Moments like this are what keeps Austin magical,” Burnette said. “Moments like this are what keeps Austin audacious, honoring the A-List Austin hottest startups with mad innovation. And to be on the hottest list of anything is a good thing.”

This year, the Austin Chamber and SXSW received more than 150 nominations for the A-List awards. The judges selected the winners based on how novel their idea is and whether the idea can spawn a sustainable and growing business, Lorenzo said. And does the company have the right leadership to execute its vision and also, the level of funding received, and revenue generated, she said.

The Austin A-List award recipients in the emerging category with less than $5 million in funding and $2 million in revenue included: Advanced Scanners, Apptronik, Compassionate Cultivation, Friends + Allies Brewing, Medici, New Knowledge, Olono, RocketDollar and Systemsurveyor.

In the growth category with less than $20 million in funding and $25 million in revenue, the winners included: Acessa Health, AlertMedia, Austin Eastciders, Cece’s Veggie Noodle Co., eRelevance Corp., LiveOak Technologies, and PullRequest.

And the scale or large stage winners who have received funding of $20 million or more or have annual revenues of at least $25 million included Dosh, RigUp, Rhythm Superfoods, SparkCognition, and TurnKey Vacation Rentals.

The new awards this year focused on culture. Those winners included WP Engine “Prelude to an Exit,” Outdoor Voices “Welcome to Austin,” SailPoint “Triple Crown,” and ICON “One to Watch.”