Category: A Slice of Silicon Hills (Page 1 of 3)

Six Austin Entrepreneurs Make the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 List

Forbes just named six Austin entrepreneurs to its 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

The list highlights “game changers” under 30 years old who are transforming industries and changing the world. Forbes picked 600 honorees from more than 15,000 submissions. It picked 30 winners for each of 20 categories.

In the consumer tech category, Forbes selected Adam Lyons and Joshua Dziabiak, both 29. They founded The Zebra, a car insurance comparison marketplace, in 2012. Since then, the company has expanded its reach nationwide. It raised $17 million in Series A funding last year and the company plans to expand into new markets this year. To date, the company has raised $23 million in venture funding and has 50 employees, according to Forbes.

In the consumer tech category, Forbes also selected Whitney Wolfe, 27, the founder and CEO of Bumble, a dating app based in Austin. The Bumble app allows women to initiate contact with potential dates. It has more than 11 million registered users. Wolfe previously cofounded Tinder.

In the gaming category, Forbes selected Alex Schwartz, 29, CEO of Owlchemy Labs. Owlchemy Labs, a virtual reality gaming company, recently raised $5 million. It created the award-winning Job Simulator game and it is currently working on other games.

In the food and drink category, two Austin entrepreneurs made the list. Miguel Garza, 29, cofounder of Siete Family Foods, makes healthier tortillas made from almond flour. He is CEO of Siete, which “is among the just 2% of Latino-owned businesses doing north of $1 million in revenue each year,” according to Forbes. His company is also rolling out a line of grain-free tortilla chips through Whole Foods stores nationwide this month.

In that same category, Forbes also selected Dominik Stein, 29, cofounder of VERTS Mediterranean Grill in Austin. “The fast-casual chain now has 36 locations around the country, and $36 million in investment capital,” according to Forbes.

Other winners “include Olympic athletes such as Simone Biles and Patrick Kane; entertainers and media moguls including Margot Robbie, Kylie Jenner, and Charlie Puth; founders of innovative new companies; venture capital principals; and senior White House officials, among others,” according to a news release. “Past Forbes 30 Under 30 winners include Mark Zuckerberg, Jennifer Lawrence, and LeBron James.”

Editor’s note: this list has been updated to include two entrepreneurs from the Food and Drink category. Featured on A Slice of Silicon Hills

Reporter with Silicon Hills News imageEvery business understands the importance of creating loyal customers.
However, they may not know how many loyal customers they actually have or why those customers are loyal in the first place.
Founded by Chad Keck and Ricardo Reyna, was created to help companies guage customer loyalty by measuring their “net promoter score” – a customer loyalty metric invented by Fred Reichheld and explained in his book “The Ultimate Question.”
The net promoter score is measured by a customer’s response to a single question: “How likely are you to refer our brand to a friend or colleague?” Customers answer on a scale of zero to ten, and then specify the most important reason for their response in an open ended format. Customers who select nine or ten are “promoters,” and customers who select zero to six are “detractors.” The final score is the percentage of promoters minus the percentage of detractors.
The questionnaire is normally sent to customers by email and is used by Rackspace Hosting, Apple, USAA and Southwest Airlines. According to Bain and Company, companies with a high net promoter score tend to outperform industry competitors. is working to make this metric accessible to smaller scale operations and startups in a less expensive way. The startup handles the email questionnaires for its clients and aggregates the resulting scores and feedback on a dashboard so businesses can know why they are gaining or losing loyal customers and make better decisions with their products or services. has just finished its inital pilot program with ten companies in which they sent out more than half a million questionnaires. Some participants received response rates of 15 percent to 50 percent, well above the industry norm of around two percent. will be releasing their beta to the public in the next couple weeks. The startup has already raised $184,000 in seed stage funding from a handful of San Antonio investors, the Geekdom fund, and personal contributions. is currently looking a front end developer and designer.

A Slice of Silicon Hills hosts Educational Nonprofit Venturelab

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

58da047c-6baf-4c0a-8e9e-1e5b98324c1e_540-1What is the best time for students to be exposed to entrepreneurship and tech careers? Early College? High School? San Antonio nonprofit Venturelab is giving kids hands on experience with entrepreneurship and product invention as early as age 10.
Founded earlier this year by Cristal Glangchi, Venturelab is an evolution of an earlier Geekdom nonprofit called ESTEAM. Venturelab still uses the ESTEAM framework – stressing entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. The nonprofit organization has numerous summer programs, weekend events, and after school programs for all levels of students from elementary school to high school to college and beyond. These range from the Venturelab MakerSpace camps that educate students at ages 10-14 to the 3 Day Startup Events that help young professionals build companies. All students receive training in creating business models, inventing products, and giving pitches to sell those products.
Venturelab also puts a special emphasis on inspiring women and girls to become entrepreneurs. All programs must have 30 percent of participants be women and some, such as the GirlStartup camp, are exclusively for women.
The nonprofit organization is funded by several private donors in San Antonio. It is currently looking for additional donors as well as volunteers for the 3 Day Startup in November.
If you would like to enroll yourself or your child in a Venturelab program, you can find the program list at its website.

Grocery Delivery Service Burpy Featured on a Slice of Silicon Hills

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

179795_433710440061652_1513655363_n-1Ever wish you could call someone to go grocery shopping for you? Not bring you frozen food in a truck, but actually go to H-E-B or Walmart and pick up what you want as if you were going yourself. Well, if you live in Austin, you can now use Burpy – a grocery delivery service that does exactly that.
Burpy was founded by University of Texas mechanical engineering Senior Aseem Ali. Ali did not have a car for his first few semesters at UT, and had been looking for an alternative way to purchase groceries. Teaming up with four other UT students, Ali launched the company in March of 2013 and has made around 120 deliveries so far. Burpy also participated in UT’s Longhorn Startup program, where the five students were mentored by Sai Ganesh, Dennis Kashkin, Travis McCutcheon.
Users can order food and other items found at grocers such as HEB and Whole Foods directly from The delivery price varies from $10 to $12 depending on the type of service you select — Burpy can deliver any time between 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. or can be scheduled to deliver at a specific time. Users are also able to upload an entire grocery list if they already know what they need.
In the last three weeks, Burpy has expanded its operation to serve the entire Austin area. It is currently looking to contract additional drivers for specific area codes.

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A Slice of Silicon Hills Interviews FoxySoft on Adult MMO Venus Rising

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Alex Allen with FoxySoftThe Austin tech scene wouldn’t be complete without a few game studios – all of which are trying to find a place in a competitive market. Developer FoxySoft is working to carve out their own niche with the their adult Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game Venus Rising, which lets gamers fight, buy property, and find love in a virtual Roman city.
FoxySoft was created in September 2012 by 15-year MMORPG developer Alex Allen, who has worked on other titles such as D.C. Universe Online. Tired of the hectic schedule and constant layoffs in the game industry, Allen decided to create her own niche game that combined elements of MMOs and Adult titles.
Venus Rising will work similarly to MMORPG juggernaut World of Warcraft – allowing players to work together to kill enemies and find loot. Additionally, however the game will allow users to buy property, throw parties, chat with other players, and even have virtual romantic encounters with those players.
The startup will use the increasingly popular freemuim business model that allows users to download the game at no cost and then make in-game purchases, or microtransactions. Such transactions will mostly be for cosmetic items, such as clothing, but may also include weapons and items with rare game play benefits. To access additional content, including the adult content, users will have to purchase a subscription.
FoxySoft contracts two developers on a regular basis and other help as needed. It is currently bootstrapping on a budget of $100,000 and looking to crowdsource another $5,000 in the short term. Allen hopes to eventually raise around 1.2 million, which will help her hire more artists and programmers to flesh out the game further. Venus rising is scheduled to release an alpha product this fall and plans to release the full game in late 2014.

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The 80/20 Foundation Promoting Tech Education and Innovation

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

imagesIt’s hard to start something from nothing. Even the greatest, most world-changing idea needs some seed funding and community support to get under way.
This is what the 80/20 Foundation was created for. As Graham Weston’s personal philanthropic organization, the foundation operates on the same 80/20 principle, called the Pareto Principle, which Weston has associated with so many other parts of business. Simply put: 80 percent of business growth and innovation comes from the 20 percent of a city’s customers and innovators.
The 80/20 Foundation seeks out this 20 percent of the tech community and grants nonprofit organizations small, short term grants to get them off the ground. The Foundation never funds a nonprofit organization completely or indefinitely, however.
Most of the 80/20 Foundation’s funding focuses on their three primary areas in San Antonio: creating more urban options for professionals, supporting a technology community, and promoting tech education. The Foundation has helped fund the B-cycle program and is currently working to create a unique Mission Reach park in hopes of making the city more attractive to young tech professionals. To establish San Antonio as a tech hub, the foundation is funding 3 Day Startup San Antonio events for both UTSA and St. Mary’s University. To promote learning, it gave $500,000 to UTSA so they could incorporate new cloud computing technologies, such as OpenStack, that will accelerate research initiatives.
The overarching goal of the 80/20 Foundation is to create an educated workforce and environment of innovation in San Antonio where the next Rackspace, Facebook, or Google could be born.
While the 80/20 Foundation has existed since 2009, it has developed most of its structure as a nonprofit in the last year-and-a-half. Weston brought on startup executive Lorenzo Gomez as Executive Director, education scholar Scott Meltzer as Deputy Director, and St. Mary’s graduate Ryan Salts as the Operations Manager. According to Gomez, the Foundation is projected to give out around 16 grants in 2013 totaling about $1.5 million.

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Full disclosure: Graham Weston is co-founder of Geekdom, which is a sponsor of Silicon Hills News.

A Slice of Silicon Hills Gets Home Safe with Sober Monkeys

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

679916cd-27eb-4003-a2dd-0573e483e44d_540Austin is full of cool places to stop and have a few drinks, especially around 6th street but if you have too many, you might have to leave your car in an expensive parking space overnight or drive home while still intoxicated.
While out on the town, personal trainer Angie Brinkley noticed that far too many people were choosing the second option because they did not want to be without their car. As a result, Brinkley founded Sober Monkeys.
Sober Monkeys is a designated driving service in Austin that will drive a customer home in the customer’s own vehicle. Each Sober Monkeys team has a driver for the customer’s car and a follower that picks the driver up after they reach their destination. To date, Sober Monkeys has given more than 100 rides in 10 months.
Customers can sign up for Sober Monkeys on their website or by calling 512-808-9232. Pickups can be either scheduled in advance or requested at a moment’s notice. When the driver arrives, a customer must sign an insurance waiver before handing over the keys. Hiring a sober monkey costs $30 for the first five miles and $10 more for each additional five miles. Stopping for gas or other reasons will result in additional charges.
Sober Monkeys is currently running a $15,000 crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo to develop a native app for both iOS and Android. When completed, the app will make it easier for customers to schedule pickups and be found by drivers – even if they are intoxicated at 2 a.m. The remainder of the funds will be spent on car logos to make drivers more easily identified.
Sober Monkeys currently contracts five drivers and is looking to hire additional drivers for the Austin area.

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Parlevel Systems Brings the Internet to Vending Machines

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

images-9With so many things connected to the Internet today, it’s sometimes surprising when certain machines get left behind. In this case, it’s our old friend the vending machine. To this day, many vending machine owners have to guess when to go out and refill machines and hope the machine doesn’t break down between checkups.
Parlevel Systems is creating a solution for this issue with the Parlevel Box – CEO and founder Luis Gonzalez got the idea for the startup when he heard a vending business owner complaining about not knowing what was happening with his machines.
The Parlevel Box attaches to a vending machine’s data exchange port and tracks multiple data points for the machine’s operation. This includes items currently in the machine, total number of sales, how many times the machine has been opened, and the current cash balance. The Box can also tell if the machine is malfunctioning and where the malfunction is located. If the machine does not have a data exchange port, Palevel Systems can do a retrofit.
Vendors can access all this data on an online dashboard which tracks each machine on a map. The dashboard tracks each machine over time and will let owners know what sells best and worst at what locations. In addition, Parlevel Systems will provide demographic analysis based on secondary sources of data and actively advise each vendor of the best places to sell both existing and new products.
Parlevel Systems is currently in the pilot phase of development and is working with three vending businesses across Texas to fine tune their product before going to market. They will finish their A round of funding in the next few days — allowing the startup to finish development and expand their team. Parlevel Systems expects to have their product on the market by October of this year. Their service will have a tiered cost system based on the number of machines tracked. The hardware component will be free of charge.

A Slice of Silicon Hills with Cynthia Phelps and Health 2.0

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Health 2.0 is an international organization working to revolutionize health care by supporting new medical technologies and startups around the globe. It has 70 chapters worldwide, and hosts conferences and code-a-thons to support medical innovation. It also collects research on the health care industry. Now, under the leadership of Cynthia Phelps, Ph.D., San Antonio can claim one of those chapters.
The goal of Health 2.0 San Antonio is to provide a support structure for new health technology startups. To help startups get off the ground, the organization educates members on topics such as FDA regulations and HIPPA requirements. To provide funding to new companies, Health 2.0 San Antonio will seek out and form relationships with health care savvy investors. It will also work to organize large code-a-thon events in San Antonio and facilitate more cooperation between San Antonio’s health care and tech sectors.
Health 2.0 of San Antonio is based at Geekdom and meets every third Tuesday of the month on the 11th floor of the Weston Centre. You can stay updated on new events on the Health 2.0 San Antonio Meetup page.

Want Something? Favor Delivers to Central Austin Residents

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

78283fa6-b8cb-4ed4-802d-8bac6b9c708b_480Ever want something from the store – a sandwich, milk, batteries – but didn’t have time to get it? If you’re in central Austin, you can now use Favor.
Favor is an app based delivery service that gets customers food, drinks, or whatever else they need delivered right to the user’s location. The service is active between the hours of 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Wednesday and available until 2 a.m.Thursday through Saturday. Favor has a $5.00 delivery fee plus $2.00 minimum tip on top of whatever you ordered. Customers can order virtually anything as long as they have the local store name and an item description.
Favor serves the central Austin area – as far south as Oltorf and as far north as 55th street. They currently have 12 runners and are still hiring.
Founded by high school friends Zac Maurais and Ben Doherty, Favor started out in San Luis Obispo, Calif. delivering burritos and beer. The startup went though the boost incubator in San Mateo, Calif. where it was eventually funded by venture capitalist Tim Draper. Favor moved its operation to Austin as of June 5 to access a larger customer base. It has seen 2000 downloads in its first month of operations.
Favor is currently looking for a Sencha touch developer to help build more features into their app.

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