Tag: Portalarium

Seven Teams Presented at 3 Day Startup Austin

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

20131020_205208Three Day Startup began in 2008 as a project of some University of Texas graduate students who thought entrepreneurship, like many other areas of study, really ought to have a lab where students could make experiments and—if necessary—blow things up as part of the learning process.
Since then it has evolved to 73 programs at 30 universities in the U.S., Israel, Chile, Thailand, Spain, the Netherlands, Columbia and more.
Seven teams, plus one dummy team, presented Sunday night at the Austin Technology Incubator after working on their projects since Friday night, often staying up until 4 a.m. and being sent out to get at least six hours of market validation. They presented before an audience and a panel comprised of Jason Seats of Techstars, Josh Kerr of Written, Jeff McMahon of Open Labs and Fred Schmidt of Capital Factory and Portalarium.


Biquity is investment banking using bitcoin, an unregulated online currency. The practice is illegal in the U.S., but is being used in several Latin American companies where there’s restricted access to equity financing. Biquity would work as a kind of transaction validation escrow service between a company auctioning shares and a company or individual buying shares. Because there are no foreign capital controls on bitcoin, the transaction would not be subject to limits or federal or bank-driven fees
The problem, as Seats pointed out, is that while the lack of oversight means lower transaction costs it also means there’s no oversight to protect parties. The remedy for that is that bitcoin now has futures contracts connected to local currency to ensure that the price agreed upon stays consistent relative to other types of currency. Once the transaction is made it may be easy to convert the bitcoin into local currency that is protected.

Snip Book

Snip Book is an app for hair stylists to capture information about their customers, cataloguing images of haircuts or dye jobs they’ve given, with the specific angle of the cut or the color of dye so that if customers come back asking for the same cut or color they had before, the stylist can easily call up the information. The team’s presenter said 90 percent of the 1.6 million stylists in the U.S. rely on repeat customers for their business’s survival, so being able to recall a cut one gave a client several months ago is important. The original model would be subscription based for about $20 a month with add-on services such as client scheduling. The app could be scaled horizontally to be used at nail salons, tattoo parlors, etc.
The problem, the panel pointed out, was that a lot of this could be done on Evernote. But, Snip Book would also push the hairstyles to social media, such as Facebook, and enhance marketing.


Alza is an app designed to help users avoid losing time in distractions like getting lost for hours on Facebook or oversleeping. Alza collects data from users’ calendars, social media, and other apps, and sends you notification if it sees users playing candy crush instead of studying for the test or presentation they have to give tomorrow.
With other apps and computer tools, people have to manually track their time, pressing a start and stop button. But with Alza, it’s all done automatically. The team planned to do a monthly subscription and also work with organizations like Groupon. If someone has a productive week, they get extra discounts on restaurants and entertainment.
Fred Schmidt asked if this would help him if he was wasting time at the golf course and one team member said it would use his phone’s GPS system to see whether he was where he should be during that time.
Another problem was that iOS sandboxes apps, preventing the app from seeing whether or not a customer is wasting time on another app. But the worst liability was that audience members said they would turn the app off after one session of nagging. A lot of people don’t want to waste time but they don’t want their phones telling them what to do, either.
Parents might buy it though.


EventApps.com is an app for small to medium sized conference and event planners. The simple, module-based app lets users plan and promote events without investing a lot of time in creating a short-lived app or a lot of money—though the price point was $100 for an event with fewer than 200 attendees and $1,000 for events with more than 200.

Sally Stone with Match Setter

Sally Stone pitching Match Setter

Schmidt pointed out that during the recent Captivate conference, rooms changed frequently depending on the number of actual attendees for each session as well as the noise level in the exhibition hall. The ability to do live updates is crucial for events. That would require a cloud based system
The panelists also questioned the jump from $100 to $1,000.

Match Setter

Match Setter is an app for tennis players to find pickup games in their geographic area with other players who have roughly the same skill level. Presenter Sally Stone said many players can’t find games when they have the time to play them or if they do their opponents aren’t as good a player as they claim. Match Setter not only lets people rate their own playing but allows others who have played them to rate them as well. It creates a community of tennis players and also allows players to plan games around what skill sets they want to improve on.
The team planned to monetize Match Setter with a subscription, but the panel recommended having sponsors, such as tennis ball manufacturers, instead. Having the app free to users would create critical mass necessary to find other funding models.

Looksy TV

Looksy TV uses small cameras to collect analytics on crowds in restaurants, bars and other establishments that enable venues to gather useful data on their traffic and also let prospective users check in on whether a particular restaurant is too crowded, empty or otherwise lacking ambiance the customer is looking for.
Similar to Scene Tap in its function, the application differs in that, instead of identifying approximate ages and genders of patrons it uses a cartoon filter to obscure the faces and identities. It only allows a user to see a 30-second window into a particular establishment, locking the person out for 15-20 minutes after that glimpse to prevent stalking.

Chiron Health

Andrew O’Hara with Chiron Health

Andrew O’Hara with Chiron Health

Chiron Health is a secure, web-based application that allows doctors and psychiatrists to visit with patients online. The ultimate goal would be to provide better medical care in rural areas where doctors are in short supply. Though presenter Andrew O’Hara, who is completing his masters in medical infomatics, acknowledged that early adopters were more likely to be urban dwellers such as executives who prefer to take a 15-minute visit via internet rather than expend the time to actually go to the doctor’s office.
The company would charge a fee for the service, taking its cut after the doctor gets paid. More than 20 states require insurance to pay for medical telechats the same way they would pay for in-person visits, O’Hara said, and more states are coming on board.
The panel asked whether the platform was defensible when huge medical conglomerates could take over the market at a moment’s notice. O’Hara said Chiron sees the opportunity to partner with other healthcare technology companies in the next several years to help launch the product.

The final presentation brought three men to the stage…one a typically scruffy startup guy and the other two ridiculously pretty, ripped men in recently ironed clothing proposing a Craigslist-style site for musicians to purchase supplies. Music Matrix was a piece of Moth to Flame Productions’ movie about the startup world Funemployment.

Portalarium Lands $7 Million in Venture Capital

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Richard Garriott de Cayeux is passionate about many things. Space, exploration, the environment, the moral imperative of games, building cool houses and collecting things. So how did he choose to make his first game to launch from Portalarium, the most recent incarnation of his gaming company, Ultimate Collector?
“There are all kinds of ideas we kicked around; potential threads to latch onto …to create as our first original title,” Garriott de Cayeux said. “We wanted to create a game that demonstrates very well that we understand the game mechanics and ease of play of this new third wave of gamers.”
Garriott de Cayeux, known just as Richard Garriott until his marriage in 2011 to equity fund manager Laetitia Pichot de Cayeux, was one of the original game creators. His games, inspired by stories like The Lord of The Rings Trilogy, have been rich in stories, levels, multiple players and layers of meaning, he wanted to show that Portalarium could build games for people who weren’t planning to invest a lot of money and time. He needed a game that could show its value fast.
“We wanted an aesthetically familiar enriching experience that would start with an avatar and a world map and let you explore: go to retail outlets and pawnshops, go around collecting in a wide variety of categories. I can tell you that just through collecting I’ve become sort of an expert on fossils, weapons and armor, automatons…just through exposure a little at a time. I’m a big believer in collecting. You can become very knowledgeable and it’s still as simple and light as any other game.”
Portalarium just raised $7 million in Series A funding from M8 Capital, FF Angel, BHV Venture Capital, and Garriott himself. The company plans to release Ultimate Collector beginning with a PC and Facebook game and follow it 30-60 days later as a mobile game among other platforms.The funds will also help launch Garriott de Cayeux’s next RPG, Ultimate RPG/New Britannia, for mobile platforms.
His new company, started in 2009, began with $3.5 million in seed capital. It aims to be “platform agnostic” to adapt to constantly changing technology and gamer preference.

Spaceman and Game Designer Richard Garriott promotes private space travel at SXSW

Special Contributor to Silicon Hills News

Richard Garriott, game designer, spaceman, CEO of Portalarium

It cost Richard Garriott “tens of millions” of dollars to travel to outer space in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2008. Now his goal is to make it commercially feasible for people to travel for “ones of millions.” And he’s not alone. Garriott, an internationally known game designer who presented at SXSW Saturday, listed several companies investing in technologies to make traveling, doing business and living in space possible for the rest of us.
Garriott is co-vice chairman of Space Adventures which sent him and half a dozen other space tourists up in a Russian craft—NASA will not permit commercial space flights. There’s also the X Prize Foundation which holds multimillion dollar competitions for various aspects of private space research and exploration; SpaceX which develops launch vehicles and spacecraft for NASA with an eye to commercial space travel; Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Catcher spacecraft can carry up to seven crew and cargo to the International Space Station and Bigelow Aerospace is developing space complexes for future space travelers.
Garriott himself, who has tracked mountain gorillas in Rwanda, floated down the Amazon, slept in a tent in the interior of the Antarctic, and been at the bottom of the Atlantic to see the Titanic, has on his bucket list “space diving”–the extra terrestrial version of sky diving–and living on Mars. He bought lunar landers that were left behind, making him the only private holder of real estate on the moon.
In his presentation, he explained how a program like XPrize, offering a billion dollar prizes to organizations that can create infrastructures needed to make Mars habitable, would spread the colonization investment over several different companies and make it financially feasible for humans to become an interplanetary species.
Garriott’s father, Owen Garriott, was an astronaut, as were the neighbors on either side of his house. His mother was an artist who helped Garriott devise complex science projects that made him something of a science fair celebrity. His father came home at night from NASA with technotoys that wouldn’t be introduced to the general market for 20 years—like the photo multiplier tube, a core segment of what is now referred to as night vision.
“So we would take this photo multiplier tube outside at night and follow the neighborhood cats,” Garriott said.
In Garriott’s world, going to space was normal. So when he was told at the age of 12 that his vision problems would keep him from being an astronaut, it was as if he was barred from the fraternity to which his father and all the family’s associates belonged. As it turned out, he was the first person to travel into space after having laser eye surgery and paved the way for other laser surgery patients to become astronauts.
When he was in high school Garriott was introduced to computers when his school bought a teletype computer that no one knew how to use. The school gave him permission to teach himself to use the computer in one hour a day, every school day, for four years. A fan of the book The Lord of the Rings and the game Dungeons and Dragons, Garriott created 28 video games on that computer.
By the time the Apple computer came out in the late 1970s, Garriott was already a veteran game designer. Right out of high school, he had a national distributor publish one of his games. By the time he got to the fourth version of his first game, Ultima 4, he was focused not only on the technology, but on the impact of it.
“As the author, you’re the hero. But most people do whatever they need to do to be powerful and defeat the bad guy waiting for them at the end, even if that’s steal, pillage, plunder. I thought, how can we hold a mirror up to them to inspire them to be more truly heroic. So I made it so the game watches your behavior. It sees whether you give money to the beggar or not. There was one character who was really easy to steal from and most people figured that out pretty easily and stole from her. But later you might need something from one of those characters. And you’d go up and ask for help and the character would say ‘I’d love to help the hero who is here to save us but you are a lying…stealing….”
Garriott remains a game designer—and an eccentric one at that. He wears a silver snake necklace he made when was 11 that is permanently attached to his neck. He has a lock of hair on the back of his head he’s been growing since the 1980s. He used to wear many rings until he married a year ago and his wife, a hedge fund manager, asked him to scale down to her wedding band for the time being. And he paints his toenails a different color every day. Saturday it was beige.
He collects automatons—toys or work of art that move. He has an Austin mansion that has sometimes been called a haunted house. And he’s a magician.
Last year, Garriott cofounded Portalarium, an Austin-based developer and publisher of games for social networks and mobile platforms. The company’s first game is Ultimate Collector Garage Sale.
But he has other passions now as well. One is the environment. He’d always seen himself as an environmentalist and excused his laxness with the usual excuses: it was too difficult to live truly green. It was too expensive.
Seeing the earth from space, however, he could detect the yellowish smoke over the Amazon and the places in Africa where clear cutting and burning was going on. Seeing the peacefulness of the Pacific and the turbulence of the Atlantic, the fissures from tectonic plate activity and the erosion as water poured into the sea, all gave him a sense of how small, actually, and fragile the earth is.
“Suddenly the earth was finite. It was something you could get your hands around.”
So he came home and revamped his lifestyle, adding photovoltaic panels to his home, reducing waste and trading in all his gas guzzling SUVs for more fuel efficient cars.
He’s also passionate about space.
He’s passionate about finding ways to fund his own future journeys, for one thing. On the recent trip he had created a software that warned astronauts when they were approaching spots where they were supposed to take photos. Previously astronauts had to watch out the window and try to visually line up the photo they’d gone up with with the scene below.
He also did work protein crystallization for ExtremoZyme, Inc., a biotechnology company he co-founded with his father. The proteins they used have important cellular functions and are associated with common human diseases. The weightless environment of space helps form superior crystals which researchers on earth to study to learn more about the molecular structure of these proteins for protein engineering and drug design.
But he’s also passionate about bringing other people the opportunity to share in the kinds of adventures he’s been able to experience.
“I’m an explorer,” he said, “but not an explorer like Sir Edmund Hillary who was the first man to climb Mt. Everest. His attitude was, ‘I’m going to climb this and I might make it or I might die but I have to try.’ I have no interest in dying.”
It used to be that one could only explore as Sir Edmund Hillary did or go on a Disney cruise. He wants to offer alternatives. Today, he said, if you want to go space, the bottom of the sea, or to the poles, his business is the place to seek out.
One of his most amazing adventures was visiting the interior of the Antarctic where the air and silence are so complete they seem to distort your understanding. Describing a place where the scouring wind had created what appeared to be a massive frozen wave he said: “How does our world have things like this and we never see them.”
He wants to see disappearing indigenous populations before they completely disappear. He wants to put a stick in lava.
“I have a passion for exploration,” he said, “I have a passion for understanding and I have a passion to create things for others to explore.”

Silicon Hills Technology Weekly Round-Up

The shortage of technology workers in the Silicon Hills region continues. The Austin American-Statesman today reported that the recent trip technology CEOs from Austin took to California didn’t result in any new employees moving to Texas. Perhaps that’s why San Antonio-based Rackspace recently opened an office in San Francisco. The technology companies have to go where the talent resides. Also on Saturday, Rackspace held a recruiting event called Rackerpalooza at its Austin office. Rackspace also recently expanded its San Antonio headquarters.

On Friday, Dirk Elmendorf, one of the founders of Rackspace, gave a talk at San Antonio’s Startup Ignite’s third monthly Hack-a-thon at the Geekdom in downtown San Antonio.

On Wednesday, Austin-based Portalarium, which makes games for social networks and mobile platforms, announced its first social network game, Ultimate Collector: Garage Sale. Gaming Legend Richard Garriott is developing the game, which will be available for a beta release later this year.

Also on Tuesday, the Austin American-Statesman reported that a group of investors including San Antonio Billionaire Red McCombs has invested $1.75 million in an Austin-startup called Bypass Lane, which has created an app that lets people order food and drinks from their seats in a stadium while watching an event.

On Tuesday, the University of Texas honored 40 inventors including Professor John Goodenough and Professor Adam Heller, pioneers of lithium batteries, according to this post from University President Bill Powers.

On Monday, Gowalla’s founder Josh Williams officially announced that Facebook had acquired the Austin-based start-up, but it didn’t acquire the company’s data. It mainly wanted their development team. The Austin American Statesman had a story on the acquisition and didn’t mention anything about the $10 million Gowalla raised in venture capital. But Michael Arrington at Uncrunched reported that the deal might be a liquidation and it was uncertain if investors would get their money back.

On Monday, Globalscape of San Antonio bought Tappin of Seattle in “a deal worth up to $17 million,” according to this story in TechFlash.

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