Tag: University of Texas at Austin (Page 1 of 2)

Helping to Commercialize UT’s Big Ideas at The stARTup Studio

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

The October meeting of The stARTup Studio led by Bob Metcalfe, professor of innovation at UT.

The October meeting of The stARTup Studio led by Bob Metcalfe, professor of innovation at UT.

The University of Texas at Austin is like a Thomas Edison lab of invention with its professors cooking up the next great ideas.

The 3-D printing industry started at UT with Carl Deckard, a graduate student in mechanical engineering and Professor Joseph Beaman. Also, Professor John Goodenough created the lithium-ion rechargeable battery.

During the last decade, UT’s Office of Technology Commercialization has helped license technology to start 64 companies, including 48 in Texas, according to its latest report.

To nurture big ideas, Bob Metcalfe, Ethernet inventor and UT professor of innovation, heads up a monthly gathering, called The stARTup Studio, along with Ben Dyer and Louise Epstein, who run the Innovation Center at UT with Metcalfe.

At the event last week, three professors presented their companies, Nova Minds, Heliotrope and Silicon Audio to a small group of industry experts, entrepreneurs, investors and other invited guests at WeWork on Congress. The UT Austin Office of Technology Commercialization, the Austin Chamber of Commerce and WeWork Austin sponsor the events.

“We’re not trying to get them to exchange their lab coat for a brief case,” said Epstein, managing director of the UT Innovation Center. “But we want to help propel their inventions to impact the world…Our job is to help them get to the next level.”


Donglei “Emma” Fan, an assistant professor in the department of mechanical engineering at UT, presenting Nova Minds.

Donglei “Emma” Fan, an assistant professor in the department of mechanical engineering at UT, presenting Nova Minds.

At the event, Donglei “Emma” Fan, an assistant professor in the department of mechanical engineering at UT, presented Nova Minds, an early-stage startup focused on innovative technologies for biomedical research sensing and drug delivery. Frank Zhu is the Chief Executive Officer and Fan is the Chief Technology Officer. Fan “is the inventor of “Electric Tweezers” that can precisely manipulate nanoscale materials in aqueous suspension by combined AC and DC electric fields,” according to her online profile.

Her company is developing high-speed motorized bio-nanosensors. When the materials are reduced through nanotechnology to the tiny size of a fraction of the width of a strand of hair, the sensors can be used for early stage detection of cancer.

Nova Minds is also developing technology for 3-D porous thin films. They could be used for wearable bandages to monitor vital signs or to monitor athletic performance.

In one example, Fan showed a slide with a picture of a young girl playing a violin and said the bandage could be attached to her arm to detect correct posture. Or it could be used to train golfers, she said.

For the next step, Fan plans to apply for National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research, known as SBIR, grants.

Heliotrope Technologies

Delia Milliron, co-founder of Heliotrope Technologies and associate professor of chemistry at UT.

Delia Milliron, co-founder of Heliotrope Technologies and associate professor of chemistry at UT. Photo courtesy of UT.

The next presenter, Delia Milliron, co-founder of Heliotrope Technologies, is the Chief Scientific Officer at the early-stage startup that is developing new materials and manufacturing processes for electrochromic devices focused on creating energy-saving smart windows.

“It’s a company,” Milliron said. “It’s not about research. Our goal is to make money and to build a highly profitable company producing smart glass.”

The company, founded in 2013 and based in Berkeley, Calif., created a dynamic window coating of nanocrystals to control light and heat transmission. The windows with the coating can switch between three states: transparent, heat blocking and heat and light blocking. The window can be powered for a year with a couple of double A batteries, Milliron said.

Heliotrope is developing its products for the residential and commercial glass market, with a market size of $16 billion worldwide for smart glass, growing at 5 percent annually. It is also looking into the automobile market.

“It’s a good time for this market play,” Milliron said.

Buildings consume 40 percent of all the energy in the U.S. in lighting control and for air conditioning and heat, Milliron said. The smart windows have the potential to greatly reduce energy costs and to save money and reduce the impact on the environment.

The company received a $3 million grant from the Department of Energy, $1 million National Science Foundation SBIR grant and it has received private seed stage funding. Milliron moved to Austin a year ago and is an associate professor in chemical engineering at UT.

“We see that this is the future for smart glass that this is going to become the standard,” Milliron said.

The biggest hurdle for widespread adoption right now is cost, Milliron said. Today, it costs $50 per square foot for Heliotrope’s smart window technology, they are working to get the cost down to $25 a square foot, she said.

Coe Schlicher, CEO of Silicon Audio, presenting at The stARTup Studio.

Coe Schlicher, CEO of Silicon Audio, presenting at The stARTup Studio.

Silicon Audio

The final presenter, Silicon Audio, has been around the longest and already has a few products on the market. Neal Hall, an assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering at UT, founded the company in 2007.

Silicon Audio created an optical seismometer that records at much lower frequencies. It began creating the device in 2008 and in 2012 showed a prototype to a company in the oil and gas industry, Hall said. The company funded the development and now the product is commercially available, he said.

In 2007, Silicon Audio created a very sensitive, high fidelity microphone for smartphones. The company found a partner for that technology, Hall said.

With capital from two successful projects, Silicon Audio is now developing a magnet-free small-scale radio wave circulator to be placed on a microchip in a cell phone, Hall said. The device has the potential to revolutionize radar and wireless applications, by allowing a cell phone to send and receive data twice as fast on the same channel simultaneously.

“It’s the future of 5G communications,” Hall said. Right now, the communications standard is 4G, but 5G communications is expected by 2020.

Coe Schlicher, CEO of Silicon Audio, said the company looks for a unique technology that is at the inventor level and then works to create a marketable product. Next, they usually apply for a government research grant to develop the product. They generally skip pitching to a venture capitalist and instead go directly to a customer, Schlicher said. That customer invests $2 million to $6 million to bring the product to market, he said.

But with the circulator, Silicon Audio is looking at getting outside funding, Schlicher said. Andrea Alu is an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at UT and his group members, invented the circulator technology. UT licensed it exclusively to Silicon Audio. Alu is the Chief Technology Officer of Silicon Audio RF Circulator, an affiliated company created in 2014 to bring his technology to market.

The circulator solves a real and growing problem, Schlicher said. Today, radio frequency bandwidth is limited and its availability is decreasing. Up until now, the only solution is to build more cell towers, Schlicher said. But Silicon Audio solves that problem and allows people to send and receive information simultaneously resulting in fewer dropped calls and jammed Wi-Fi signals, he said.

Silicon Audio’s RF Circulator costs ten times less, it’s 100 times smaller and 100 times lighter, Schlicher said.

UT Spinout Capsenta Helps Healthcare Companies Harness Data

iStock_000045124042_LargeBy HOJUN CHOI
Special Contributor to Silicon Hills News

Anyone familiar with the University of Texas at Austin is no stranger to the words “what happens here changes the world.”

To Capsenta, a spin out smart data startup from a UT computer science lab, that motto is more than just a rallying call to donors and fans of the university.

The company, which officially launched in July, seeks to change the way companies around the world mines databases for information. It offers a data translation and integration software allowing its customers to combine and analyze relational databases in a faster and more economic and efficient way.

Traditionally, when combining relational databases for analysis, businesses complete a three-step process involving extracting data from current locations, transforming the data so it is consistent and searchable and loading the data into a newly created warehouse or repository. David Arnold, Capsenta’s co-founder and CEO, said the tedious process, known as ETL, is costly and time consuming.

Capsenta’s patented technology replaces this process, using an application called Ultrawrap, software developed at UT’s Miranker Laboratory.

“There was a need to bring forward these tools, which whole industries were built on, to better weave and integrate with a new world of data,” Arnold said.

Juan Sequeda, who completed his Ph.D in computer science in May, developed the platform under the mentorship of Daniel P. Miranker, the lab’s namesake.

“The process of integrating databases could be done manually, but these were processes that turned out to be inefficient and vulnerable to human error,” Sequeda said.

Another weakness of the traditional process, Sequeda said, was not all relational databases were built to be easily combined with one another.

imgres-2Using their collective knowledge and experience with what is referred to as “semantic web” technology, Sequeda and Miranker designed software to “wrap” around database warehouses from multiple sources so it can be analyzed and cross referenced without being moved.

What brings these databases together, Sequeda said, is a layer of “semantic” technology filling gaps between existing relational databases, which allows Ultrawrap to address specific queries companies may have.

Ultrawrap not only streamlines data integration through its automated process, it also saves users time and money by not requiring them to repeat the ETL process every time a specific question needs to be answered.

Miranker, who is listed as a co-founder of the company along with Sequeda and Arnold, had a hand in smoothing out the licensing process with the university, which owns equity in the company. He said Arnold and Darren Selsky joined the company in 2014 after first serving as advisors to the project at the Austin Technology Incubator.

“The Austin Technology Incubator was largely responsible for the matchmaking with our business team,” Miranker said.

Arnold and Selsky both have backgrounds with close ties to health information and technology. Selsky, who has spent his entire career in the health IT industry, said his work with information connectivity within hospital systems has helped him recognize Ultrawrap’s applicability in the healthcare industry.

“Data that big companies have always been stored, but aren’t necessarily available in a form can be shared and used to increase the quality of care,” Selsky said.

MedAxiom, an information resource and service provider for cardiology organizations, began using the startup’s data integration platform in April. Ryan Graver, president of MedAxiom Ventures, is responsible for creating relationships between its members and other industry segments, such as health IT, medical device and pharmaceutical companies.

“Consistently, we hear that ‘actionable intelligence’ is really probably the biggest area in which we see a gap in the industry,” Graver said. “A lot of that gap stems from the technologies we currently have and don’t have to unlock the data that is already out there.”

Actionable intelligence, in the world of big data, lets companies and organizations know whether or not they should make changes based on the copious amount of information in their data warehouses.

Medicine doctor working computer interfaceHe said MedAxiom, which serves 320 organizations and more than 6,000 physicians in the cardiovascular health industry, provides a hub for sharing and benchmarking data to help these healthcare providers evaluate and improve upon their performance.

Though the company has used more traditional methods to combine and analyze large databases for more than a decade, Graver said the Ultrawrap solution helps create a marketplace in which these organizations and physicians can gain access to this knowledge in a more efficient way.

“We can use Capsenta’s technology to better pinpoint patients who have certain health conditions and ensure these patients are receiving the proper care,” Graver said.

The majority of the startup’s customers have been related to the health industry, many of which are in the medical device business. The software has, however, proved to be functional in other realms, such as legal and transportation.

“You try not to get distracted with going too broad too fast because it dilutes your focus and it dilutes your ability to build great examples of what your technology can do within a vertical market,” Arnold said.

Arnold said the startup, with seven employees, is preparing to raise additional funds. It has already raised about $750,000 in seed stage financing, Arnold said.

Because the company’s business model does not require a large customer service team, Arnold said it looks to add to its sales and marketing team, largely to expand into other markets in and outside the healthcare industry.

UT Austin Team Wins IBM Watson University Competition

images-2A team of students from the University of Texas at Austin took first place in the inaugural IBM Watson University Competition in New York last week.

The winning team of 12 received $100,000 in seed financing from IBM Watson Group and the Entrepreneur’s Fund to launch its application, CallScout, which gives people access to social services.

“The CallScout app, which the State of Texas has approved for pilot, was designed to help streamline the delivery of social services information across mobile devices, ensuring crucial information is available when and where it is needed, especially for citizens without home internet service,” according an IBM news release. “The app will integrate local hours of service, route and map information and other relevant data, while automatically delivering push notifications when important details change.”

A group of students from the University of Toronto took second place with “Ross,” an app that allows users to ask Watson legal questions. A team of students from the University of California at Berkeley placed third with a app called “Patent Fox” that simplifies the patent filing process.

Altogether, IBM invited eight student teams to compete at the Watson headquarters in New York City. The other schools included Carnegie Mellon University; Ohio State University; Northwestern University; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and the University of Michigan.

“Our business idea and app, “CallScout,” enables people in need of help to download an app to a smartphone, use it to conduct a typed conversation with Watson, and get information about social services in their community. (Eventually, people will be able to interact via texting, as well.)” according to a blog post from Bri Connelly, a senior computer science major and team leader for the project. “Topics might include health care, food pantries, temporary housing and other government and non-profit services. We’re hoping to launch a pilot of the app with the United Way of Austin by the end of summer.”

The team hopes to join the Longhorn Startup Lab, a program at UT that helps students become entrepreneurs, and pursue CallScout as a startup business, according to Connelly.

IBM’s Watson is a cognitive computing system that acts like a human brain. It can analyze huge amounts of data easily and understand complex questions spoken naturally.

HackTX to Take Place at the University of Texas at Austin on Saturday

images-1Do you feel like hacking for 24 hours?

Then, if you’re a student 18 years or older in high school or an undergraduate or graduate student in college, you can participate in the third annual HackTX hackathon kicking off Saturday, Oct. 18 and running into Sunday.

The event will take place in the student activity center at the University of Texas at Austin. You must register to participate.

Dell and Major League Hacking support the event which will allow students to show off their coding, design and other skills.

“Hundreds of students will be teaming up with their fellow Longhorns and peers from colleges and institutions throughout the southwest and as far as Mexico to create websites, applications and hardware projects,” according to a news release. “Over the course of 24 hours with very little sleep, these teams will take their ideas from a harebrained concept to an actual working project that can be in an expo on Sunday.”

Other sponsors for the event include Microsoft, Trip Advisor and DIRECTV. Event organizers are expecting more than 600 students in the region to participate, in its largest HackTX to date.

AdBm Technologies Lands $1.3 Million in Funding from CTAN and Others

adbm-logo-200x114AdBm Technologies closed on $1.3 million in funding led by the Central Texas Angel Network.

Other investors included Green Park & Golf Ventures as well as the Houston Angel Network and the North Texas Angel Network.

“AdBm, a portfolio company of the Austin Technology Incubator’s Clean Energy Incubator, also recently announced a successful test of its product in the German North Sea with underwater noise reduction of almost 40 decibels, exceeding performance expectations,” according to a news release.

The startup, founded in 2013 at the University of Texas at Austin, created an affordable underwater noise abatement system with applications in the offshore wind, energy and marine construction industries.

“The AdBm technology is much more effective acoustically and considerably faster to install that other alternatives, while also safer and more economical,” according to its news release.

AdBm plans to use the money raised in its Series A round to scale its production and manufacture its first commercial scale systems. The company has a pipeline of more than 30 sales projects worth more than $55 million.

“We can now take our commercialized solutions and work aggressively to get them into the market to simplify and improve the installation of offshore wind projects,” Mark Wochner, PhD, CEO of AdBm Technologies said in a news release.

Bob Metcalfe Tells Startups to Build Their Networks to Succeed

photoBob Metcalfe, professor of Innovation at the University of Texas, spent some time talking with Jason Seats, managing director of Techstars, during a virtual fireside chat at Foundercon in Austin recently.

Metcalfe has held many careers including educator, publisher and columnist, venture capitalist, inventor of Ethernet and founder of 3Com. He has spent the past three years in Austin at UT and has pledged to make this area a “better Silicon Valley.” He works closely with startups as one of the instructors at the Longhorn Startup program at UT, which teaches undergraduates how to form and run a startup successfully.

In this Techstars video, Metcalfe tells the Techstars founders and staff “You are my favorite people. You are entrepreneurs.”

His advice to startup entrepreneurs is to build their networks to cultivate the success of their startups.

“Building your networks is the most important thing you can do to ensuring the success of your company, your customer networks, your networks of possible employees, your supply networks, your investor networks” Metcalfe said.

“One of the mistakes you can make is to not grok what it means to build a network,” Metcalfe said.

The important thing is that a rolodex must contain trusted sources, Metcalfe said. Entrepreneurs’ networks must be built by exchanging value with those people, he said.

“The first thing that can happen to a network is that you fail to build one,” Metcalfe said.

“The second thing that can go wrong is that your network can be junk,” Metcalfe said. “Some correlation of Metcalfe’s law is that a junky network isn’t worth shit.”

Build your networks and take care of the people in them, he said.

Three Honored at UT Entrepreneurship Awards for 2014

John Arrow, founder of Mutual Mobile and winner of the Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Award at UT at Austin.

John Arrow, founder of Mutual Mobile and winner of the Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Award at UT at Austin.

The University of Texas at Austin has become a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity.

And UTEWeek, the third annual celebration of entrepreneurship featuring more than 15 events at UT, kicked off last Friday and runs through this Friday. The events showcase student entrepreneurial ingenuity.

On Wednesday night at the McCombs School of Business at UT, the Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency held its second annual awards dinner to recognize some of the movers and shakers in the startup community on campus.

Sriram Vishwanath, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, won the Faculty Entrepreneur of the Year award. He has served as an advisor to Lynx Labs, a startup launched by UT students. The company makes a camera and software that can capture environments in 3-D. Vishwanath also advises M87, a company run by engineering graduate students. It has

Sriram Vishwanath won Faculty Entrepreneur of the Year at UT at Austin. Photo courtesy of UT.

Sriram Vishwanath won Faculty Entrepreneur of the Year at UT at Austin. Photo courtesy of UT.

developed patented technology to boost the performance of wireless networks.

John Arrow, former Longhorn and founder of Mutual Mobile, won the Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Arrow kicked off the evening by giving a brief talk on his experiences at the University of Texas as a student. He had a tough time getting in. But he finally found a way through a recommendation from a professor. Arrow ended up dropping out his senior year to found Mutual Mobile, now one of the largest app development companies in the country.

Hunter Monk, founder of MSpaces, a Longhorn Startup company, received the Student Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Monk’s startup brought in $30,000 in revenue last month and is expected to have revenue of $360,000 for the year. He recently joined Capital Factory’s Incubator program.

Hunter Monk, founder of MSpaces and winner of the Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award at UT at Austin.

Hunter Monk, founder of MSpaces and winner of the Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award at UT at Austin.

Monk runs what he dubs as a “professional AirBnb.” He rents apartments, furnishes them with second-hand furniture and then rents them out. He participated in the Longhorn Startup class last semester.

Following the dinner, Brett Hurt, co-founder of BazaarVoice and Entrepreneur in Residence at UT, quizzed Rod Canion, co-founder of Compaq for the first University of Texas Entrepreneur Week keynote address.

UT Entrepreneurship Week to Feature Michael Dell and Rod Canion

headerlogoThe University of Texas at Austin is a hotbed of startup activity.
Last year, the University claimed the number seven spot on Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of the most entrepreneurial colleges in the nation.
And the Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency, part of student government at UT, plans to showcase some of the state’s most accomplished PC entrepreneurs during its third annual UT Entrepreneurship Week which runs Feb. 28th through March 6th.
Michael Dell, founder of Dell, will speak on March 6th about how he started his company in a dorm room at the university in 1984 and how he took the company private late last year to create what he has dubbed as “the world’s largest startup.”
And the celebration of the PC industry also features a talk with Rod Canion, one of the cofounders of Campaq Computers, founded in 1982 in Houston. Canion’s talk is on March 5th. Canion and his co-founders previously worked at Texas Instruments when they set out to create Compaq. In 2002, HP acquired Compaq for $25 billion.
Brett Hurt, Entrepreneur in Residence at UT and founder of Bazaarvoice, will conduct the interviews. The event is being sponsored by the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship.

Mark Cuban and Cotter Cunningham to Speak at Longhorn Startup Lab

markcubanLonghorn Startup Lab started out two years ago as a way to jump start undergraduate entrepreneurs at the University of Texas at Austin.
The program run by Bob Metcalfe, UT professor of innovation, and Joshua Baer, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Capital Factory, has graduated four classes so far. Ben Dyer, entrepreneur in residence at UT, officially joined the class this semester, but he has been helping out since its inception.
During the semester, undergraduate students create business plans, assemble teams and launch startup companies. They work with a group of seasoned veteran entrepreneurs who volunteer as mentors. Some even land financing at the end of the program from angel investors or venture capitalists. Many of the student-run companies are still operating today including Lynx Laboratories, which created 3-D imaging software, Clay.io, a platform for HTML5 games and Burpy.com, a grocery delivery service.
The fifth class, featuring 14 undergraduate startups, showcase their ventures at Longhorn Startup Lab Demo Day on December 5th. Each team will give a six minute pitch.
cottercunninghamAnd this Demo Day will have two all-star entrepreneur speakers. Mark Cuban, founder of Broadcast.com and Dallas Mavericks owner and Cotter Cunningham, founder of RetailMeNot, the world’s largest online coupon and deal marketplace, will give keynote addresses at the event.
Baer officially announced the speakers on a Facebook post Sunday evening.
Metcalfe also announced the speakers on Twitter.

Previous speakers have included Metcalfe, Baer, James Truchard, who co-founded National Instruments in 1976 while a graduate student at UT and Rony Kahan, co-founder of Indeed.com.
The event is open to the public and already hundreds of people have signed up to attend.

Disclosure: Burpy.com is an advertiser with SiliconHillsNews.com

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