theGreenITguy’s Top Picks for SXSW Interactive 2016
In 23 years SXSW Interactive has had many great keynote speakers, but no US President was ever up for the task until now. President Barack Obama came through Austin, Texas with the greatest of ease. He stopped off at Torchy’s Tacos for a Republican, Independent, and Democrat Taco, then speaking at the Dell Hall at the Long Center to discuss 21st century civic engagement and community service. As always, he was up beat, measured in his responses, and sometimes comical, but always serious.
The President, moderated by the Editor-in-Chief of The Texas Tribune, Evan Smith, called on the SXSW community, and the tech industry, to solve the nation’s biggest problems by working in conjunction with the US government. “It’s not enough to focus on the cool, next big thing,” Obama said, “It’s harnessing the cool, next big thing to help people in this country.”
SXSW Interactive 2016 was very interesting on many levels. For one, it is very hard to assess the entirety and enormity of such an event without committing some serious time participating. As press, you have to be there for at least a week to survive the food, fun, traffic, crowds, music and entertainment, and tons of events onsite and offsite. Then wind down with a hot bath with Epsom salt and maybe a massage. I have to admit, I had to take myself out of commission for one day, 48 hours into the fray due to exhaustion.
Even though this is my 3rd year in a row attending SXSW, I have never lasted the entire event, nor do I want to. I pick my battles carefully. That being said, I spent my time in the exhibits, start up pitches, and press events. I must say, the good things come by accident. After a long afternoon in the press room on day one, I was spent from long walks. In the Hilton Hotel, I visited a happy hour on the 4th floor. I was drinking a beer before hitting the road, and this young lady put a beer cuzy under my beer with the Roadie logo on it. Video
That young lady was Valerie Metzker, Head of Field Marketing at Roadie was gracious enough to explain the innovative Roadie mobile app, and I was quite impressed. In a nutshell, I call them the Uber for stuff. They like to say it is “On the way delivery network“. But then the plot thickened when she told me that they partnered with Ludacris AKA Chris Bridges, rap mogul, actor, and entrepreneur. Marc Gorlin, Founder and CEO of Roadie entered into a partnership with Ludacris to promote the high tech scene in Atlanta. Although, Roadie is a homegrown Atlanta business, it is a nationwide endeavor. Download the Roadie App
Perusing the booths I ran into this exhibitor called Babbler. In 2014, Hannah Oiknine, a former Microsoft marketing manager, stumbled upon an innovative idea while helping her sister Sarah Azan, a PR professional. Babbler is a social media network for journalists and public relation firms. Currently, press releases have been lost in emails and fax machines. The number is too great to give adequate time to, so it ends up as spam. Babbler connects the story makers with storytellers avoiding email. Hannah started this business with her sister Sarah Azan. With a small investment from friends and family for $50,000 they built a proof of concept, and went from 7 customers to 50 customers , then 50 customers to 250 customers. The platform has a network of over 5000 active reporters and growing.
Here at SXSW, Babbler has closed $2M by two French investment firms, obtained a French interview, pitched to the NY Times, and is looking for new customers in the US market from the NYC headquarters. This young Moroccan Jewish 26 year old female and her sister are doing big things in the public relations industry. http://babbler.us/
My first sit down interview at SXSW was with Jovan Hackley of Student Loan Genius. Student Loan Genius just received a $3M seeding fund led by Prudential and John Hancock. It is rare for a brick and mortar institutions to jump on such innovative technology, but once you consider they are offering a 401K for student loans, then maybe not so far fetched. Student Loan Genius is working out of the Austin’s very own Capital Factory. Co-Founded in 2013 by CEO Tony Aguilar, this Student Loan Genius helps employees get to the next stage of life, through an employer benefit with real value. Right now you can’t even write off student loans in bankruptcy. This helps employees shorten the lifecycle of one of the most disastrous loans to your credit rating available.
Jovan says the benefit helps employers and employees. It helps employers recruit and retain, while helping employees save on average thousands of dollars per year. http://studentloangenius.com/
Chad Zerangue is a maverick when it comes to simplifying bureaucracies. His company founded in 2009, specialized in Healthcare IT and has formulated his own data routing service. The mission of the company was to provide simple ways for providers and health organizations to migrate their legacy paper based medical charts information into a usable format within an electronic medical records system, without having to type all that discreet demographic, financial and clinical data into the system.
In 2012 they decided to productize these services, and now using cloud-based technologies such as Microsoft Azure and mobile messaging technologies such as REST, they have created a highly scalable, secure, HIPAA compliant communication network to deliver their core products, docflock, CIPHR and SystemSync. In layman’s terms, they have simplified the data extraction of medical health record information into a more potable and secure format. This drastically cuts costs, and makes room for data analytics of health care data, which has been trapped in silos. http://www.simplicityhealthsystems.com/
For two years Laura Borland and her partner, Sean Hale had been thinking of this business, and decided to start it one year ago. Vyllage is a mobile app for holding packages for your neighbors. Vyllage is a network of homeowners in your neighborhood that will accept packages for you when you are not home from FeDex, UPS, or USPS. You no longer have to worry about stolen packages from your doorstep. The goal is to have secure package delivery in every neighborhood.
SXSW has been a very good opportunity for the Vyllage team. Before they participated in the pitch session, they had been approached by investors from Uber, Overstock, and Lyft. Vyllage Home Affiliates stand to make $3 a package for accepting packages for their neighbors. This only works in single family homes, not available for apartments, but the opportunity serves two purposes. One, it fosters community and protects your packages from possible theft. This seems to be a growing problem around the holidays. Laura tells me that sometimes thieves follow delivery trucks in order to steal. Vyllage has found a niche, and are filling it quite well. http://vyllage.net/
I try hard not to geek out when I see something cool, but my background as a medical lab technician, and information technology professional helps me readily recognize something very cool. We only started mapping the human genome back in 2003, now we can study it and create experiments right from our laptops with Desktop Genetics. Desktop Genetics walks you through every aspect of your genome editing experiment, guiding you from design to data, and allowing you to fully realize the power of CRISPR/Cas9 technology.
This product can be purchased as an enterprise software package or as a cloud based service. They also offer genomic services that you can outsource. It was created for laboratories and universities worldwide. The possibilities are unlimited, from developing new drug therapies, or conducting experiments without setting one foot in a lab. https://www.deskgen.com/landing/
I just happen to catch Adekunle at a happy hour mixer for startups at SXSW. He has created his own social media mobile app called Mixle. Mixle connects users nearby in real time based on their current thoughts. It provides an easy-to-use interface that enables users to easily navigate the app, find a match, and instantly meet up offline. It also features an innovative “Get Me Out Of Here” button that allows users to share location details with designated contacts in case of an uncomfortable situation.
I’ve noticed a technology trend coming out of Atlanta, and that is exciting. Download Mixle
EpiBiome is a precision microbiome engineering company with the mission to developing efficient and sustainable FDA-approved therapies to combat infectious disease in humans and agriculture without the use of antibiotics. Why is this so important? We have created more harm than good with antibiotics. We have indirectly created superbugs resistant to antibiotics. There a bacteria in nature that are helpful to disease. The history of antibiotics and antiseptics is broad spectrum antibiotics. Traditionally, the medical industry and food services have killed off useful bacteria with broad spectrum antibiotics. EpiBiome uses a narrow spectrum bacteria for delivering safer outcomes for humans and agriculture.
The company is also developing a method for highly accurate and semi-quantitative bacterial profiling, which it is in the process of automating in order to launch a turnkey sequencing and bioinformatics service. Last month prior to SXSW, EpiBiome completed $6M Series A Financing Round. I expect big things from this 11 person team out of silicon valley. http://epibiome.com/
The music business has been rife with fraud from the beginning of time when it comes to royalties. This copyright administrator/software engineer seeks to put an end to that. Cheryl Potts of Stafford, VA, just 40 minutes south of Washington DC has put together a robust platform that does just that. It is a very highly innovative technology platform, which makes sure everyone gets their cut. No more shady deals, and contracts that artists can understand. If you are in any part of the music industry you need this. I saw the demo on the software platform and you simply input the data, and it spits out a music contract.
That includes: performing songwriter, producer, songwriter, and record labels. Cheryl call it the ‘Do It Yourself’ music licensing and royalty accounting application for Songwriters and Independent Record Labels. http://cleerkutroyalty.com/
ModernLend is the credit card for international citizens living in the U.S. By understanding your education, employment and financial background, they can determine your creditworthiness without requiring SSN or FICO credit score. I caught up with Kobina at a FinTech startup pitch session on day one of SXSW. They were founded at Wharton Business School, and bring 10+ years experience from Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo, and are Seed Stage funded. They are also a portfolio company in Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator and won BBVA Bank’s Global FinTech Competition (out of 650 startups). Learn more at www.ModernLend.com.