Austin startups were all over South by Southwest Interactive. But it can be hard to get noticed amid the noise and hubbub, and there are hundreds of startups fighting for attention at the festival.
These six Austin companies found a way to stand out:
1. PopUp Play:
This two-year-old Austin startup took the top prize for its category at the South by Southwest Accelerator competition. That means the company receives $4,000, two badges for next year's SXSW Interactive and sponsor gifts. PopUp Play was founded by husband-and-wife team Bryan Thomas and Amelia Cosgrove and got off the ground with a $25,000 Kickstarter campaign. It lets kids create playscapes they design themselves using an app.
This Austin company won a SXSW "Innovation" award in the "Privacy & Security" category, and they were featured on a panel about Austin hardware companies. Peeple, founded in 2014, allows you to see who is knocking on your door through a smart camera that attaches to existing peepholes and connects to your home's WiFi. It sends an image of who is at the door to your phone, somewhat like a caller ID for your door.
Curb Inc. was tough to miss at South by Southwest. They participated in a panel about Austin hardware startups after the first day of the festival and then won in the "Internet of Things" category at the McDonald's SXSW Pitch Competition. The company also won "Best in Show" in the hardware startups category of Capital Factory's Best in Austin awards. Curb designs and sells a hardware and software system for managing energy in residential and commercial buildings. Just like Mint helps users manage their finances, Curb helps you manage energy use.
Embark managed to snag significant publicity by publicly launching during South by Southwest. They also were able to pitch their product by sitting on a Tuesday morning panel called "Can Your Dog's DNA Transform Human Health and Aging?" The Austin-based startup was founded last year and will start selling its dog DNA tests some time this spring. The company says its test will be the most comprehensive one on the market.
5. Honest Dollar:
Honest Dollar made national headlines when the company announced during SXSW it was being acquired by Goldman Sachs. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Honest Dollar helps small businesses, self-employed individuals and contractors open employee retirement accounts. The company says it costs as little as $8 per employee per month to create a retirement savings account on its web and mobile platform. The company was founded in 2014 by local tech celebrity William "whurley" Hurley and investment specialist Henry Yoshida, who left the company last year.
Austin-based Kasita won a coveted SXSW "Innovation" award in the Smart Cities category. Kasita is tackling the issue of affordable housing by creating small pre-fabricated dwellings that can be stacked and plugged into city utilities. They shined a light on themselves and the micro-housing issue by hosting a panel on Tuesday. And they demonstrated one of their "kasitas" by setting one up in East Austin during SXSW, which help them generate publicity.