Two Austin startups win at SXSW Innovation Awards

Posted March 16th, 2016

Two Austin startups -- Kasita and Peeple -- took home top prizes at South by Southwest Interactive's Innovation Awards.

The 19th annual awards, held Tuesday night, honored companies from around the country in 13 categories ranging from 3D printing to wearable technology. Five finalists were named for each category.

Kasita took the Smart Cities award, which spotlights innovation that makes life in a connected world smarter, cleaner, greener and more efficient.

Launched last year, Kasita provides modular, movable housing units that are about 200 square feet each and can be easily relocated to other sites in other cities.

The homes can be stacked and plugged into city utilities and are expected to cost around $600 a month, or about half of what it costs to rent a studio apartment near downtown Austin.

The company was co-founded by Jeff Wilson, who is nicknamed "Professor Dumpster" for living in a converted trash bin for a year. Taylor Wilson, son of Austin area homebuilder Clark Wilson, partnered with Jeff Wilson to launch Kasitas.

The units are aimed at urban millennials, as well as other professionals and singles who want to live near city centers. 

The founders see other uses as well, such as a replacement for FEMA trailers, a way to house refugees or as sound studios and pop-up shops.

Ultimately, the goal is to create Kasita communities in different cities where units could be moved and plugged in.

"So if you're moving, all you have to do is a Kasita app, choose where you want and we'll pull it out of the current location and plug it into a new one," Jeff Wilson said.

He said that to create the unit design, he worked with an industrial designer "who knows nothing about houses to see if he can design an iPhone that someone can live in."

The first prototype, with nine units, was designed and manufactured by W2 MacFab, a company in East Austin. Kasitas is currently showing a unit at 1304 E. Fourth Street, next to Scoot Inn.

The units will be available in Austin later this year and in potentially 10 other cities starting in 2017.

"What's really interesting about this is it's really testing the limits of what  you need in a home," Jeff Wilson said in an interview last year.

Peeple won the Privacy and Security award, which was given for the technology that best secures data and ensures privacy.

The company, founded in 2013, sells a smart camera that attaches to the peephole of a front door, It connects to home Wi-Fi to alert the user to any outside presence, such as someone knocking on the door.

Peeple also offers an app that lets users control how and when they are notified about the activity at their door.

The Peeple cameras cost $149 each.

Peeple is a smart camera that attaches to a peephole

Peeple was founded by Chris Chuter, a University of Texas graduate with degrees in electrical and computer engineering, David Genet, who has a background in mechanical engineering and architecture and Craig Sullender, an electrical engineer.

After Peeple won the AngelHack hackathon in Austin, beating out more than 30 projects, the founders decided to pursue the project full-time.

Peeple has gotten national attention too -- it placed second in the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show.







Comments