Austin's PopUp Play wins at SXSW competition

Startup takes top place in its Accelerator category

Posted March 13th, 2016

And the winner is: Austin's PopUp Play.

The two-year-old startup took the top prize for its category at the South by Southwest Accelerator competition tonight.

That means the company receives $4,000, two badges for the 2017 SXSW Interactive conference, various sponsor gifts, and, most importantly, exposure to potential investors and customers.

Some 500 companies from around the world competed for a spot at the two-day competition. Forty-eight were chosen to present, and 18 finalists moved forward to tonight's final.

PopUp Play lets kids design castles

PopUp Play, founded by husband-and-wife team Bryan Thomas and Amelia Cosgrove, lets kids create playscapes they design themselves using an app.

The seven-person company got off the ground with a $25,000 Kickstarter campaign last spring and opened for non-Kickstarter campaign orders in November. 

It works like this: After downloading a free app on an iPad, kids can create a castle, gingerbread house or rocket of their dreams. For a flat fee of $99, their design is created using fiberboard and arrives in a flat box within days. The 4-foot-by-4-foot designs are made to be easily assembled by kids themselves. 

 "We wanted to give kids an outlet to actually build and create as an alternative to the passive consuming experiences that seem to dominate play," Bryan Thomas told me after his Saturday presentation. 

 PopUp Play has already attracted some high profile investors. It has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from backers including Capital Factory, Floodgate, Silverton Partners and Techstars. 

 It  was the sole Austin company to make it to the finals, competing in the entertainment and content technologies category. Austin-based  Bitfusion and Thrillbox, were among the 48 finalists. 

 For PopUp Play, taking the stage was "a chance to tell our story to a huge audience," Thomas said. "The accelerator was an amazing opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs bringing game-changing businesses to market. The win to us shows continued validation of what we're doing at PopUp Play."