Five Austin startups to watch

Story highlights

Techstars demo day focused on Austin, Texas, startups this week

The program offered work space, seed money and networking in Austin

In exchange, the program gets a 6% stake in the startup

CNN  — 

It’s the innovation hotbed deep in the heart of Texas, the town where the tech and Web world’s movers, shakers and up-and-comers descend every spring to learn, network and party at South by Southwest Interactive.

Now, Austin, Texas, is showing off an emerging startup scene some hope will make it the Silicon Valley of the Southwest.

More than 700 people gathered Tuesday in Austin for the city’s inaugural Techstars demo day. At its best, such a demo can give people a brief glimpse into the future of tech, and this event, coupled with Austin’s scene, did not disappoint.

In return for a 6% stake in the startups, many of which had moved to the Texas capital to participate in the three-month program, the highly competitive Techstars gave these new companies access to a huge network of mentors, a downtown Austin office space and $18,000 in seed funding.

Out of 800 applicants, only 10 were accepted.

“The goal is to make this a fantastic place to start companies,” program manager Jason Seats said. “If you want to help, dig in. Help them find investors, employees, office space.”

Tuesday was graduation day, with dozens of T-shirt-clad founders preparing to lay it all on the line in their quest for investment dollars that would allow them to take their businesses to the next level. The Austin Music Hall was filled with media, mentors and – most importantly to the startups – hundreds of potential investors.

Here’s a look at five of our favorites:

Filament Labs

It makes a health care app designed to help doctors and nurses engage with patients who have chronic medical conditions.

We’ve all left the doctor’s office with a folder of homework – information to read, exercises to do, foods to eat and certain biometrics to monitor. And most of us either lose the folder or ignore the advice.

The Filament Labs app is customizable by your health care provider to keep the information on your mobile device specific to you. It’s designed to make tracking symptoms of your condition easier and keep communication lines open. If it works, you take better care of yourself, your doctor has a clearer understanding of how you’re managing your condition, and you stay healthy.

Proto Exchange

Many believe the future of manufacturing lies in 3-D printing for the masses. Right now, there are hundreds of small- to medium-size 3-D printing shops nationwide with big dreams but limited pipelines.

Proto Exchange aims to change that. Here’s how it works: Currently if a consumer places a last-minute order for 1,000 widgets to be delivered next week, a small company can’t deliver in time. So, it either disappoints a customer or can’t compete for the business to begin with.

Proto Exchange attacks this problem by networking the small manufacturers into a virtual conglomerate that allows them to share resources, outsource large orders and scale up manufacturing quickly.


Nothing kills a company’s reputation like software that doesn’t work right. But as Testlio founder Kristel Viidik puts it, “testing is f***ing hard.”

She aims to change that by giving companies easy access to the best mobile app beta-testers around. Testlio has created a network of more than 1,200 professional testers that can be hired to use, abuse and find all the bugs in a mobile app before bringing it to market.


There’s nothing hotter right now than wearable tech, and the Atlas wristband was probably the coolest piece of hardware on display Tuesday.

The device is targeted at the exercise marketplace, a field dominated by companies such as Nike, JawBone and Fitbit. CEO Peter Li and co-founders had tried all the gadgets on the market and said they found them to be no more than glorified pedometers – fun to use for a few weeks but eventually relegated to the sock drawer.

For Li, “the data you got was limited – steps weren’t enough.” Leveraging multiple sensors and advanced algorithms, Atlas has created a device that can differentiate between a whole host of exercises.

To demonstrate, the company brought a fitness model on to the stage and showed the Atlas successfully keeping track of everything from biceps curls to squat thrusts.


Keeping with the demo day tradition of casual profanity, Gone CEO Nico Bayerque sums up his company’s mission succinctly.

“I’m going to help you get rid of the sh*t you don’t need anymore,” he said.

The product takes Craigslist’s sell-anything ethos and couples it with Amazon’s ease of use and speedy shipping.

Simply take a picture of something you want to get rid of, and Gone says it will automatically find the right marketplace to sell it.

The company then makes an offer and, if you like it, it will send a prepaid box for shipping. The company also partners with donation and recycling centers in case no one wants to buy what you’re selling.

Bayerque said that around two-thirds of items in the marketplace get sold while one-third end up being donated. Either way, Gone says, your home will end up less cluttered.

The demo day came to a close with Seats, the program manager, exhorting the audience to do more than passively watch the show. He moved to Austin this year to manage the Techstars program, and he wants these new businesses to put down roots in his new home.