Venture Labs Expo Showcases UT Startups

With its 51,000 students, 3,344 faculty members, $642 million a year in research funding, and No. 3 ranking by Patent Scorecard, UT has a wealth of raw material for launching new companies, Jim Brown argues.

A new hire from Polaris Ventures in Boston, Brown now works for the University’s Office of Technology, which works to get patents filed and new ventures launched. On Thursday, the office joined in on the 3rd annual Texas Venture Labs Venture Expo.

It should come as no surprise, Brown said, that UT is fostering and mentoring a handful of exciting startup companies. And others are starting to take notice.

In his opening remarks, Rob Adams, the director of Texas Venture Labs and a McCombs School of Business professor, announced a $600,000, three-year grant from the Accenture Foundation to Texas Venture Labs. The money will be used to employ 10 recent graduate school alumni as Accenture Venture Partners to spend one year mentoring TVL student entrepreneurs and identify new business opportunities in the startup community.

The grant is part of Accenture’s Skills to Succeed program. “At the end of the day, we want to help people around the globe develop skills to make a substantial difference in their communities,” says Steve Rohleder, an Austin native, UT grad, and group chief executive of Accenture’s Health & Public Service operating group. Rohleder hopes to do this through the creation of new products, companies and jobs in Austin, Texas and the U.S.

Here is just a sampling of the companies being created and mentored at UT:

Digital Harmony has built a cross-platform B2B technology that allows them to developers to create digital games that can be played in real time across multiple devices – computers, tablets and mobile phones. Imagine starting a game on an iPhone, continuing it on a laptop and finishing it on a tablet device.

Black Lotus uses machine learning algorithms developed at Carnegie Mellon to help online retailers price goods. The service analyzes competitors selling the same products and shows an online retailer which of their products are overpriced or underpriced and helps adjust the price accordingly.

GameUp is a sports social network that connects friends, syncs screens and turns digital sports-watching into a social event. The company’s business model is based on actionable advertising. For example, when a touchdown is scored, the user receives a special pizza offer of discounted tickets to the next game. GameUp plans to launch on November 19 at the UT vs. Kansas State game.

• Magis Isotopes aims to make nuclear power greener. Using a process developed at UT, the company’s concept produces more energy using the same amount of uranium used today to create nuclear power, which accounts for 15 percent of the world’s power.

WanderID is an identification system developed through cloud-based biometrics. A parent takes a photo of their young or disabled child and uploads it to a web site and pays a yearly fee. A policeman uses a mobile app to take a photo of a lost child, and if that child is in the WanderID system, he or she is instantly identified.

Odoro, a Web-based service, automates an online retailer’s tasks of managing the multiple websites where it sells its products, search engine optimization, warehouse and drop-ship inventory and shipping price optimization.

Vocal Media plans to take advantage of the 8 second delay in international phone calls to reach the U.S immigrant population through mobile audio ads. The language of the advertisement is determined by the country called.

To learn more about the university’s entrepreneurship efforts and startup ecosystem, check out “But Will it Sell?” from the November/December 2011 issue of The Alcalde.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath


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