Austin Innovators Showcase Businesses that will shape the future

Eric Pulsifer, Account Executive
Ketner Group
Link to article: Click Here

Recently, I attended a fast pitch session for finalists nominated for the Austin Business Journal’s 2011 Tech Innovation Awards at the South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse. Twenty companies total were nominated (the full list of nominees is below). Each company was given two minutes for a fast pitch on what they do and why they are a tech innovator. An undisclosed number of nominees will be selected as winners and announced in the Dec. 2 edition of the Austin Business Journal.

Two of our Austin-based clients, Digby and Starmount, were nominated and presented, and while we are personally quite partial of them, there were some other interesting ideas presented during the two-hour presentation as well — ranging from Apollo Endosurgery’s flexible surgery equipment to Toopher’s tool for online security that uses your mobile phone to verify your identity.

Here are three other Austin companies that stood out:

  • Flash Valet presents a more convenient way to valet park through the use of mobile technology. Rather than waiting outside for a valet to run and pick up your vehicle, when you are ready to leave you can order your vehicle for delivery via text message. Flash Valet also allows for tipping over mobile phone. And, best of all (judging by crowd reaction), if you have done too much celebrating that evening to drive yourself, you can send a message to have your car dropped off at your home.
  • GameSalad is a game-development platform that allows aspiring and established game designers to develop web and mobile games with a simple free-to-use, drag-and-drop platform. GameSalad is the engine behind more than 18,000 apps, including almost half of the top 100 games in the Apple App Store.
  • FireFly LED Lighting offers a variety eco- and cost-friendly lighting options that can help home and business owners cut energy costs by more than 80 percent. Their ultra-efficient LED fixtures last up to 25 times longer than incandescent and up to 5 times longer than compact fluorescent bulbs, are resistant to vibration and cold and illuminate immediately.

The Austin Business Journal 2011 Tech Innovation Award nominees are:

  • Apollo Endosurgery, Inc.
  • Bioo Scientific
  • Calxeda
  • CSIdentity
  • Digby
  • Drilling Info, Inc
  • Educlone
  • FireFly LED Lighting
  • Flash Valet
  • GameSalad, Inc.
  • Keller Williams Realty
  • KLD Energy Technologies, Inc.
  • L.I.T. Surgical
  • Midas Green Technologies
  • Real Software
  • Sapling Learning
  • SolarBridgeTechnologies
  • Starmount
  • Toopher, LLC
  • Vyopta Incorporated

LED Light Manufacturer Brings New Green Jobs to Texas

By: Tina Casey

Thu Mar 10, 2011 4:57am EST

As the U.S. gears up for the forthcoming phaseout of incandescent light bulbs, two schools of action are emerging. One, spearheaded by Texas Congressmen Joe Barton and Ron Paul, seeks to roll back the plan. The other is represented by companies like Firefly LED Lighting, a Texas-based company which manufactures energy efficient lighting products in…Texas. With two opposite sides pushing against each other in the same state, it’s pretty clear that the tension between old technology and new goes far beyond what consumers prefer in household lighting. It’s also a matter of whether or not the U.S. is serious about transitioning its manufacturing base to compete in a new global economy.

Firefly LED Lighting

First, a word about Firefly LED Lighting. Firefly has been in the news recently because it just won a $3 million award from the Austin Technology Incubator, of which the company is a member. The Technology Incubator in turn is a spinoff of the University of Texas at Austin. It’s dedicated to pushing new ventures into successful commercialization while putting fresh new UTA graduates to work every year. Firefly already has a track record and the new funding will enable it to grow even more.

The Incandescent Bulb Phaseout

Other countries have already begun to phase out incandescent bulbs, as has California, which would count as its own country in terms of market share. According to one recent survey more than 70 percent of U.S. households have already tried an energy-efficient light bulb, even in advance of the national phaseout kicking in. That’s pretty good, because surveys also reveal that public awareness of the phaseout is only just starting to pick up. In addition, at least one major retailer – IKEA – has already gotten a head start on the competition by ceasing to sell incandescent bulbs altogether.

Energy Efficient Bulbs and New Green Jobs

Despite all this activity, supporters of incandescent bulbs are determined to find a way to keep their favored form of lighting afloat, even after the phaseout begins. One group of South Carolina state legislators has even proposed encouraging incandescent bulb manufacturers to set up shop in their state by using a loophole in the interstate commerce clause. That’s all well and good, but regardless of whatever incentives South Carolina offers, both the global and domestic markets for incandescent lighting will continue to shrink. That doesn’t bode well for the long term growth prospects of whatever companies take them up on the offer. The South Carolina solution is a bit like encouraging a company to start building manual typewriters. Sure, the old technology works just fine and there may even be a niche market for those things, but it’s not a serious way to charge up the U.S. economy for a competitive global marketplace.

Reprinted with permission from Cleantechnica

FireFly LED awarded $3M from ETF

By: abjentrepreneur
Thursday, February 10, 2011, 3:04pm CST | Modified: February 10, 2011, 3:04 PM

Lighting company FireFly LED is receiving a $3 million investment from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund.

The Austin-based light-emitting diode, or LED, lighting company received the capital to help commercialize its bulbs, which are designed to provide less expensive and more energy-efficient alternatives to incandescent and fluorescent bulbs.

FireFly LED is working with the University of Texas to commercialize its product.

The ETF was initially funded with $200 million in 2005 to invest in innovative technologies developed in Texas.

Firefly Empowering Austin Youth

TiE Austin bringing entrepreneurial education to Central Texas’ youth

Austin Business Journal – by Shelley Seale, Contributing Writer

Date: Friday, February 25, 2011, 5:00am CST – Last Modified: Thursday, February 24, 2011, 2:56pm CST

Anish Patnaik is feeling a lot more empowered these days, as he ponders a future as an entrepreneur. The 16-year-old Westwood High School senior is among the inaugural 26 local high school students going through TiE Young Entrepreneurs. It’s a program being offered locally for the first time by TiE Austin, a chapter of the international organization that stands for Talent, Ideas and Enterprise. TiE Young Entrepreneurs, or TYE, enables high school students to learn entrepreneurial skills from seasoned entrepreneurs with a goal of motivating them and helping them build business plans. The three-month program, which kicked off Jan. 5 …

Firefly LED Lighting and Entrepreneur

Nick Simonite

Steve Barcik, CEO of FireFly LED Inc., is among several successful local startup executives who have eagerly volunteered to speak to the students in the TiE Young Entrepreneurs program.

Austin incubator aims to grow, influence new technology

By Amy Deis Friday, 28 January 2011

Focus shifts to growing clean energy, bioscience industries

NORTHWEST AUSTIN — After quitting their day jobs and borrowing money from friends, the founders of Calxeda entered the Austin Technology Incubator in Northwest Austin, hoping to garner enough seed money to develop a low-power chip for data centers.

Eighteen months later, Calxeda, a chip technology company, graduated from ATI with $48 million in investor funding and moved into a 14,108-square-foot office at MoPac and Far West Boulevard.

Larry Wikelius, Calxeda co-founder and vice president of software engineering, credits the company’s fast-paced success to ATI’s network of contacts and expertise, giving the company the runway it needed to survive, he said.

“It’s pretty rare where you can get that 360-view of what you need to do to build a company in one place,” he said. “They know when to help you and when to let you go on your own.”

Success stories such as Calxeda’s are proof to ATI director Isaac Barchas that the incubator has had a positive effect on the city’s economy and influenced technology in Northwest Austin, he said.

ATI, which operates out of a University of Texas building near MoPac and Braker Lane, has worked with more than 200 companies, which have raised about three-quarters of a billion dollars in investment capital.
How an incubator works

UT started the Austin Technology Incubator in 1989 to spur economic development through entrepreneurship and give students access to a real-world lab for technology entrepreneurship.

Each year, ATI staff meet with more than 100 companies about joining the incubator. A panel of student interns and ATI staff select prospective companies to bring in for a series of interviews.

The application process can take anywhere from three weeks to nine months. The final step is vetting the companies through the success committee comprising five to 10 community members who are either investors or experts in that technology and the customer market the company wants to break into.

ATI only selects about eight companies to join the incubator each year, Barchas said.

He said at any given time, ATI has between 20 and 27 member companies. Througah ATI’s relationships with venture capitalists and angel investors—individuals who provide capital to startup companies—ATI helps companies receive funding.

In 2010, companies in ATI generated $2 million to $3 million in tax revenue and had a $35 million economic impact on the local economy based on capital raised and company revenues, according to a report by AngelouEconomics presented to Austin City Council in December.
Success stories

Calxeda is just one of many companies that has emerged from ATI. Barchas said many are business-to-business companies and not in the consumer market. Other companies include ActaCell, Encore Orthopedics, Phurnace Software and Metrowerks.

At Calxeda, co-founder and CEO Barry Evans came up with the idea of using chip technology that runs cell phones and tablets for data centers that use servers to gather and store data.

The company entered ATI in February 2009 and graduated in September 2010 after receiving $48 million in funding from three venture capitalists, two strategic investors and an Abu Dahbi–backed investment company.

The company started with three employees and had 16 by the time it graduated. The founders want to grow the company to about 60 employees by the end of 2011 and begin production on its chip technology, Wikelius said.

“The skill set we need is based in Austin,” he said. “That’s the other advantage for being here and why we’ve been able to grow here the way we have.”

Calxeda was able to use UT graduate students to assist with market analysis and look at specific target segments for application of the product.

Wikelius said the next step is to build the company’s business side and customer network.
New initiatives for 2011

ATI has focused on information technology, clean energy, wireless telecommunications and bioscience. Clean energy was added in 2001 and bioscience in 2008, and Barchas said staff are trying to focus on those growing industries.

“In looking at the ways we’re having an influence on Northwest Austin, one of them is taking the foundational skill set that we have and allowing that to keep growing and grow into different areas,” Barchas said.

Barchas said ATI teamed up with the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce on a feasibility study for a wet lab, which is a lab with access to sinks primarily used in bioscience.

He said the study should be finished by late spring and staff are looking at where to locate it and who would run it. Specialized labs often cost $600 to $800 per square foot to build, he said.
Economic impact

After companies graduate, ATI is not able to keep track of how alumni companies affect the economy. It is something that Barchas said he wants to change so ATI will have a better picture of its influence on the local economy.

In the past three years, ATI has helped raise $70 million in investor capital for its member companies. Alumni companies have had $300 million worth of successful exit events, meaning they were bought out.

Susan Davenport, senior vice president of global technology strategies at the chamber, said ATI has been significant in retaining and attracting businesses.

“They’re able to grow them organically and bring new money into the region,” she said.

Technology as a whole makes up 12 to 13 percent of the work force and 25 percent of the payroll in the five-county region. Davenport said ATI is able to lay tracks for job creation in that industry.

Barchas said a number of organizations, including the Austin Technology Council and Clean Tex Foundation, contribute to ensuring the environment for early-stage tech companies is robust.

“You don’t know which ones are going to be the next Google or Facebook,” Barchas said. “Austin would look a lot different if it didn’t have this support.”

CBS Evening News | Firefly LED Lighting

Austin, Texas Leads the Nation in Job Growth

Secret to Austin’s Success: Entire Community Committed to Job Creation

By Anthony Mason

(CBS) The Brookings Institution just looked at how well cities had emerged from the recession. The rankings are based largely on job creating and housing.

Five of the top 10 are in Texas, with the state capital Austin leading the list. CBS News senior business correspondent Anthony Mason reports.

Every time the Austin, Texas company “Bazaarvoice” adds a new employee they bang a gong.

The gong rang 240 times last year at Bazaarvoice. The 5-year-old company hosts and analyzes website customer feedback for clients like Best Buy and Macy’s.

Kelly Grey was the latest hire this week, after moving to Austin from Connecticut with her husband and two kids.

“The economy is doing better here,” Grey said. It took Grey just a month to find a job as a client manager.

According to a recent survey, Austin weathered the recession better than any other place in the country, and now leads the nation in job growth.

Welcome to Jobstown, USA

Projects like Samsung’s $3 billion expansion of its Austin plant have added hundreds of jobs. Austin’s unemployment rate (7.1 percent) is more than two full points below the rest of the country.

Bazaarvoice CEO Brett Hurt thinks Austin’s doing something different.

“There’s an amazing creative energy here,” said Hurt.

Thousands of talented graduates pour out of the University of Texas every year. The state has no income tax, and Austin has low taxes and house prices and a rich cultural scene.

Dave Porter’s job at the Chamber of Commerce is to entice companies from more expensive states like California.

“We are very aggressively recruiting,” he said. California has a “bulls eye right on it.”

California-based SunPower is not leaving the state, but the solar company is opening an operations center in Austin after the city offered up to $900,000 in hiring incentives. SunPower plans 450 hires.

About 80 percent of jobs created in Austin come from local companies. At the Austin Technology Incubator at the University of Texas, Isaac Barchas gives very young companies office space and helps them find funding.

For Austin, nurturing new companies is paying off in jobs.

“It’s really like taking shots on goal,” Barchas said. “You want to have as many shots as you can, because you never know which ones going to put the ball in the back of the net.

“When you score the benefit is huge,” Mason said.

“When you score the benefit can be another Dell or another Google or another Intel.”

Austin’s entrepreneurs say there’s no secret to their success. It’s just an entire community committed to job creation.

©MMXI, CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

Benefits of LED Lighting

LED lighting systems use up to 90% less electricity than standard lighting products. It is the most cost effective and energy efficient lighting on the market.

The benefits of LEDs are:

  • High Efficiency: These products direct the light in a very specific way, ensuring there is no wasted light onto ceilings and walls where it is not required.
  • Extremely Vibration Resistant and Robust: LEDs are a solid state device which means the light component is encapsulated within a resin substance. Because of this, they can withstand extreme vibration when they are in use, unlike filament lamps that when heated, become extremely vulnerable to damage if shaken.
  • Long Lamp Life: Due to the inherent nature of LED lighting products, they have a lamp life of around 50,000 hours. This is 20 times the life span of an incandescent lamp, 12 times the life span of a halogen lamp and 3 times the life span of fluorescent lamp.
  • Low Power Consumption: LED’s are a very energy efficient lighting option because they utilize the input power more efficiently to generate light rather than light created by heat. This allows LED lighting products to produce a much higher lumen output per watt.
  • Low Maintenance and Lamp Replacement: As LED lighting products have a long life span there is little need to replace them as often, therefore saving on maintenance costs.
  • Reduced Carbon Footprint: LED Lights consume up to 90% less power than other lighting methods. This has a significantly positive effect on carbon emissions, helping to make a more sustainable future for generations to come.
  • Low Heat Generation: Standard lighting products generate a substantial heat, usually around 200 degrees C, making it a dangerous option when used around flammable materials, which is why fires caused by halogen down lights in homes are not uncommon. LED lights generate very little heat; therefore the risk of fire is virtually nonexistent. In fact, you can comfortably hold your hand on an LED fitting, even after it has been running for several hours. Try doing that with a halogen lamp even after 1 minute!!!
  • Environmentally Safe: LED lights contain no harmful substances such as Mercury, which is found in all fluorescent lamp products, therefore making it the safer option for your family and our environment.

By Ivan Correani

From Light Bulbs to LEDs

In conventional incandescent bulbs, the direct descendants of Edison’s invention, resistance causes a wound tungsten filament inside a globe to heat up and glow when an electric current passes through it. The vast majority of the energy is released as heat, a bit as light. Fluorescent lights work by introducing an electric arc to excite mercury atoms. The excited mercury atoms emit ultraviolet radiation, which is converted to visible light after it strikes a phosphor coating on the inside of the long glass tube (or wound glass tube in the case of compact fluorescent bulbs).

An LED works on an entirely different principle, that of the diode. A silicon-based semiconductor material is used to create a “p-n” (positive-negative) junction. Electrons flow from the p-side, or anode, to the n-side, or cathode, but not in the reverse direction. As the electrons transit the p-n junction they fall into a lower energy level, which causes them to give off a photon of light. The color of the light — red, green, blue, or amber — depends on the semiconductor materials used to make the diode. White light is created by combining light from different colored LEDs, or by coating a blue LED lens with phosphor.

Trends in the computer chip industry are described by Moore’s law, which states that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles every two years. The LED industry is driven by Haitz’s law, named for Roland Haitz, a retired engineer who led the optical engineering program at HP for much of his 32-year tenure at the tech company. Haitz’s law predicts that the performance of LEDs — the amount of light that can be produced per diode — increases 20-fold every decade, while the cost of that light decreases 10-fold.
The $100 billion global lighting industry is undergoing radical change: New office buildings and retail outlets are abandoning fluorescent lighting in favor of LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, those tiny, energy-efficient, long-lasting, and blindingly bright points of light. Giants such as GE (GE) and Philips are shifting production from incandescent bulbs to LEDs. Even the local Home Depot (HD) — which today probably stocks only a couple of LED lighting products — will soon carry a bouquet of LED bulbs, ultimately edging out fluorescents and halogen lamps. By the end of the decade, analysts predict, LEDs will be the dominant source for commercial and residential lighting.

LEDs, which are based on a technology similar to that of computer chips, have more in common in their design and manufacture with your laptop than with the incandescent bulb that Thomas Edison patented almost 130 years ago. As lighting goes digital, the industry is likely to encounter some of the same upheaval that took place when television, music, and other businesses shifted away from analog technologies.

LEDs and Energy Efficiency

Today LEDs are about 10 times more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, which will start being phased out in the U.S. in 2012 (the phaseout of incandescents has already begun in Australia and parts of Europe and South America). LEDs are about two times more efficient than compact fluorescent bulbs — sometimes called “twisty bulbs” because of the distinct spiral shape — which also have a good dose of mercury in them, making disposal problematic (not an issue with LEDs).

The best LED bulbs have a lifespan of about 20 years, assuming three hours of use a day, about 20 to 25 times your average incandescent bulb. And, according to Haitz, who is now retired, performance is only going to get better. “Everything indicates we can do another 10 to 20 years of that improvement trend,” he says.

The Light Bulb Goes Digital

The $100 billion global lighting industry is undergoing radical change: New office buildings and retail outlets are abandoning fluorescent lighting in favor of LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, those tiny, energy-efficient, long-lasting, and blindingly bright points of light.  By the end of the decade, analysts predict, LEDs will be the dominant source for commercial and residential lighting.

LEDs, which are based on a technology similar to that of computer chips, have more in common in their design and manufacture with your laptop than with the incandescent bulb that Thomas Edison patented almost 130 years ago. As lighting goes digital, the industry is likely to encounter some of the same upheaval that took place when television, music, and other businesses shifted away from analog technologies.