Tour of Texas: SXSW Recap, Houston Tech Center, M-Files, Grok, U of H

A cool front has blown into the state with warm, sunny days and brisk evenings. Let’s roll down the top and take a scenic drive through Texas’ innovation communities.


—The 30th annual South By Southwest Interactive festival is on the books, drawing tens of thousands to downtown Austin. This year’s spotlight was on the leader of the free world, President Obama, who kicked things off in a fireside chat. The rest of the week brought celebrities like TV chef Anthony Bourdain and Kevin Plank, founder of Under Armour. What fizzled was an anticipated online harassment forum, which, despite offering a series of events focused on important issues such as diversity and respect in the gaming industry, failed to attract more than 50 people a session.

—Each year’s Interactive tends to have a breakout star: from Twitter to Grumpy Cat. This year, the technology of the moment is virtual reality. My colleague David Holley reports that VR was a feature at many of the displays of many of the world’s largest brands, including Samsung and McDonald’s.


M-Files, a document management company with its US headquarters in Dallas, has raised $36 million in a Series B funding round. Investors include Partech Ventures in San Francisco, along with Finnish Industry Investment and Draper Esprit of London. M-Files is based in Finland. The money will be used to expand sales and marketing efforts in addition to expanding into global markets.


Walter Ulrich, the CEO of the Houston Technology Center, will step down next year after a decade in the role. Ulrich says he would like to spent time working with non-profits and medium-sized businesses in turning around operations, especially as the downturn in oil prices have caused distress among Houston businesses.

—The University of Houston’s Ocean Safety Institute has created an online database of technologies developed by federal agencies and other organizations that could help solve corporate problems relating to offshore oil and gas activity.  The Ocean Energy Portal will feature information on issues such as a NASA microparticle coating that could improve pipeline monitoring and identifying and treating corrosion faster. The portal also includes research from the National Energy Technology Labs and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

San Antonio

—The talent shortage facing the tech industry is well-known. For an hourly rate, software developers at San Antonio’s Grok will build Web and mobile applications for startups nationally that may not have the manpower or enough capital to make those full-time hires.


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