Texas Roundup: Rackspace, 1st and Future, Manoj Saxena, & BeeHex
Let’s get caught up on the latest innovation news from Xconomy Texas.
—San Antonio cloud computing company Rackspace is cutting 270 jobs in the U.S.—about 6 percent of its 4,500-person workforce—the company’s CEO Taylor Rhodes announced. The move comes almost five months after Rackspace was acquired by private equity firms for $4.3 billion. To help those newly on the job hunt, the Geekdom co-working space is hosting a job fair with coding school Codeup on April 11. Geekdom is also offering anyone who lost their job at Rackspace in the layoffs a membership for free—usually $50 a month—for up to six months.
—uShip, an Austin, TX-based shipping logistics software developer, has a new CEO. Mike Williams was previously the general manager of corporate real estate services at Accruent, another Austin software company. (Accruent’s software manages various aspects of real estate, such as leasing or operating buildings.) At uShip, Williams says he hopes to push forward the company’s work with large, multinational businesses like DB Schenker, a German logistics company that coordinates large shipping needs for businesses.
—SubVRsive, an Austin virtual reality company, has raised $4 million in a Series A round from WPP, the multinational advertising and public relations firm. The company also announced that Johannes Larcher, formerly with Hulu, has been appointed SubVRsive’s CEO. The company helps its customers use virtual reality technologies for marketing and brand engagement. Customers include Lionsgate and MTV.
—A new startup accelerator for hardware entrepreneurs called makerSeed is set to open at the University of Texas at Dallas. The accelerator will focus on student startups with innovations in wearables, connected devices, robotics, and other hardware specialties. Founder Ethan Hall says makerSeed will host a “Shark Tank”-style contest for UTD student entrepreneurs in order to find four teams to participate in the four-month pilot program. After tweaking the program based on that experience, he says their plan is to host a “regular” class of four to six teams at the accelerator in the fall or spring, he said.
—The Smart Gigabit City reverse pitch contest will be held in Richardson, TX, just north of Dallas, on February 24. Local app developers are eligible to compete for the event, which is being funded by two grants from the National Science Foundation’s US Ignite
Initiative. The city of Richardson is part of US Ignite’s Smart Gigabit Communities program, a network of communities that have promised to use innovative IT to build smart cities. The top two winners will receive $10,000 each.
—Laura Kilcrease, a long-time staple of the Austin tech community, is leaving the area to head Alberta Innovates, the Silicon Hills News reported. Kilcrease was the founding director of the Austin Technology Incubator at the University of Texas at Austin, and she also co-founded the Austin Technology Council and Triton Ventures.
—The 1st and Future pitch competition came to Houston as part of Super Bowl festivities, with startups pitching technologies focused on aiding athletes. The competition featured nine startups—out of 200 applications—with technologies that included wearables to help monitor players’ biometric readings, communications systems to better enable coaches and players to relay play information in real-time, and various sensor technologies placed in the helmet or in a mouthpiece to help detect concussions.
The winners were GoRout, which makes on-field wearable technology so players can receive digital play diagrams and data from coaches on the sideline; Mobile Virtual Player, a virtual player (resembles a large punching bag) that is mobile and can be used to help players simulate tackling plays without risking injury; and Windpact, which makes a patented padding system that uses air and foam to absorb and disperse impact energy to improve the performance of helmets and protective gear.
—We have “Five Questions For” … Manoj Saxena, former chief of IBM Watson Solutions in Austin and an investor in cognitive computing startups. He believes technological advances in machine learning and virtual reality can be combined to create a new environment—the world becomes your touch screen—in which we interact with data. Saxena and I also spoke about the limitations of youth versus age, the art of listening, and the meditative powers of racecar driving.
—Houston startup BeeHex is moving to Columbus, OH, following an investment of nearly $1 million by an Ohio pizza company. The company makes a 3-D printer to “cook” pizzas. Anjan Contractor, BeeHex’s founder, was an engineer at Systems & Materials Research, which had received a grant from NASA to develop technology to produce food that could remain unspoiled over years-long deep space missions. Contractor spun out BeeHex in 2015.