Tech Tools for Harvey and Irma, New Funds in Austin, & More TX News

[Updated: 9/11/17, 3:25 pm. See below.] For nearly two weeks, much of the Houston innovation system has been focused on Hurricane-turned-Tropical Storm Harvey’s multiple landfalls on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Anchored by Sketch City and active social media networks, civic tech hackers have created websites, APIs, and mapping tools that helped groups like the Cajun Navy find residents who needed rescue from their homes and then connected the displaced with shelters that had space. The websites also enabled donors and volunteers to see which shelters had which specific needs and, as the waters receded, which homes needed help with mucking and clearing debris. Houston innovation leaders also created the group Entrepreneurs for Houston to enable tech communities around the country to help out in Texas.

For Kim Bond Evans, co-founder of health IT startup Seremedi, and Katie Walthall Mehnert, founder of the energy-focused social media channel Pink Petro, Harvey’s toll was personal.

Alaska techies send support to colleagues in Florida. (Photo courtesy: Brendan Babb.)

This past weekend, the virtual baton was passed to Florida, where the tech community built on top of the Harvey efforts as Hurricane Irma made landfall. More than 300 people from across the country have joined the Irma Slack channel. (For a full list of our hurricane-related coverage, click here.)

As Houston deals with Harvey’s aftermath—stay tuned for more coverage about that—let’s catch up on the other tech news happening in the state:

[Updated with new item.]—The Dallas Entrepreneur Center said Monday it has received a $600,000 grant from the US Department of Commerce to support three new branches of the DEC that will be located in the southern half of the city. The southern sector of Dallas is home to a large African-American and Hispanic population and DEC founder Trey Bowles says their goal is to foster entrepreneurship among those communities. The new DEC branches are called the Southern Dallas Entrepreneur Network.

Amazon’s announcement (NASDAQ: AMZN) Thursday that it is seeking proposals from cities and states that would like to be home for its second headquarters caught the interest of the tech community in Texas, which is home to three of the largest cities in the country. Among the attributes that the Seattle-based e-commerce giant specified it was looking for include a population of at least a million, friendly business environment, and top tech talent. It’s the latter that my colleague Ben Romano, the Editor of Xconomy Seattle, says will be key to the decision.

—Three Austin startups announced new funding in the last week. Trust Radius, a sort of Yelp for business software, has raised $5.5 million in venture financing, according to an SEC filing. The company was founded in 2013, and Austin Inno reports that the Mayfield Fund, which is based in Menlo Park, CA, led a $5 million round in 2013.

Neuraptive Therapeutics announced on Tuesday it raised $1 million in funding led by the Central Texas Angel Network. CTAN said in a press release that New Rhein Healthcare Investors and other angel investors participated in the round. The money will be used to further develop the company’s nerve repair system, which aims to induce the fusion of recently severed neurons within injured peripheral nerves. The Colorado-based company was founded last year and is based on research done at University of Texas at Austin.

And Favor, the delivery startup that shut down all outside-of-Texas operations earlier this year, raised $22 million in a Series B round. The company, which connects people wanting something delivered via its app with a “runner” who will make the delivery, wants to add to its list of 15 cities in Texas, my colleague David Holley reports. Favor will also use the funding to develop a desktop Web app called Favor Fleet to encourage orders from corporate customers and other large groups.

—Austin’s Capital Factory accelerator and co-working space has launched a $100,000 startup challenge aimed at supporting founders that are typically underfunded and under-represented in the tech world. Startups must apply to the Diversity & Inclusion Investment Challenge by September 15. Five of them will be selected to pitch to investors on the 29th, Capital Factory said.

—Pitney Bowes (NYSE: PBI) announced in a press release last week that it acquired Newgistics, an Austin-based digital commerce and logistics startup, for $475 million. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the year, but Pitney Bowes said Newgistics will operate independently into the first quarter of 2018 in order to not cause disruptions during the holiday season.

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