TX Tech: Phunware Goes Public, Biden at SXSW, BioHouston, & More

Let’s start off the week with the latest innovation news from Xconomy Texas.

Phunware, an Austin, TX-based software maker, plans to go public following a merger with Stellar Acquisition III, based in Athens, Greece. The deal, which the company said is structured as a reverse merger, is expected to close by the end of June. “The transaction values Phunware at an enterprise value of $301 million, on a cash-free, debt-free basis, with the transaction consideration to be paid in newly issued equity securities of Stellar,” the announcement said. Phunware would trade on the NASDAQ stock exchange under the ticker symbol PHUN.

Phunware also stated that it plans to issue a cryptocurrency called PhunCoin in June.

Brad Parscale, whose San Antonio-based digital marketing company Giles-Parscale was sold to a California business last year, has reportedly been named Donald Trump’s campaign manager for the president’s reelection bid in 2020. Parscale led Trump’s digital marketing efforts during the 2016 campaign, and was praised for his work in stirring up fervor online—particularly on social media—that aided the then-candidate. Parscale has changed his Twitter profile to reflect the promotion. Giles-Parscale sold to Santa Barbara, CA-based CloudCommerce (OTCMKTS: CLWD) for $9 million in stock last year.

—The life sciences advocacy group BioHouston is taking its show on the road. While much of the spotlight has shone on early stage companies, especially at the Texas Medical Center’s Innovation Institute and JLabs at TMC, BioHouston CEO Ann Tanabe says there is “a lot of really cool stuff happening outside of 77021”—the medical center’s ZIP code. So, the group has organized a bus tour of other parts of the city, including visits to a contract manufacturer and a logistics services provider. Future trips are planned to the Houston suburb of The Woodlands, TX, which is home to a small biotech cluster, as well as to quality control labs in Pearland, TX. (Register here for the event.)

DivInc, the Austin-based accelerator program focused on supporting companies led by women and people of color, announced a new class of 11 startups for its spring program, according to Silicon Hills. The program starts on April 2 and will culminate with a demo day in June. So far, DivInc—which was founded two years ago—says its startups have raised a combined $1.8 million in investment and generated about $1 million in revenues.

—Former vice president Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, are coming back to Austin this week to attend South By Southwest. The pair will speak at the second annual “Connect to End Cancer” event March 10, as part of the couple’s work to support cancer screening and treatment through the Biden Cancer Initiative. The Bidens will be joined by Jimmy “Taboo” Gomez, of the Black Eyed Peas, who is a testicular cancer survivor.

—Just in time for the annual tech conference, General Motors announced its Maven Gig service will launch in Austin, the Austin Business Journal reported. Maven Gig is targeted at people working in the so-called sharing economy, such as ride-hailing drivers or people who make deliveries. Twenty Chevrolet Bolt EVs are now reportedly available to drivers willing to pay $229 a week to use them. That price includes the vehicle, unlimited miles, insurance and maintenance. Maven Gig is now available in nine U.S. cities, and Austin is the first to feature exclusively electric vehicles.

Xconomy National Correspondent David Holley contributed to this report.

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