Bitcoin at Rodeo Houston, TurnKey Gets $31M, SXSW & More TX Tech

Here are some innovation tidbits from around the state:

—Cryptocurrency seems to be everywhere, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised to see a “Bitcoin Accepted” sign at a food concession at Rodeo Houston this week (picture to the right.) Mark Zable, owner of Finer Diner, says he’s been into bitcoin the last couple of years and “thought it would be fun to see if I have any customers who want to pay in it.” Since the rodeo began on Feb. 27, Zable says he’s had 14 bitcoin transactions from a cup of coffee costing $3.50, or .000374 in bitcoin, to a food order totaling $54. He says he uses BitPay to process the transactions.

Zable, who says he’s an international human resources consultant when he’s not a “carnie for 44 days” at the rodeo and the State Fair of Texas in Dallas in the fall, says he’s the only food concessionaire to take the cryptocurrency for payments. He would accept ethereum and Lightcoin, but there isn’t a way to process those transactions on a scale small enough to buy cotton candy or a hot dog.

Outdoor Voices, the Austin-based maker of recreational attire, has raised a $34 million Series C round of funding, according to media reports. The round was led by, GV (the formerly named Google Ventures) and included investors such as Mickey Drexler, the former CEO of J. Crew, according to TechCrunch. The five-year-old company has raised more than $56 million in the past three years from investors such as General Catalyst, Forerunner Ventures, and others. The Austin Business Journal reported that former Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb is also an investor.

—Another South By Southwest festival has wrapped up in Austin. Among the highlights this year include a new artificial-intelligence propelled platform to connect healthcare startups with institutions like NASA that need new technologies, Uber’s plans for an air transportation service, a discussion about how AI is disrupting industries from education to healthcare and transportation, and, finally, increasing awareness of how human bias can creep into the algorithms that power search engines and other software systems.

TurnKey Vacation Rentals has raised $31 million in a Series D round, the company announced Monday. The round was led by Adams Street Partners, with participation from exisiting investor Altos Ventures and new investors such as Harmony Partners and Greenspring Associates. The Austin-based company said it plays to use the funds for marketing and developing new technologies related to the vacation rental market. Since its launch in 2013, the company said it has more than 3,500 vacation rental homes in destinations around the world available in its portfolio.

—Tech founders Joseph Kopser and Allison Lami Sawyer are both on the ballot for the general election in November. Kopser, who founded transportation app aggregator RideScout and sold it to Daimler AG in 2014, won the Democratic primary for U.S. House of Representatives in Texas’ 21st district in and around Austin and San Antonio. Sawyer, who founded and runs Rebellion Photonics, which makes a real-time hyperspectral camera for use in oil and gas facilities, is the Democratic nominee for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives. Both won their nominations in a contested fight in the primary elections earlier this month.

—As the national debate over gun regulations continues following the Parkland, FL, school shootings, female-focused dating app Bumble has said it will no longer allow users to post profile pictures displaying any kind of firearm, except for military or law enforcement who are in uniform. The Austin-based startup announced the change in a blog post earlier this month, saying the company has also banned hate speech and inappropriate sexual content from the app. “Online behavior can both mirror and predict how people treat each other in the real world,” the post says. “Bumble has a responsibility to our users and a larger goal to encourage accountability offline.”

Bumble also announced that it has a deal with the LA Clippers basketball franchise to put its logo on the team’s jerseys, SportsBusiness Daily reported. Bumble’s deal with the Clippers is reportedly worth $20 million over three years. The Clippers are the only team in the league that has a woman president of business operations, ESPN reports.

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