Nike Buys Invertex, Mark Cuban Backs Billshark, & More TX Tech News

I was out last week, exploring the rocky terrain of Big Bend National Park out in West Texas. Let’s catch up on the latest innovation news from Xconomy Texas, part 1. (Part 2, chock full of startup funding news, is next.)

—The first-ever Austin Cannabis Entrepreneur (or, ACE) conference is being held this Thursday and Friday, including a keynote by Troy Dayton, CEO and co-founder of Arcview, a cannabis market research firm. Hugh Forrest, one of the event organizers, says he has seen an increasing interest in discussion about the growing cannabis industry. (Forrest is also chief programming officer of Austin’s South By Southwest Festival. He stresses that SXSW has nothing to do with the ACE conference.)

While cannabis use is not legal in Texas, in 2015, state leaders did approve the Compassionate Use Act, which permits people diagnosed with intractable epilepsy to purchase and use cannabis oil with up to 0.5 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC.) The state issued its first medical marijuana license last year to Florida-based Consortium Holdings, which operates the Knox Medical dispensary in Schulenberg, TX, in Central Texas.

—Dallas’ Health Wildcatters accelerator announced that one of its portfolio companies, Invertex, was acquired by Nike (NYSE: NKE). Tel Aviv-based Invertex uses computer imaging—replicating the process we use from our eyes to our brain—to create 3D scans of feet. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. “The acquisition of Invertex will deepen our bench of digital talent and further our capabilities in computer vision and artificial intelligence as we create the most compelling Nike consumer experience at every touchpoint,” Adam Sussman, Nike’s chief digital officer, said in a press release. Invertex is Health Wildcatters’ second exit.

—Boston-based Billshark announced in a press release that tech entrepreneur Mark Cuban is one of its investors and advisors. (The startup did not provide the exact amount of Cuban’s investment.) The company offers a service that it says allows customers and businesses to quickly reduce monthly bills, such as for satellite TV, Internet, or home security. Users upload bills and Billshark searches for discounts or other ways to find savings. The startup takes a 40 percent cut of any savings found, it said.

Southern Methodist University in Dallas will open a new startup incubator at the Foundry Club, a coworking station near its campus. The university is investing as much as $200,000 a year in the program, D Magazine reported, and will be open to startups founded by students, faculty, and staff. Startups that win SMU’s Big iDeas Business Plan Competition or MBA Business Plan Competition get automatic admission.

—Six startups have been selected for Geekdom’s pre-accelerator program. The co-working space and Alamo Angels announced the group of companies, which are using analytics, virtual reality, and mobile technologies, among others. The program starts Thursday and runs through May 31. For more information on the program or the startups, click here.

—Student entrepreneurs from MIT took home the most prize money at this year’s Rice Business Plan Competition, winning more than $500,000 in cash and prizes. The startup, Infinite Cooling, “uses electric fields to recover water from the evaporative losses of cooling towers so that the same water can be used repeatedly,” according to a Rice press release. Aday Technologies, a Harvard University-based developer of workforce management software, won about $200,000, while Lapovations, a medical device company from the University of Arkansas, won $150,000.

Photo courtesy of Ruolan Han.

The team from Beta Cat had a Leprechaun theme.

—Lastly, life sciences advocacy group BioHouston held its 15th annual Chili Cookoff. The contest is a highlight of the biotech industry’s calendar and features the city’s biotech innovators dressed up in costumes and manning themed-booths as they cook their chilis. Scientific supplies company, VWR, sported a baseball-themed booth and took the top prize of Grand Champion Chili. Texas Heart Institute, a perennial winner, won the prizes for best team theme, spirit, and hospitality. The THI team sported a rock-n-roll theme, complete with purple punk-rock wigs.


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