Scale A-List Winners

Scale A-List Winner: SpareFoot

The mission of SpareFoot is twofold: to make it easier for consumers to find and book self-storage, and to make it easier for storage facilities to gain tenants. Consumers have become accustomed to using the Internet to compare prices and do research about purchase or rental decisions, and that was lacking until SpareFoot launched its marketplace. In self-storage, small operators were lacking a way to compete against large competitors online until SpareFoot offered an option.

Leadership Insights

  • Chuck Gordon and Mario Feghali, roommates at UCLA, founded SpareFoot in 2008.
  • Gordon needed a place to stash his belongings while studying abroad, and wound up leaving it with Feghali and another friend.

Scale A-List Winner: Silvercar

Silvercar has solved the problem of car rental by eliminating the frustrations & pain points that have plagued the industry for decades. With excellent customer service, this application makes airport car rental easier and faster. To demonstrate how successfully Silvercar has been in solving the problem of car rental, Net Promoter Score measures a customer’s willingness to recommend a company’s product/services to others. Silvercar consistently averages a (NPS) of 90, which is five times the industry average.

Silvercar has completely reimagined car rental. Through the power of the Silvercar app there is no longer a need for counters, paperwork, lines or hassle. The app puts you in the driver’s seat and manages the entire experience from reservation to return; it even unlocks your silver Audi A4 for you.

Leadership Insights

  • Founder and CEO Luke Schneider is a visionary business leader with 20+ years of experience driving innovation at the intersection of transportation and technology.
  • Prior to Silvercar, Luke served as CTO of Zipcar, Inc., the world’s largest car-sharing company.

Scale A-List Winner: Volusion, LLC

As ecommerce becomes more of a force in a person’s everyday life, there is an increasing need for businesses of all sizes to establish an online retail presence. Whether it’s a one-person organization looking to sell handmade goods or a Fortune 500 company looking to deliver modern and innovative digital shopping experiences, the need to conduct commerce online is ever-present. This is why Volusion, LLC has designed platforms to make ecommerce approachable for both technology novices and IT experts.

Volusion, LLC provides ecommerce solutions for all business types, ranging from startups to large enterprises. The organization’s product portfolio includes: the Volusion platform, designed for entrepreneurs and SMBs, and the Mozu platform, which is built for the large enterprise market.

Leadership Insights

  • Kevin Sproles, Founder and Chairman, created Volusion in 1999 after most of his website design clients asked for a shopping cart function on their sites.
  • Volusion has grown to employ almost 500 ecommerce experts and serves over 40,000 online merchants.
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Growth A-List Winners

Growth A-List Winner: CognitiveScale

Today, 55 percent of Big Data projects fail, 70-80 percent of relevant data is trapped in silos, and 80 percent of data, including data from texts, images, notes, and social media is “dark,” meaning it’s not machine readable. CognitiveScale‘s Cognitive Clouds address these issues by augmenting human knowledge with machine intelligence, surfacing real-time insights and advice that increase productivity, improve customer satisfaction and result in cost savings.

CognitiveScale is revolutionizing the big data and analytics markets with its Cognitive Clouds, which are the next evolution of cloud computing. This new class of data interpretation and learning systems fuse structured and unstructured data to deliver relevant business insights and advice.

Leadership Insights

  • Founder and CTO Matt Sanchez previously founded the research and development arm of IBM’s commercial Watson Solutions division called IBM Watson Labs. The US has granted Sanchez six patents and he is the author of 20 more.
  • Chairman Manoj Saxena is the former IBM Watson General Manager who has successfully built and sold two start-ups. Other management and staff all come with proven experience from companies and institutions including IBM, Perot Systems, Motorola, Shell, MIT, Trilogy, Seton Family Healthcare, and HomeAway.

Growth A-List Winner: Neogenis Labs

1 in 3 Americans die from cardiovascular issues. And serious athletes seek clean, plant-based sources of endurance via increased circulation for fuel/oxygen delivery. The Neogenis mission is to scientifically solve circulation-related issues in health and sports. Potent, natural nitric oxide activators, Neo40 & BeetElite are the answer. Nitric oxide (N-O) is a vasodilating molecule produced in the body. Neogenis’ patented formulas are proven to increase N-O production for improved blood flow.

Neogenis Labs’ patented nitric oxide nutraceuticals & nutritionals have revolutionized cardiovascular care and sports nutrition. Clinical trials for Neo40 reveal breakthrough efficacy for hypertension. Sports product, BeetElite, is at Whole Foods nationally & is used by 90+ collegiate and pro teams

Leadership Insights

  • CEO and Founder Joel Kocher was President of Dell Computer during its rise to become a Fortune 500 company, and is credited with architecting their game changing direct to customer B2B distribution model.
  • CSO and Founder Nathan Bryan, PhD is a renowned expert on nitric oxide. He is a scientist and faculty member at Baylor Medical Center. Bryan was recruited to the University of Texas Health Sciences Center by a Nobel Prize Laureate for the discovery of nitric oxide’s function in the body.

Growth A-List Winner: Illumitex

Like all industries, food manufacturing and agriculture face energy consumption issues and associated costs. Illumitex LED lights use half the electricity required by many legacy lighting types and have a much longer lifespan than older lighting types — two important cost-saving considerations. Our white lights help factories and food-processing plants provide safely illuminated workspaces for their employees, and our horticulture lights help indoor farmers grow more good food in more places.

Illumitex’s groundbreaking LED technology is helping innovative vertical farms around the world meet the needs of a planet that will be unable to feed its booming population by 2050. Our patented LEDs give the plants the light they need to maximize photosynthesis and produce more food more quickly.

Leadership Insights

  • Dung Duong, graduate from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, is the creative technologist and chief inventor of Illumitex’s original patented ideas.
  • Duong was part of Advance Technologies Group at Austin-based Luminex Corporation, where he designed, prototyped and tested the illumination, imaging optic, mechanics and industrial design of a smaller, lighter and more portable detection platform for the company’s XMap technology.

Growth A-List Winner: EPIC Provisions

Before EPIC, all protein and nutrition bars were made with processed plant based protein powders and syrups. The nutritional profiles were similar with high carbohydrates and sugar. We created a product that uses a whole food form of protein – animal muscle meat – and packaged it in a shelf stable form. Our products are naturally low in carbohydrates and sugars while being high in protein and healthy fats. As a result, EPIC is a perfect snack for athletes, diabetics, and health conscious consumers.

EPIC is a category leading company that specializes in making better for you meat based snacks. Our core product line, EPIC bar combines 100% grass fed animal protein with flavor forward spices, dried fruit, and nuts. The product is packaged in a shelf stable nutrition/protein bar format.

Leadership Insights

  • Taylor Collins and Katie Forrest, husband and wife cofounders of EPIC Provisions, compete nationally in triathlons.
  • Collins and Forrest also formed a commercial recycling company in 2006 and a vegan, raw food company in 2010.

Growth A-List Winner: SparkCognition

With 50 billion connected devices and cyber-physical systems expected to be online by 2020, the continuing militarization of computer security, Cloud computing shifts, and Mobile access enablement, security is more critical and complicated than ever before. Approaches such as signature-based detection, blacklists, and SIEM systems only address part of the problem. Many threats still escape detection, often despite the fact that they’ve left behind a pattern that is waiting to be found.

SparkCognition, the world’s first Cognitive Security Analytics company, has developed cutting-edge Machine Learning, AI algorithms, including a proprietary Cognitive Fingerprinting technique, which provide the intelligence to uncover trends, threats, and anomalies and provide accurate remediation.

Leadership Insights

  • Amir Husain, Founder & CEO, developed the technology that led to his first venture-funded startup, Kurion, while a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a prolific inventor with 10 awarded and over 40 pending US patent applications to his credit.
  • The company is Chaired by Manoj Saxena, former GM of IBM Watson.
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Chamber Partnership Aims to Help More Local High School Graduates Avoid Summer Melt

With nearly two-thirds of job openings in Central Texas requiring education beyond high school, eliminating higher education enrollment barriers is essential to preserving economic opportunities for recent high school graduates.

Researchers have identified one major barrier as “Summer Melt” – the gap between student college aspirations and actual enrollment immediately following high school graduation.  The data shows that obstacles related to financial aid, unanticipated costs (health insurance, transportation, books), information barriers, and lack of guidance over the summer are key causes of Summer Melt. About 30% of Central Texas high school graduates encounter obstacles to enrollment during this timeframe.[1]

The Austin Chamber, in partnership with nine independent school districts, The University of Texas Ray Marshall Center, and Austin Community College are working to help students overcome the summer enrollment barriers.  It’s part of a regional effort to increase direct-to-college enrollment rates. The Summer Melt Aversion Program makes counselors available to students on an extended basis.  This timely safety net allows counselors to send text message reminders to help students meet college enrollment deadlines and troubleshoot obstacles related to transcript processing, registration for orientation/classes, financial aid, and other enrollment processes.

In a recent front-page story on education, the Austin American-Statesman quoted Chamber Vice President Gilbert Zavala about the importance of helping students understand and meet deadlines from financial aid applications to general admission paperwork. Zavala noted college enrollment is a time-sensitive process and missing any one deadline could put college out of reach.

Chamber Vice President Gilbert Zavala photo via Austin American-Statesman.

Chamber Vice President Gilbert Zavala photo via Austin American-Statesman.

Results from earlier Summer Melt pilots showed improvements in college going rates on the order of 4 to 10 percentage points for first generation, low income and underrepresented students who received summer college transition support versus those who did not receive support over the summer. [2]

With implementation of the Summer Melt Aversion Program through a greater portion of Central Texas, tailored text-messaging around college specific deadlines, and a wider network of counselors ready to help with complicated paperwork throughout the summer, Zavala is hopeful the initiative will improve regional direct-to-college enrollment rates and more importantly, connect students with the education and training they need to compete for future jobs.


[1] Summer Melt: Supporting Low-Income Students Through the Transition to College (Harvard Education Press; October 2014) by Benjamin Castleman and Lindsay Page.; Castleman, B. L., & Page L. C. (2010).  A Trickle or a Torrent? Understanding the Extent of Summer Melt among College-Intending High School Graduates. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education. , Indianapolis, IN.  See also, Benjamin L. Castleman, Karen Arnold & Katherine Lynk Wartman (2012): Stemming the Tide of Summer Melt: An Experimental Study of the Effects of Post-High School Summer Intervention on Low-Income Students’ College Enrollment, Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 5:1, 1-17; University of Texas at Austin, Ray Marshall Center, 2005-2014. Central Texas Student Futures Project data. Accessible at ;

[2] University of Texas at Austin, Ray Marshall Center, Outcomes and Impact Estimates for the Summer Melt Program in Central Texas, April 2014. Accessible at

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Emerging A-List Winners

Emerging A-List Winner: Everfest

The festival industry is showing massive growth but is largely disaggregated. There is no great, central place for festival attendees to learn details of events, even if the event is taking place in their own backyard. Everfest wants to improve discovery, connection and sharing of festival experiences before and after. Traditional social and travel sites aren’t the right place for festivals – Everfest is going to be their home.

Everfest is building the world’s largest festival community, spanning genre and geography to connect the full festival ecosystem of revelers, festival organizers and brands. Everfest starts with discovery and extends to a day-of mobile app that will be the last festival app attendees and organizers will ever need.

Leadership Insights

  • Founder Jay Manickam is one of the original co-founders of uShip, the world’s largest shipping marketplace, which has been a fixture of the Austin tech startup scene since 2004.
  • The company has seen small festivals grow up right in front of them. Manickam wants to perpetuate that here and all over the world, and is excited to work with local festivals to build something that can truly elevate them, and collectively Austin, to new levels.

Emerging A-List Winner:

The speed of doing business is only as fast as a company’s computer systems. Many key industries and tech functions like data processing, analytics, machine learning, financial services and pharmaceuticals require complex computations with faster turn-around time to speed time-to-market and boost profits, even as data volumes continue to mount. Currently, the recourse for data centers and cloud configurations is to keep scaling by adding CPU-based server nodes, which means adding costs and inefficiencies. The real need is to enable organizations to use seamless hardware acceleration without code rewrite.

Bitfusion offers unique software to transparently and automatically accelerate existing applications by orders of magnitude. Bitfusion unlocks hardware acceleration without requiring application rewrite.

Leadership Insights

  • CEO Subbu Rama has held engineering and leadership roles in hardware and software divisions while building CPUs, micro-servers, SoCs and cloud infrastructures, at companies like Intel and Dell. As a founding member, he built Dell’s first Cloud Infrastructure Marketplace.
  • All three founders: Subbu Rama, CEO; Mazhar Memon, CTO; and Maciej Bajkowski, COO, have at least 10 years in the semiconductor and tech industry each spanning multiple disciplines.

Emerging A-List Winner: Green & Grow Inc.

There is a global need to “grow more, with less”. The world needs to increase food production to meet the demands of a growing and increasingly wealthy population but to do so in a more sustainable way. Green & Grow Inc.‘s naturally derived Agriplier Technology addresses this need. Agriplier can be efficiently and rapidly integrated into today’s modern farming methods and has already been successfully tested in independently run field trials across the USA and internationally.

Green & Grow Inc. develops and commercializes new agricultural products. Our Agriplier Technology is naturally derived and increases crop yields above and beyond the current products in use today. Agriplier has been a top performer in independent field trials for the last two years in a row.

Leadership Insights

  • CRO Gary Nijak Jr. has worked on the Agriplier Technology since its discovery and manages lab based R&D and agriculture field trials. COO/CFO Gregg Spivey manages operations, go-to market strategy, industry relationships and finances. CEO Alan Sobba was one of the first investors into GGI and has years of experience in public policy and family farming.
  • With degrees in Chemical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Natural Sciences and Business this diverse team can apply research and technology to agriculture in new, meaningful ways.

Emerging A-List Winner: ENTvantage DX

It is difficult for physicians to accurately diagnose the cause of sinusitis as either bacterial or viral. Since no definitive in-office diagnostic product exists, physicians routinely prescribe antibiotics while most patients aren’t experiencing bacterial infections. These antibiotics can make their condition worse and lead to antibiotic resistant infections. The over prescription of antibiotics has led to a worldwide crisis that is costly and deadly.

ENTvantage Dx provides physicians with timely information on the cause of ENT-related illnesses with rapid, in-office diagnostic tests. This $2.8B worldwide market opportunity and the device ENTvantage Dx is developing will allow doctors to reduce prescriptions and therefore reduce antibiotic resistant infections.

Leadership Insights

  • Joe Skraba, President and CEO, has 30 years of experience in commercialization and sales of a broad range of medical devices, in-vitro diagnostic devices and biotech products. He has engineered products, managed development teams on complex medical device projects and led large multinational R&D teams.
  • Chairman of the Board Rick Hawkins has been a life-science entrepreneur in Austin for over 30 years and founded multiple companies, including Pharmaco. Don Gonzales joins Hawkins on the Board a successful ENT physician turned entrepreneur who founded ENTrigue Surgical, Inc.
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Austin Chamber Connects with Africa’s Best and Brightest Entrepreneurs

Michele questionsThe Austin Chamber of Commerce, through Innovate Austin, and in collaboration with WeWork Austin and Dropbox Austin welcomed the Mandela Washington Fellows (MWF) on June 24, 2015 for a “Welcome to Austin – The Innovation Economy” workshop.

These 25 young African entrepreneurs are spending several weeks in Austin learning about the extensive startup community in the region, in conjunction with The University of Texas. The Fellows will have the opportunity to connect with our collaborative Austin startup scene, including growing partnerships and exploring the city’s entrepreneur ecosystem, ultimately ending in a pitch competition.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), part of President Obama’s commitment to invest in the future of Africa. The goal is to empower the next generation of leaders with skills and knowledge to strengthen democracy, spur economic growth, and enhance peace and security across Africa.

“Austin’s innovation ecosystem has never been stronger. Austin is now ranked the number one U.S. city for startups in the latest annual Kauffman Index report,” said Michele Skelding, SVP of Global Technology and Innovation at the Austin Chamber of Commerce. “We are thrilled to partner with WeWork and Dropbox and welcome the YALI participants, who are poised to make their mark [with] extraordinary ideas impacting global change.”

For more information about MWF or YALI click here.

To meet UT Austin’s 2015 Fellows click here.

Rainbow wall


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