Roundup: Lucid, Honest Dollar, Hatch, UT Gaming Academy, & Civic Tech

Happy Friday, friends. Before you start your weekend planning, let’s take a look back at the innovation news from Xconomy Texas this past week.

Featured innovation:
—Austin, TX entrepreneur William Hurley found a surprising niche of customers while launching his fintech startup Honest Dollar last year: the footsoldiers of the gig economy. Now, in addition to providing retirement benefits to employees at small- and medium-sized companies, Honest Dollar has plans for contractors as well, including a partnership with ride-hailing company Lyft.
—It’s election season and some Houston techies are involved in projects aimed at making civic life better. Among them are the Houston-based Sketch City, an organization that organizes monthly hackathons on a variety of government-themed issues. Also, RideScout founder Joseph Kopser has put his weight behind Mobility Houston, while web designer Andrew Douglass is designing interactive maps that can help voters better find their polling places.
—Building a computer that can mimic the human mind has long been a dream of innovative thinkers. IBM Watson’s cognitive computing effort is widely known, and now Lucid, an Austin-based startup, says it has artificial intelligence software that can mimic human-like reasoning to answer questions such as “Why?” and “So what?”

Startup Works:
—The Hatch Pitch competition announced its slate of 2016 finalists at its demo day next month. For the first time, the startups are arranged by category: digital health, connected world, and mobility (smart transportation alternatives). Thirteen startups were chosen; five of them are Texas-based, including Luminostics and BrainCheck, both of Houston.
Vyopta, a company that makes video collaboration software, has raised $5 million in a Series A round led by AVX Partners, which Chris Pacitti and three other former Austin Ventures partners launched last year. The startup counts Stanford Health Care and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs among its customers.
TechBloc started last May as a non-profit focused on promoting San Antonio and its tech ecosystem. The organization recently announced five startup finalists for Tech Fuel, a competition for $50,000 from the Bexar County government. (The contest is co-hosted with Blake Yeager, managing director of the Techstars Cloud accelerator.)

People in the News:
—San Antonio investor Michael Girdley left the tech world to help run his family’s fireworks company, but the spark wasn’t there. So he became one of the founding members of the Geekdom Fund—no relation to the co-working space of the same name—raising $3.5 million from angels to invest in local startups. The fund has invested in 27 deals in San Antonio and Austin.
Warren Spector, director of the University of Texas Denius-Sams Gaming Academy since its start in 2013, is leaving to join Boston-based OtherSide Entertainment, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Spector, who designed games such as “Deus Ex” and “Epic Mickey,” will remain in Austin where he will head up development for “System Shock 3.”

Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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