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Texas Roundup: SXSW Odds & Ends, Dosh, Mythic, Peloton, & More

Xconomy Texas — 

[David Holley contributed to this report.]

We’re not through with South By Southwest yet. (And, also, yes, there has been some other innovation news at Xconomy Texas.) Read on:

—FBI Director James Comey is part of an intelligence symposium Thursday at the University of Texas at Austin. This engagement comes about a week after Comey abruptly canceled an expected SXSW appearance. The “Intelligence in Defense of the Homeland” seminar is sponsored by The Intelligence Studies Projects and Business Executives for National Security, along with UT’s Strauss Center for International Security and Clements Center for National Security.

—A unique aspect of SXSW is the international crowd it draws. In a span of a few minutes, you can meet entrepreneurs hailing anywhere from Australia to India to Mexico. Austin’s International Accelerator hosted a group of some 80 startups from around the globe for a fast pitch competition on March 10. The accelerator invited the top five companies to join its program, which provides funding and mentorship in exchange for an equity stake. [Editor’s Note: David Holley helped judge the round of 30 finalists.] The top five companies were: Greece-based Internet-of-Things/agricultural products business Centaur Analytics; London-based 100mentors, which connects expert lecturers with schools; Moscow-based calendar software developer startup BoardMaps; Athlenda, a Greek company that connects young athletes with recruiters and teams run by former professional basketball player Lazaros Papadopoulos (he was on the Greek team that beat LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul, among others, in 2006); and the Mexico-based maker of a lubricant for tools, Global Nanoadditives.

—It’s no simple task standing out at SXSW, with hundreds of panels ceaselessly competing for attendees’ time. Two of the more striking sessions focused on human development in starkly different ways. In a discussion on the potential collaboration of human and artificial intelligence, Kernel founder and CEO Bryan Johnson said his Los Angeles-based company is trying to gain read-write access to the code of the human brain. Kernel is building a so-called neuroprosthetic that could be implanted in the brain to do so. That might not only help cure diseases, but could aid with empathy, cooperation, and coordination, said Johnson, who sold his startup Braintree to PayPal for $800 million in 2013. “The idea that it takes me eight hours to read a book is incredibly frustrating,” Johnson said—which stirred laughter among many audience members, who presumably would be glad to finish a book that quickly. On the other end of the spectrum, Unity Biotechnology president and co-founder Ned David discussed his company’s goal of treating aging during a panel on the subject. San Francisco-based Unity, which raised a $116 million round of funding in October, is trying to kill dormant cells in the body that produce damaging inflammation, called senescent cells.  One challenge the company has faced is the FDA, which doesn’t consider aging a disease—though that hasn’t stopped Unity, David said. “What we do is we pick very specific diseases of aging where we think we can intervene,” he said.

—One of the big … Next Page »

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