Hunting, Millennial Marketing, and Credit Building: Austin Techstars 2015

Techstars events across the nation draw plenty of fanfare, from venture capitalists searching for emerging businesses to engineers looking for a job and maybe a free drink, too.

In Austin, TX, on Wednesday, the local chapter of Techstars held a demo day for the 10 companies who recently completed its accelerator program. The program, which lasts for three months, seeks to give entrepreneurs access to expert business coaching and potential investors.

Businesses that are selected receive $18,000 in seed funding and are offered a $100,000 convertible piece of debt. That is in exchange for as much as 10 percent equity in the company if the note converts, though the accelerator is offering the option of possibly reducing that equity stake.

We wrote about each of the companies when Techstars announced those selected in March. Since then, the participants have further developed their businesses. In some cases, they’ve built a more solid business plan; in others they’re adding users and boosting revenues. Here are some of the highlights:

FantasyHub, based in Louisville, KY, offers daily fantasy tournaments that pay 5 percent of the proceeds to charity and 85 percent to the players. The company takes 10 percent for itself. FantasyHub also has landed multiple celebrity endorsements, from Kurt Warner to Lolo Jones, who offer prizes such as Skype calls and autographs for people who join the athlete’s charity-focused tournaments. The company has raised $71,100 for charity, and has increased the amount users spend on its games to $12,000 weekly from about $4,000 since the start of Techstars, says CEO Andrew Busa.

HuntingLocator.com is a hunting marketplace that allows landowners to list their parcels for hunters to rent out. The company, based in Austin, offers both free and premium paid services. It has brought in $150,000 in revenue so far and has more than 20,000 registered users, according to CEO Brandon Carter.

Pushmote, another Austin company, makes cloud-based software that targets shoppers with iBeacons, which are devices that can detect and send messages to nearby smartphones. Stores or events can set up iBeacons to track the GPS location of people’s smartphones, and Pushmote’s software allows the store to send customized messages or other marketing materials to a person that might be related to his or her location. Near a coffee store in a shopping mall? Maybe you’ll get a coupon for a latte. More than 200,000 iBeacons are in use today, and CEO Tarik Ozket expects that to rise to 60 million in the next few years.

Red Fox Clan, also based in Austin, is a marketing platform that researches user opinions on video games. It asks video gamers to answer poll questions on its site, showing his or her preference by clicking one of two photos. For a game like the Sims, does the gamer care more about the characters having access to pool parties or being able to have babies? Red Fox then builds profiles of its users, and offers game creators various research reports, says CEO Drew Giovannoli. Poll takers are now answering 28 questions per visit, up from 5 questions per visit when the company started, he says.

Self Lender, which moved to Austin from Denver, makes small loans to people who are looking to build a credit history. Those people pay back the loans over a period of typically anywhere from three to 12 months, and Self Lender charges a $3 fee per month. It reports the timely payments to credit bureaus. The company’s CEO James Garvey announced Wednesday it will partner with Austin Capital Bank, which will originate loans for Self Lender.

—New York-based StyleSage analyzes and monitors pricing and social data to provide fashion retailers and brands with information about their businesses, such as when it makes sense to discount items or what the best product mix might be. The company offers a dashboard to clothing brands that contains data such as what inventory retailers currently have from competing brands, says CEO Jade Huang. That might help a brand see gaps in the retailer’s inventory that it can fill, Huang says.

—Techstars said Wonders is a “visual discovery platform for apparel from brand-generated content” when it joined the program in March. The Brooklyn- and Austin-based company’s CEO, Martin Ahe, says that it is “reimagining storytelling on mobile” and that Wonders allows brands and people like photographers to “tell their stories and connect authentically with their users.” The company is focused on, you guessed it: millennials. Wonders’s launched an iOS app this week, and has plans for an Android version later this year.

StopLight, based in Venice, CA, develops a toolkit for developers who want to debug, test, and monitor application program interfaces in development or live production environments, Techstars said in March. Basically, the company has a program that automates a lot of the basic work developers do when creating APIs, helping the developer build those APIs faster, says the company’s CEO.

—Seattle-based MetricStory aims to help small- and medium-sized businesses track how their customers are interacting with their website, including by offering data analytics reports.

OneModel is another analytics company, which is focused on helping businesses analyze the performance of newly hired employees, use that to estimate how successful a potential hire might be, and provide information on the level of risk there is of a new hire might possibly leaving based on data such as commute time, among other features, says CEO Chris Butler. The company, based in Austin, counts MassMutual and HomeAway as customers and Butler said he is forecasting $1 million of revenue this year.

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at dholley@xconomy.com Follow @xconholley

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