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Texas 2015: Bio IPOs, Mark Cuban, Dell, & Startups in Wine, Aviation

Xconomy Texas — 

[Corrected 1/07/16, 5:56 am. See below.As 2015 draws to a close, let’s take a look back at the innovation stories our readers found most interesting. The list spans across the major metros of the state—Dallas, Houston, and Austin—and highlights themes that mark the signature of Texas’ rapidly growing technology communities.

Money, money, money: It was a hot summer for Texas biotech companies looking to tap into the public markets. Three companies—Neos Therapeutics in Dallas; and Mirna Therapeutics and Aeglea Biotherapeutics, both in Austin, have filed for IPOs, with Neos and Mirna making their public debuts. [Aeglea has filed for its IPO but has not yet sold securities on the market.]

South By Southwest: The Austin technology festival brings tens of thousands downtown and this year it supplied added buzz among the innovation community when organizers announced that billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban would emcee a new pitch competition focusing on pediatric health. The winner was CareAline, a Boston company that makes a cloth sleeve that securely hides intravenous lines and prevents young children from tugging at them. In addition to presenting Founder Kezia Fitzgerald the top award, Cuban placed an order: 1,000 CareAline sleeves that could be branded with the logo of the Dallas Mavericks, which Cuban owns.

End of an era: Austin Ventures, the venture capital firm that funded startups that formed the foundation of Austin’s technology community, essentially got out of the early stage investing business in 2015. In its 30-year run, the firm invested about $3 billion in almost 300 Texas based companies, including Tivoli Systems, Silicon Laboratories, and HomeAway.

Dell flexes some muscle: On the other hand, another Austin technology pioneer stepped back into the ring in a big way in 2015 with its purchase of Massachusetts-based EMC. Those on the ground in Austin say they hope the move signals an interest by Dell Computer in the region’s startup community, something that had been missing during Dell’s time as a public company.

Houston highlights: The Texas Medical Center has said it wants to drive early stage biotech innovation in Texas. On one June day, TMCx, its accelerator, played host to some of Houston’s youngest entrepreneurs.

In just a few years, both Rice University and the University of Houston have built up university-based accelerators that are getting recognition nationally.

Houston is not just home to innovation in life sciences and energy. Wine4Me founder Amy Gross nabbed a big investor in IBM Watson for her app that uses artificial intelligence to make wine recommendations tailored to a vinophile’s taste.

Deals in Dallas: It’s likely not a surprise that in the home of Southwest Airlines, another aviation startup is starting to gain traction. Rise, an “all-you-can-fly” airline, received Federal Aviation Administration approval in July and has started out—like its Dallas predecessor—connecting Texas’ relatively far-flung major metros. Service for neighboring states is planned.

In the beginning of the tech boom, startups needed a lot of capital to get their innovations off the ground. But these days, the Web has significantly reduced the costs of developing and deploying software and apps. Dallas’ Aristos Ventures wants to tailor venture capital to meet those needs with “microventure investments.”

Xconomy Texas: We hosted our first public event this year, a daylong conference called Houston 2035. The idea was to bring innovators together and sketch out the opportunities and challenges of Houston two decades from now. Stay tuned. We’re planning to bring the conversation to the Texas state capital for Austin 2036.