Austin startup scene thrives with AI, delivery, sports tech and confections at its center

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  • May 26, 2017
  • Sara Lasseter

When you think of Austin, you probably think of good food and good music – I hope you also think about the flourishing tech and startup community pumping life into the heart of the city. As active contributors to this landscape, INK is always excited for any opportunity to support Austin’s innovative newcomers and tech community vets alike.

Last night, the Austin Chamber, in partnership with South by Southwest, hosted the 2017 Austin A-List awards ceremony at ACL Live’s Moody Theater. A room full of the community’s most prominent startup, tech, VC and industry journalism influencers within an iconic Austin music venue seems a justified nod to how much the tech community, alongside the music scene, has shaped the city’s economic development and cultural personality.

Since Austin’s tech boom began in the 90s (alongside inclusions on what seems like every “Best Cities to Live/Work” list for the last 7+ years), our HQ hometown has been a prominent character in national tales of tech, innovation and venture capital. A few recent naysayers have even started to question if Austin is still a thriving startup community.

However, Mike Smerklo, co-founder and managing director of Austin-based Next Coast Ventures, declared last night that, while Austin is indeed experiencing an evolution in its investment and M&A activity for local startups, “there has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur.” It’s now more important than ever to ensure your idea will build a disruptive company in a big market, and to not lose sight of a phenomenal culture along the way. Those words could not have rung truer for any other audience on Earth last night.

Attendees for the A-List’s awards ceremony bumped elbows with the faces of Austin’s startup community, with everyone from SXSW Interactive’s Executive Director Hugh Forrest, to EBW2020’s Ingrid Vanderveldt, to the Austin Business Journal’s newest tech writer Mike Cronin there to support and commend this year’s winning startups. From 176 nominations for the 2017 awards, the 17 Austin A-List winners honored last night were:

In the Emerging category: Banyan Water Inc., Convey Inc., Data.world Inc., EverlyWell Inc., Maggie Louise Confections, and OrcaConfig.

In the Growth category: We were thrilled to see our client Opcity Inc. accept a recognition in this group, noting they were highlighted based on their momentum even before their $27M Series A funding became official earlier this month. They were featured alongside other Growth category winners of Aceable Inc., Digital Pharmacist Inc., Dropoff Inc., High Brew Coffee Inc., and Tenfold.

In the Scale category: Certain Affinity Inc., Drillinginfo Inc., FloSports Inc., Pivot3 Inc., and Tiff’s Treats Holdings Inc.

These startups and their infectious thirst for addressing the “wicked problems” in the world, as GSD&M’s co-founder Roy Spence noted last night, are a testament to the still-healthy innovation scene in town, and put the naysayers to rest in our books. According to the Chamber, Austin saw 112 deals and about $834.1 million in startup investment in 2016. Last night’s event gave proof that companies that call the “512” home are still viable competitors in national and global tech circles, and INK looks forward to cheering them on for years to come.