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Startups San Antonio 2019 Companies to Watch



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Issue No. 1


Startups San Antonio


San Antonio’s

Companies to Watch Startups with Social Impact • Robotics • Artificial Intelligence • AR/VR • Software as a Service • Cybersecurity • Bioscience and Healthcare

“San Antonio’s collaborative culture and nurturing of bioscience is essential to growing a leading research institute and was critical in my decision to join Texas Biomed and bring my research team from Ohio to San Antonio in 2017.” –– Larry Schlesinger, M.D., President and CEO, Texas Biomedical Research Institute

SAN ANTONIO: WHERE INNOVATION IS BORN San Antonio is on a mission. We’re driving innovation to solve some of the world’s most complex health challenges. Our rapidly growing healthcare and bioscience industry has unique biomedical assets and the collaborative culture needed to effectively explore solutions to cancer, diabetes, infectious diseases, neurological disorders and trauma. As a result, San Antonio is now recognized as a City of Science and Health. With an annual economic

For jobs openings: www.PortSanAntonio.us/Jobs

impact of over $40 billion, San Antonio’s healthcare and bioscience sector is actively working to turn a collaborative culture into an economic engine, fueling

For available space: : www.PortSanAntonio.us/Spaces

regional growth and becoming a resource to the world.

aerospace To learn more about this vibrant industry, contact: President Ann Stevens of BioMed SA at astevens@biomedsa.org or 210.468.1829.


cybersecurity | defense

advanced manufacturing | energy | global logistics

biomedsa.org BioMed SA is a non-profit, membership-based organization, supported in part by the City of San Antonio.

W W W. P O R T S A N A N T O N I O . U S


Welcome by Mayor Ron Nirenberg Welcome by Judge Nelson Wolff Foreword by SAEDF CEO Jenna Saucedo-Herrera About Startups San Antonio Publisher’s Introduction Map of San Antonio Companies

1 2 4 5 6 7


Cityflag 8 Kinetech Cloud 11 Braustin Mobile Homes 13


Plus One Robotics 16 Reckon Point 19


FunnelAI 22 Intrinsic Imaging 24


Ractive + DC Industries 26 The IMG Studio 28


Brokerage Engine Flightpath Finance Dauber Chargify Dearduck

30 32 34 36 38

San Antonio Startup Ecosystem Map 40


CyberFortress 41 Inflow 43


Olifant Medical PATCH GaitIQ BioBridge Global

46 48 51 53


Foreword by Jenna Saucedo-Herrera President and CEO of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation You may know a bit about San Antonio. You’ve probably heard of the Alamo, the Riverwalk, or the world champion Spurs. But you may not know about our growing ecosystem of innovative cybersecurity, technology and bioscience companies, rich culture, art scene, public spaces and all the other things that make San Antonio such a great place to live and do business. We’ve got a city beat, a pulse, a flavor for everyone—and not just visitors. We are a real, thriving, major U.S. metro that’s an invigorating place to live, work and play. San Antonio takes a smart approach to growth that attracts a young and diverse population and drives innovation while maintaining our cultural charm and the resiliency of the city we love. San Antonio’s deeply rooted military history, coupled with a resolve to collaborate above all else, has set the stage for innovative companies to take hold and grow in San Antonio. The number of cybersecurity companies, our proximity to highly advanced military talent, and the nation’s top cybersecurity advanced degree program, put San Antonio in a position that is difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate. More than 1 out of every 6 San Antonio employees work in biosciences and healthcare, representing one of the city’s largest sectors. Home to military medicine and more than 3,300 MDs and PhDs, our powerhouse ecosystem is globally competitive, playing a critical role in cancer research, regenerative medicine and diabetes. San Antonio is a big city in a big state that’s loaded with big opportunity. We are uniquely primed for bigger things, which is why the innovators in this book are drawn to grow their businesses here in San Antonio. There is significant momentum of truly innovative companies making large strides and impact in diverse subsectors of bioscience and healthcare, cyber, and tech. The community’s first Startups San Antonio book is an exciting endeavor. This book is a snapshot of where San Antonio’s innovation ecosystem is today and where it is headed in the future. I invite you to watch these companies closely in 2019 as they contribute to elevating San Antonio’s profile globally. We are at a pivotal point in San Antonio’s growth, as the community takes control and works towards its vibrant, globally competitive and innovative future.

About Startups

San Antonio

Our Mission

Startups San Antonio highlights the emerging capabilities, companies, and the people behind innovative solutions in technology, science, engineering, and cybersecurity in San Antonio, Texas. From indoor GPS mapping to financial technology solutions, groundbreaking advances in robotics, and diagnosing Alzheimer’s using artificial intelligence, San Antonio has so many compelling stories to share. San Antonio has a significant military presence, possessing the nation’s second-largest concentration of cybersecurity experts and home to several leading military medical research missions. In a city of about 1.5 million residents, one of every six San Antonio employees works in the bioscience and healthcare industry. The tech ecosystem has established roots in San Antonio, growing since computer pioneer Datapoint first opened its doors here. Aerospace and aviation, new energy, and advanced robotics in manufacturing are major industry sectors in San Antonio, too. These strengths add up to a thriving startup scene that’s growing by leaps and bounds in San Antonio, with new companies being formed almost daily. With unique talents in technology, science, cybersecurity, and engineering, it made sense to focus coverage about San Antonio’s startups in one place: www. StartupsSanAntonio.com.

Iris Gonzalez, Founder and Publisher of Startups San Antonio

Iris Gonzalez founded Startups San Antonio in 2018 out of a passion for telling San Antonio’s stories of innovation. She moved to the Alamo City in 2006 and now writes about developments in emerging technology, cybersecurity, and bioscience startup companies in San Antonio. She was the technology and science writer from 2015 to 2017 for the local digital journalism website Rivard Report, where she wrote about innovators, researchers and San Antonio’s startup community. In 2017 Iris won the Texas Veterans Commission Media Excellence Awards for her 2016 Veterans Day story Life as a Veteran: What Veterans Wished Civilians Understood published by the Rivard Report. Iris has always enjoyed writing about tech and science. She spent her first 23 years as a research analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense assessing advanced technologies for homeland defense.

Publisher's Introduction Innovative entrepreneurial activity in San Antonio is gaining momentum, and people are noticing. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, San Antonio tops the list as the nation’s fastest-growing city. Our rich culture—evidenced by our designation as both a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy and a World Heritage site—and affordability are but two reasons contributing to the fact that about 60 people move here daily. Our science and technology sectors also help drive the city’s growth. San Antonio possesses unique capabilities in scientific research and development and is a well-known center of cybersecurity activity and expertise. We also have an emerging hub of software engineering, software as a service (SaaS), and other technology-related companies. In this inaugural annual compilation of companies to watch, we’ve taken a look at Startups San Antonio’s coverage in 2018, pulling together 20 stories that demonstrate the types of innovation one can find in San Antonio. You will discover entrepreneurs in bioscience and healthcare, cybersecurity, SaaS, augmented and virtual reality, robotics, artificial intelligence, and startups at the intersection of tech and social impact. In fact, many of these companies fall in multiple categories—and all show signs of promising growth. This watch list reflects local companies founded over the last ten years or less that are well positioned to make a difference—not just in San Antonio, but nationally and potentially, globally. Two of the stories in particular highlight the power of collaboration and the dynamic innovation possible when larger companies partner with smaller startups or when they work across disciplines. The article about the BioBridge Global-led consortium on page 53 an established nonprofit science organization and a bioscience startup working to scale up stem cell biomanufacturing. On page 26 you will discover how three homegrown startups—trainers DC Industries and the Red Cell and the augmented reality company Ractive—created the first cybersecurity training enhanced by augmented reality. Regular StartupsSanAntonio.com readers will note that we’ve updated these articles since they first appeared on our website. In this lookbook, you’re reading the very latest from these companies. Where we could, we also shared planned developments and hinted at forthcoming announcements that will be public knowledge after this issue goes to press. What I can share is excitement over what we will learn from these companies throughout 2019. These stories highlight groundbreaking approaches, powerful collaborations, and intriguing ideas that will shape the city’s startup ecosystem throughout 2019 and beyond. As a publisher focused exclusively on highlighting San Antonio’s science and technology innovation, I promise there’s much more than what appears between these covers. We hope you’ll read and follow StartupsSanAntonio.com online to learn more what makes San Antonio a special place for innovation and investment.


1 Cityflag - Geekdom l 2 Kinetech Cloud - Geekdom l 3 Braustin Mobile Homes - Geekdom l 4 Plus One Robotics - Port San Antonio l 5 Reckon Point - Port San Antonio l 6 FunnelAI - Geekdom l 7 Intrinsic Imaging - Medical Center l 8 Ractive - Geekdom, and l DC Industries - Port San Antonio 9 IMG Studio - Near Medical Center l 10 Brokerage Engine - Central Downtown l

11 Flightpath Finance - Geekdom l 12 Dauber - Geekdom l 13 Chargify - Central Downtown l 14 Dearduck - Geekdom l 15 CyberFortress - Geekdom l 16 Inflow - Central Downtown l 17 Olifant Medical - Medical Center l 18 PATCH - Trinity University l 19 GaitIQ - Geekdom l 20 BioBridge Global - IH-10 West, and l StemBioSys - Near Medical Center



Award-Winning Cityflag 311 App Makes San Antonio a Smarter City

he new year has brought exciting news to San Antonio and local technology startup Cityflag. In August 2018 San Antonio launched 311SA, its new interactive civic engagement app. Cityflag developed the 311SA cellphone app residents can use to report municipal issues to the City of San Antonio. The city’s 311SA received the Smart 50 award as one of the world’s top 50 most transformative smart projects for 2019. The Smart 50 Awards, in partnership with Smart Cities Connect, the Smart Cities Connect Foundation, and US Ignite, annually recognize global smart cities projects, honoring the most innovative and influential work.


The 311 app allows San Antonio residents to upload photos of municipal problems such as a downed street sign or graffiti and geotag it using Google Maps. The reported issue gets highlighted with a red flag until City employees use Cityflag’s “citizen relationship management system” to acknowledge the problem which turns the flag yellow. App users can vote on the severity of issues reported by other residents in the community and can earn points and badges for their activity within the app. The top-flagged issues appear on the app’s “urban feed” and once addressed, the issue’s flag changes from an open green flag to a closed blue one once resolved.

“This award validates how San Antonio is looking to leverage the next generation in technologies to build a foundation as a smart community,” Cityflag founder Alberto Altamirano said. “Over 1,000 companies from 12 countries applied and our project was selected.”

The 311SA app, available for download in the iTunes and Google Play online stores, is creating a boost in civic participation in the city. Since launch, more than 10,000 San Antonio residents have started using the app, submitting over 8,000 requests. The success rate is currently at 93 percent.

Cities are developing new avenues for civic engagement using a technology most residents already possess—a smartphone. In the U.S., 80 percent of all mobile phone users use a smartphone. The emergence of interactive municipal apps as a new means for citizens to report issues is spreading as cities look for more ways to engage with its residents.

Paula Stallcup, assistant director for communications and public affairs for the City of San Antonio and senior manager for the City’s 311 services, has been involved in the 311SA app development since its start. Previously the City had a reporting app, but it lacked interactive features and did not give users visibility on the City’s responses. With almost 800,000 calls

Startups San Antonio San Antonio 2019 Startups Book

to 311 annually, the newly developed 311 app offers residents an interactive way to communicate with the City, Stallcup said. “The app is different from what you might expect in a city services app,” Stallcup said. “We are excited about the functionality within the app—people can report an issue 24/7 and not have to remember to call the City in the morning.”

The City of San Antonio Pursues Innovation The City of San Antonio awarded Cityflag a two-year contract in 2017, requesting additional features over the course of app development. San Antonio tech entrepreneur Alberto Altamirano, founder and chief executive officer of Cityflag, said the City-requested enhancements include improvements in photo quality, the ability to upload photos directly from the camera gallery on your smartphone, as well as a shorter request processing time. “It now takes only 3 seconds to generate a case reference number for the reported issue,” Altamirano said. “We got the time it takes for a request to be processed down from 10 seconds.”

The robust functionality sets the 311SA app apart from most of the ones in use in major cities like New York City or San Francisco. Users can see the incoming requests in real time or click on the map to zoom in to see on the street level, thanks to Google Earth. “You can also filter the reports and look only at those of stray animals or for potholes,” Cityflag chief financial officer Eduardo Bravo Jr., said. “The issues stay on the map for three weeks.”

Cityflag Grows to Match Demand for Smart City Solutions The startup has an agile team of seven composed of cofounders Altamirano, Bravo, and chief of operations Beto Gomez, plus engineers and developers. They launched a 311 app for Mission, Texas in early August, a city of about 100,000. Their third implementation was for a population much larger than the two Texan municipalities combined. Cityflag worked with one of the 16 boroughs of Mexico’s capital Mexico City, Cuauhtémoc. Their 311 app services the five million people who live and work in the historic and cultural center of Mexico City. Cityflag developed and launched a mobile app and

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customer relationship management (CRM) platform to monitor the water distribution operation in the municipality of Cuauhtémoc. In November 2018, Mexico City experienced water shortages impacting 900,000 people during maintenance and repairs of its Cutzamala system, one of the biggest water systems in the world serving a population of over 22 million people. Cityflag deployed a mobile app and dashboard to monitor real-time water distribution throughout the municipality of Cuauhtémoc.


“We’ve shown how we can handle a population as small as Mission to San Antonio’s 1.2 million all the way to Mexico City’s five million in a part of the city that is not even fully digitized,” Bravo said. “We use an agile approach with our ‘plug and play platform’ in digitizing a city’s civic engagement ecosystem.”

Pamela Humphrey Roxi McCloskey Morris

For cities considering an interactive smartphone 311 app like San Antonio’s that help drive civic engagement, the benefits extend beyond residents. “While there are many apps out there, the 311SA mobile app allows residents to collaborate with the City of San Antonio and their neighbors to solve problems,” Mayor of the City of San Antonio, Ron Nirenberg said. “Together, with a simple app, we can improve and strengthen our communities.”


CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Pamela Price Pamela Humphrey


WE THANK David Aldelman, Area Real Estate Beth Eby Matthew Espinoza Paco Felici Jon Ryan Garcia Luis Martinez Denise Moore Dax Moreno Roxi McCloskey Morris Alberto Piña Kelly Smith Mark Solis

Recognition Grows for Cityflag Cityflag has received national attention for the success of 311SA and was featured in 2018 in StateScoop magazine and Smart & Resilient Cities magazine. The Smart 50 Award places the San Antonio tech startup on par with innovative global projects recognized for their municipal-scale impact and application. Altamirano has hinted at more good news for Cityflag to be announced later in 2019. Altamirano is no stranger to recognition, having been named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 for 2018. This time, the recognition will be for the civic engagement application Cityflag developed for the City of San Antonio. “Cities are increasingly under pressure—leveraging innovation and technology to solve increasingly critical urban problems can help shape the future of cities,” Altamirano said. “Cityflag looks forward to playing a role in that transformation.”

Featured image is courtesy photo of the Cityflag 311SA app shown on two cellphones.


ON THE COVER Back row (from left): Beto Gomez and Alberto Altamirano (Cityflag), Alberto Piña and Jason Piña (Braustin Mobile Homes), Erik Nieves and Paul Hvass (Plus One Robotics), Steven Venticinque (Olifant Medical), Brian Jones (Dauber), Huw Edwards (CyberFortress), James Chandler (The IMG Studio), Jonathan Perry (Ractive) Front row (from left): Tom Rotem (Chargify), Sujatha Kamma (FunnelAI), Rick Morris (GaitIQ) Not all founders were available for the cover photo shoot.

Cover photo by Jon Ryan Garcia, jonryangarcia.com

PRINTED BY Leapfrog Promotions ©2019 IMG Media, LLC,

dba Startups San Antonio Startups San Antonio publishes this book annually. You may order copies online at www.StartupsSanAntonio.com. We make every effort to avoid errors, misspellings, and omissions. No part of this publication may be used without written permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Startups San Antonio San Antonio 2019 Startups Book

Kinetech Cloud

City of San Antonio and Kinetech Cloud Launch New Utility Assistance Program Application


he City of San Antonio and its technology startup partner Kinetech Cloud launched a new online application for residents seeking emergency utility bill assistance Wednesday. The City of San Antonio’s Department of Human Services (DHS) worked with Kinetech Cloud to develop the Emergency Utility Bill Assistance online application. It replaces the original paperdriven process of printing the paper application, photocopying supporting documentation such as a photo identification card, proof of income, and utility bill, and mailing the completed package or submitting it in person. City residents can now complete the application online, uploading documents via their smartphone or tablet’s built-in camera. Kinetech Cloud developed the utility rebate program application for the City to manage users applying digitally for the rebate—automating tasks, digitizing documentation, and providing real-time application status tracking for residents in the process. “We have found that most of our clients today have a smartphone, even if they don’t have a computer,” Department of Human Services Director Melody Woosley stated. “We wanted to make it easy for residents to use that phone to apply for the assistance they need.”

The emergency utility assistance program helps San Antonio residents living within 125 percent of the federal poverty level avoid loss of power and water service whenever possible. For a family of four, the total household income must be less than $31,375 to be eligible for utility assistance.

“Every organization has potential— tech can turn that potential into performance.” Kinetech Cloud is a cloud-native company that combines full-service business consulting, agile software development, and enterprise support. San Antonio natives and former strategy and information technology consultants Michael Guido, CEO, and Ricky Volz, COO, founded the startup in 2014. The custom cloud Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider has over 50 customers in 32 states and operates out of Geekdom, a downtown co-working space.



Kinetech developed the DHS online application while participating in CivTechSA, the City’s inaugural program linking technology companies to municipal departments experiencing challenges. The City of San Antonio launched the 16-week civic engagement program in late 2017 to identify different ways to expand its capacity for innovation. There is a great need for emergency utility assistance in San Antonio as the average income of applicants is closer to $14,000, according to the Department of Human Services assistant director Edward Gonzales. DHS processes over 10,000 applications annually with the highest demand for assistance during the summer and colder winter months. Gonzales said DHS sought a tech solution because its paper-driven application process severely limited the department’s ability to help applicants. DHS annually administers about 2.4 million dollars in CPS Energy bill assistance and $400,000 in San Antonio Water Systems (SAWS) credits. It was taking DHS anywhere from two weeks to thirty days to complete application processing, and users could not receive updates on the status of their submission. The digital solution will cut the initial processing time nearly in half for DHS client service specialists administering the program, from 45 minutes down to 25. Users will also receive alerts

information, a big problem for a household hoping to prevent their utilities from being cut-off.” Guido said the startup has developed an approach or “blueprint” as a result of its CivTechSA experience that municipalities can use to incorporate innovation in the future. While the challenges may be different in the public sector, “the methods to deliver a solution are transferable from the private sector,” Guido emphasized. “Our focus in working with DHS was to reduce the friction for an applicant to apply for assistance,” Guido said. “The City of San Antonio recognized they wanted to provide better service for its residents. We know tech can do that.” Over the sixteen weeks of the CivTechSA program, Kinetech assessed the customer experience and showed DHS the benefits of shifting to digital application files. “I appreciated their agile software development approach,” Gonzales said. “Their iterative process has been so productive we were able to think of more features as we got more involved.” Process improvements can help the public sector eliminate repetitive tasks that computers can handle easily so government workers can focus on highervalue services, Guido said. Working with San Antonio, “a top 10 city with a mature IT organization,” helped Kinetech Cloud create its blueprint for municipal digital transformation. The company is looking to help other more San Antonio departments and other municipalities transform their idea into solutions for better civic services.

From left, Kinetech Cloud employee Bo McGuffey, client Jaslynn Tenerio, Kinetech employee Jon Lamb, and client Francisco Rodriguez. Courtesy photo.

as their application progresses through each stage of the approval process. “With a paper-process, it is physically impossible for our staff to provide real-time updates to our clients,” Woosley said. “Incomplete applications are further delayed by snail-mail requests for additional


“The bottom line is we are always interested in forming partnerships with forward-thinking leaders, regardless of whether they are in the public or private sector,” Guido said. “Every organization has potential—tech can turn that potential into performance.”

Featured image is of Kinetech Cloud CEO Michael Guido (right) watching Jamie Obaya use the new emergency utility assistance online application using a tablet in the lobby of the Willie Velasquez Center. Photo credit: Startups San Antonio.

Startups San Antonio San Antonio 2019 Startups Book

Braustin Mobile Homes


Braustin Mobile Homes Uses Tech for Easier Home Buying

n the seventh floor of Geekdom, a downtown co-working office space, brothers Alberto and Jason Piña are responding to customers buying a mobile home. The brothers founded Braustin Mobile Homes in early 2017 as a new kind of virtual mobile home dealership that leverages technology to make buying an affordable home easier for its customers.

The small company started by offering prospective customers a headset for virtual reality (VR) home tours of their models. Once purchased, Braustin kept customers updated on home construction progress with drone videos. Since January 2018, Braustin customers have also been buying homes using what most of us carry in our hand or back pocket—a cell phone. “Nine years ago when I was first getting trained, I was told I’d never sell a house to anyone over the phone,” Piña said. “Today, fully 70 percent of our customers buy a home online or over the phone.” The co-founders soon realized the need for a document-processing app to give customers an easier way to buy a home using a cell phone for their purchase. The Braustin Docs app streamlines the process from submitting financial qualification

paperwork to receiving home building progress notifications to conducting the home inspection and tracking the final quality check or “punch list” of minor items for the builder to address. Millennials now outnumber baby boomers according to a Census Bureau report and it is this generation that is driving change in the real estate market. As rents rise, the number of millennials who want to own rather than rent has increased to about 80 percent of potential homebuyers. Millennial homebuyers are turning more to the manufactured housing industry as an affordable alternative. This population shift is driving builders like Braustin to accommodate the needs of its buyers. “Millennials are the largest segment in the mobile home buying market, and they’re used to buying things on their cell phones using an app,” Alberto Piña said. “Of our buyers, fully 85 percent are under 30.” Braustin Mobile Homes began working in 2018 with another Geekdom startup that specializes in customer-centric software development on a customized app for home buyers. David Daeschler, SlideWave CEO and founder, heard about Braustin’s operational backlogs that made the home buying process slow for both buyers and Braustin’s team.



“We discovered some points in their process that could benefit from software applications and automation where could we put 20 percent of effort for an 80 percent improvement in the paperwork process for mortgage loans,” Daeschler said. The app sends automated paperwork notifications, guiding the customer through the entire home buying experience with “prompts on next steps and required buyer documents in an easily digestible format,” Piña said. “Buyers can use their cellphone to scan documents and send them back to us.” Housing can be scarce in remote, underpopulated areas in the U.S. The oil boom in the Permian Basin of West Texas, for example, has contributed to an acute housing shortage throughout the region. For many employees arriving to work, their first challenge is finding a suitable home, especially if they bring their families with them. Braustin is setting up six mobile home kiosks in H-E-B grocery store locations in underserved areas in West Texas plus Buda, Corpus Christi, Houston, and in New Mexico and Oklahoma. The buyer can tour homes virtually, connect at the kiosk to the


sales team in San Antonio via video teleconferencing to ask questions, and take home the AR model home content to view again. San Antonio startup Ractive is developing the virtual reality tours of Braustin’s homes. The two startups are working to produce the first AR-enhanced mobile home catalog. Scanning the floor plan using the Braustin app will enable a potential buyer to tour a home virtually in a 3D model from the catalog page. “The AR component for our app will be a first not only in the mobile home space but in real estate in general,” Piña said. “The new AR content Ractive is developing will allow customers to take the full experience home with them.” Installing multiple kiosks is more cost-effective than setting up physical showrooms. This allows the Braustin team to remain based in San Antonio while they interact with customers across many miles. “We can scale and expand using this model and still give our customers the face-to-face interaction at our kiosks and via our VR-enabled model tours,” Piña said. “It’s scary buying your first home. Even though we may never meet our customer in person, they still

Startups San Antonio San Antonio 2019 Startups Book

want someone they can trust walk them through the process, so our service kiosks will help us do that.”

Jonathan Perry demonstrates Braustin’s augmented reality floorplans. Photo Credit: Pamela Price.

The nation’s first virtual mobile home dealership is intent on doubling the company’s size in 2019 from seven to 14 employees. Braustin Mobile Homes has cleared $5 million in revenue selling 109 homes since launching in early 2017 and are on target to sell 150 homes in 2019. “Braustin is unique in that their new business model arose when they discovered some unsolved

problems in the manufactured housing industry,” Alamo Angels director Chris Burney said. “Their team has deep experience in the industry and have demonstrated their commitment to the new business by developing an initial application and conducting market validation.” The startup aims to put as many as possible into affordable, well-built homes at a price point typically around $28 to $29 per square foot. The average cost of new residential construction in San Antonio runs around $115 per square foot with the national average at $125 per square foot. With the soaring cost of housing, a well-constructed mobile home is a viable, appealing option for many. ”Our goal in starting Braustin Mobile Homes was to help bring more affordable housing options to buyers,” Piña said. We can’t do that alone, but by leveraging technology, we can bring the industry along with us.”

Featured image is of Mr. and Mrs. Smith on the front steps of their new Braustin mobile home with Albeto Piña. Courtesy photo.



Plus One Robotics


Demand for Intelligent Robots Drives Growth for Plus One Robotics

he move to automation is coming faster than many may realize. The strength of the economy and the tight labor market are putting great pressure on companies to adopt robots and automated tools to improve productivity and meet throughput requirements. That demand for sophisticated robots is driving the growth for one San Antonio startup in particular.

The industry leader in robot 3D-perception technology is Plus One Robotics, which received in fall 2018 an $8.3 million investment led by Pritzker Group Venture Capital and Zebra Technologies. “What is important is the launch of our new technology and the partnerships it took to build it,” Plus One Robotics chief executive officer (CEO) Erik Nieves said. Plus One Robotics has partnered with leaders in robot manufacturing, system integration, and e-commerce to develop the PickOne Perception system for the order fulfillment and parcel shipping sector. The PickOne system combines 2-D and 3-D computer vision systems with machine learning software to create a computer-guided picking system compatible with major robot brands.


The system helps robots used in order fulfillment and parcel shipping markets to “see” items, pick them up, and package parcels. At up to 1500 movements or “picks” per hour, the software generates pick points faster than any other 3-D vision software currently available, enabling the robots using the system to meet or exceed human picking rates, Nieves said. The computer vision system is coupled with artificial intelligence (AI)-enhanced software that can connect robots to one another in complex logistics and e-commerce automated robotic operations. The PickOne system can be installed on robots from any major robot manufacturer, including ABB, Fanuc, Kuka, Universal Robots, or Yaskawa. The $8.3 million investment is in addition to Plus One Robotics’ initial investment round of $2.4 million, according to CrunchBase. Schematic Ventures, a thought leader in supply chain automation, led the initial seed investment round with participation from Lerer Hippeau, ff Ventures, First Star, and Dynamo. The startup launched its new smart robotics system in May 2018 after a trial with an undisclosed customer. “What Plus One is doing is taking industrial robots that are ‘blind and stupid’ and applying sensor arrays and artificial intelligence to them,” Port San Antonio

Startups San Antonio San Antonio 2019 Startups Book

CEO Jim Perschbach said. “It’s going to change the world of logistics and manufacturing.�

and logistics industries began using ROS open source code repositories for their commercial robots.

Nieves worked for Yaskawa Motoman, a robotic arm manufacturer, for more than two decades and is a thought leader in robotics. He joined two former Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) automation engineers, Paul Hvass and Shaun Edwards, to create PlusOneRobotics in 2016. While at SwRI, Edwards founded the ROS-Industrial Open Source Project and co-founded the ROS-Industrial Consortia. Now led by SwRI, the ROS-Industrial Consortium Americas launched in March 2013. Hvass was the program manager for the ROS-Industrial Consortium of the Americas for about a year.

In 2016, the co-founders launched Plus One with a vision to build a new kind of robot but had little funding and no place to work. They met Dirk Elmendorf, co-founder of Rackspace and currently co-founder of Brokerage Engine, who offered workspace for the three men at his converted offices in the former H&H Coffee factory on the city’s East Side.

ROS—short for robot operating system, is the opensource software used as the operating system of a robot. The ROS system was created for personal robots in 2007 at the Stanford University Artificial Intelligence (AI) Laboratory. ROS provides the common framework for robotics applications and is used by the research community for service robotics applications, but is applicable for other applications, including industrial robotics. By 2011, manufacturing


[See Brokerage Engine’s story on page 30.] In those early days, “raising that kind of money was really hard to do,� Edwards said. “We couch surfed at their [Elmendorf’s] place when I had zero dollars and the three of us were not working.� The three co-founders shared how fraught with tension it was for a startup to launch an innovative new applied technology that many different customers could leverage. Edwards and Nieves also described how investors pressured the co-founders to move the company away from San Antonio.


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“We’re one of a handful [of companies] that has raised this much [money],” Edwards said. “It’s pretty significant for San Antonio.” Given that the startup has raised almost $11 million since the beginning of the year for its robotics technology, the funding reflects the potential of San Antonio’s innovative startup community. “I have always been a proponent for and truly believe this is San Antonio’s sweet spot and that tangible technologies completely match San Antonio’s DNA,” serial entrepreneur and Geekdom co-founder Nick Longo said. “I hope others in the ecosystem can take a lesson from what Plus One Robotics is doing.” Instructions: Requires Facebook app on your cellphone. Using your cellphone, navigate to

www. StartupsSanAntonio.com/ar-book. It will open your Facebook app. Select the camera option. Aim your cellphone’s camera at the image above to activate the augmented reality feature. Image credit: Leapfrog Promotions Image augmented reality credit: Mark Solis with Reality Devs and Love.Marketing

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Plus One Robotics has almost doubled over the past year to 21 employees. The company currently leases about 4,500 square feet of office and research laboratory space at Port San Antonio and anticipates moving into a 10,000 sq ft space at the Port in 2019. Plus One is also looking to hire junior and senior developers in robotics, AI, and computer vision as it scales in growth. The robotics company is underwriting an internship program with San Antonio universities and a college course at the University of Texas at Austin to help develop more robotics talent. All three men are actively involved in growing the local robotics community to encourage more residents to stay, learn, and eventually become employed by local robotics employers, such as Reckon Point.

[See Reckon Point’s story on page 19.] “It’s not widely known, but there are a good number of roboticists in San Antonio,” Edwards said. “We need to develop a more robust pipeline to supply the fast-growing need for robotics expertise.” CEO Nieves knows this firsthand as he is a San Antonio native who “had to leave for 20 years until I came back in 2005 when there were enough robots for me to work here,” Nieves added. “What we’re building at Plus One is really more of an approach than a product,” Nieves said. “I am motivated for this to be a win for San Antonio.”

Featured image is of Plus One Robotics co-founder and CTO Shaun Edwards explaining the 3-D camera system for robots. Photo credit: Startups San Antonio.

Elevating startups to succeed in the Alamo City


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Reckon Point


Reckon Point’s Indoor Airport Wayfinding App Places Startup on the Map

etailed indoor mapping is an emerging capability meeting growing market demand.

The need for more accurate indoor navigation technology in places such as airport terminals, hospitals, office buildings, sports arenas, university campuses, and retail outlets is driving the expected growth rate of 30 percent by 2022 for this segment, according to a MarketWatch Report. San Antonio-based Reckon Point specializes in indoor GPS mapping and navigation services. San Antonio native, chief executive, and founder Gabe Garza launched the startup in early 2015 after he engineered robots for indoor navigation using the earth’s field of electromagnetic signals to recreate an accurate layout of interior spaces.

doors, windows, walls, down to the locations of small features like ATMs and power outlets. Once an interior is mapped, the startup can add real-time geolocation to help a person using the Reckon Point app navigate a large space indoors. Their indoor positioning platform uses the advanced sensors in smartphones like magnetometers, accelerometers, and gyroscopes paired with the Earth’s magnetic fields to track people using their mobile phone app. “We’ve developed a unique integration of robotics, sensors and machine learning that can survey largescale buildings down to within two centimeters of accuracy,” Garza said. “We can do 3-D models of buildings so accurate you can put on VR goggles and walk through the interior spaces. We’ve done this for architects and managed to scan an entire 22-story building in only three days.”

Located at Port San Antonio, Reckon Point’s proprietary Mobile Indoor Geolocation Survey Unit (MIGSU) suite of services works with artificial intelligence and LiDAR scanning, a remote detection system that works on the principle of radar, but uses light from a laser. The addition of computer vision gives the mapping robot the ability to “see” and navigate itself while tagging and identifying different objects.

Reckon Point Helps Airport Passengers Find Their Way

Reckon Point’s robot can quickly map interior spaces accurately to create detailed layouts showing rooms,

Reckon Point was one of the first two startups participating in CivTechSA, a joint civic engagement

Indoor GPS mapping competitors such as Jibestream and Steerpath average an accuracy of about five meters and may not deliver a full end-to-end platform system.



residency program between the Geekdom co-working community and the City of San Antonio. The program matches startups (which work without compensation) with city departments to develop solutions requested by municipal leaders. The startup developed the wayfinding app for the San Antonio International Airport over the course of the program’s first fourmonth cohort, which ended in July 2018. The airport’s goal was to develop a wayfinding app that would assist passengers as they move from the TSA exit to the baggage claim, then outside to short-term parking, ground transportation, or the car rental facility. The Reckon Point app would use signals from smartphones paired with the Earth’s magnetic fields to track mobile phone app users to under a meter of their location.

“The market potential for this wayfinding platform is big ...” “The market potential for this wayfinding platform is big, since sports stadiums, industrial spaces, or architectural firms working on large-scale renovations can all use indoor GPS mapping,” said Alex Gomez, founder and CEO of Code2Revenue and chief revenue officer for Reckon Point. Reckon Point has mapped the airport’s terminal B and created a searchable interactive map to guide passengers to baggage claim and beyond, adding the exact location for about 300 points of interest down to power plugs, changing stations, breastfeeding rooms, and bathrooms, Garza said. “The app even tells you where you stand outside exactly for an Uber pickup, the hotel, and parking shuttles, or curbside pickup,” Garza said. The public-facing portion of the application may help travelers, but the platform can also support airport tenants—such as FedEx, concession owners, and airlines—in tracking staff and assets. Businesses could access the platform’s backend to know in real time the location of their employees or equipment like wheelchairs, Garza said. “Location-based advertising could help generate revenue for the airport that could go toward paying


for the system,” Garza added. “It’s a revenuegenerating system concept we pitched to the city that is self-sustaining if they choose to adopt it.” The City of San Antonio and the San Antonio International Airport is looking at options to hire Reckon Point to complete the airport mapping since the startup performed the proof-of-concept pilot project without compensation as a CivTech program participant. Reckon Point has mapped about 60,000 square feet of the airport or only 15 percent of the total space. “We saw the airport challenge as a great opportunity to develop a world-class wayfinding platform,” Garza said. “We focused on pushing the envelope to make robot-mapping smarter, faster, with even more precision. We know if we do this right it will help us succeed, as we have developed a fully functional platform for an airport in a major U.S. city.”

Plans for 2019 Reckon Point is developing indoor positioning analytics by coupling their existing indoor positioning technologies and creating the analytics data collection and reporting platform that can show how people move when attending a public event. Determining how foot traffic moves, whether to determine choke points in an interior space or learn where people tend to linger the most and learn why can be critical for physical security planning and business intelligence. Reckon Point’s real-time positioning and new data analytics capability gives businesses and organizations access to these insights. The startup is already working on implementing their robotics technology solution. “We’re collecting the position analytics for a convention in Raleigh, North Carolina in February,” Garza said. “The data can help convention organizers understand dwell times and movement patterns for convention center attendees.” Garza is seeking investment to help with the startup’s expansion.

“We’ll be using it to scale up our sales and marketing teams,” said Garza. “We’re looking to quadruple our revenue in 2019.”

Featured image is of Reckon Point founder Gabe Garza pointing out features on his GPS mapping robot. Photo credit: Startups San Antonio.

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FunnelAI Uses Artificial Intelligence To Find Customers on Social Media

o matter the industry, finding customers can be challenging and expensive. Traditional marketing methods focus on developing and mining networks of ever-expanding personal connections to find the next customer interested in your product or service.

Now think about how you find a new doctor or realtor—chances are you ask friends and family for their trusted recommendations on social media. Or maybe you ask for suggestions on a reliable truck model as you think about your next big vehicle purchase. One San Antonio startup is replacing the laborintensive methods of finding new customers with an artificial intelligence (AI) software-as-a-service platform that can extract insights from extremely large datasets like content on social media. Sridhar Kamma created in 2017 the first intelligent sales funnel company to use AI—FunnelAI. His startup provides companies targeted data on potential customers who post on social media about their readiness to buy certain products or services. FunnelAI can pinpoint, based on location and ZIP code those posting about future plans to buy a particular product or service. FunnelAI’s algorithm can sort through millions of public social posts daily,


generating highly qualified sales prospects for many different types of companies. FunnelAI’s technology can be used for many business sectors but they launched with a focus on the automotive and real estate industries. Kamma, who is a mechanical engineer and machine learning engineer, understands all too well the frustration looking for new customers. He lacked social media advertising or content marketing expertise and experienced the challenges firsthand in his previous startup. “There’s a lot of noise in social posts and looking for the intent to purchase was taking too much time,” Kamma said. “I decided to build an AI model to search for intentional, real-time social data prospects on prospective customers looking for specific products or services.” FunnelAI’s proprietary algorithm can distinguish between someone complaining or asking for advice on a purchasing decision. The software scans public posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Craigslist, and multiple forums, running in real time as it focuses on specific metropolitan areas, closest to the neighborhoods. Chief executive officer and chief technical officer Kamma co-founded FunnelAI with his sister Sujatha

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Kamma who is also an investor and serves as chief operations officer. “Sri saw a pain point, how the conversion rate from interest to purchase was very low with traditional approaches,” Sujatha Kamma said. “FunnelAI provides prospects with a high intent apt for conversational marketing for a high conversion rate for customers.” Sridhar Kamma first built Apposphere in 2015. That cloud-based app for businesses bundled 10 different applications into one to address every part of the business lifecycle, from customer relations management (CRM) to billing. One of its applications was the AI-fueled generation of new customer prospects. RealCo accelerator co-founder Michael Girdley saw Kamma pitch Apposphere in Austin and encouraged him to pivot the startup to focus on the AI-generated customer leads. Kamma created Aingines™, the proprietary software algorithm that forms the foundation for the newly renamed and refocused FunnelAI. Girdley also helped convince Kamma to move from Austin to San Antonio in June 2017 to become the third company to join RealCo’s cohort. “Every company is trying to reach millennials and FunnelAI has figured out how to do that,” Girdley said. “The secret is the millennials are speaking—just no one was listening.” The startup is working with auto manufacturers to launch the proprietary software algorithm at various dealerships across the U.S. to roll out the new capability in 2019. FunnelAI is also developing strategic partnerships with auto solution companies and automotive marketing groups, as well as with real estate agents in San Antonio and Austin to use FunnelAI for lead generation. “This is a very new experience for businesses, and we stress the importance of adjusting to selling socially,” Kamma said. “Connecting car dealers directly to their customers is one area where they can use some support, especially since people are changing how they buy cars and auto services.” Businesses now rely on filters based on keyword searches from social media, Facebook leads, and Google Adwords. Companies leverage AI to analyze its marketing data for more targeted information to find potential new customers, using services from nearcompetitors like Node to find new leads based on data

the company already has. Social media companies like Facebook may be the startup’s biggest competition if each one rolls out something similar in the coming years, but San Antonio investor Pat Matthews thinks they are not comparable. “One important macro trend right now is that typical lead gen sources for everyday businesses are tapped out,” said Matthews, who has invested in FunnelAI. “Facebook and Google only work for the largest companies or companies with very specific offers who can bid the most money for keywords and impressions. There is only so much keyword inventory or ad impression inventory.” The startup has gotten noticed by investors for its long-term potential to penetrate multiple markets with its AI platform. The Fund Conference chose FunnelAI as one of the top 10 best startups in Austin in 2018. RealCo’s Accelerator fund has to date invested $125,000 in the company and its co-founders raised $375,000 seed funding in 2018 with the Geekdom Fund, Active Capital, Alamo Angels, Nebraska-based Router Ventures, and angel investors from Dallas and Houston participating in that round. FunnelAI was also selected to participate in MassChallenge’s first cohort in its first Texas-based accelerator. FunnelAI reached $1 million in revenue by November 2018 and is continuing to grow at a steady 20 percent month by month. As the company looks to raise their next round in 2019 they continue to hire senior engineers, customer service, and sales experts. The startup has already outgrown its space in RealCo and has moved its team to a larger office space nearby in downtown San Antonio.

L to R: Sridhar Kamma, Founder, CEO; Suja Kamma, CoFounder, Strategy; Ron Davis, Director of Sales; Vivian Canales, Full Stack Developer; Larry Gonzales, Full Stack Developer; Brandom Lwowski, Machine Learning Engineer; Suman Poluri, Engineering

“FunnelAI is the fastest growing SaaS company in San Antonio right now,” Matthews tweeted.

Featured image is of FunnelAI co-founders Sujatha Kamma (left) and Sridhar Kamma. Not pictured is cofounder Suman Poluri. Photo courtesy FunnelAI. startupssanantonio.com


Intrinsic Imaging

Intrinsic Imaging Radiologist Develops Artificial Intelligence Tool to Streamline Workloads


rtificial intelligence (AI) was front and center at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show because of its capacity to influence every aspect of our lives. Now, AI’s reach is touching upon healthcare. Lance Reinsmith, M.D., is a radiologist with the South Texas Radiology Group and Intrinsic Imaging who is applying the power of AI to help those like him triage an overloaded system. Images obtained by MRI machines, CT scanners, and x-rays give clinicians the ability to look for signs of disease or injury in a patient. These digital images have so much data they take considerable time to review. That makes spotting the ones that require immediate attention from the more routine “normal” scans challenging for the radiologist with an evergrowing workload.

“Most of us are operating at or near full capacity, and several projections show that our workload will continue to rise in the future,” Reinsmith said. “Many industries have seen a surge in automation, and medicine is no exception.” There are routine functions in radiology—like measuring changes in the size of lesions—that AI could help automate. Reinsmith realized artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) tools could


analyze extremely large datasets such as radiology images to extract meaningful insights. His interests in big data analytics and neural networks led him to develop AI tools to help streamline a radiologist’s workflow, by sorting and flagging images that require more immediate attention than normal scans.

Intrinsic Imaging is Leader in AI Testing for the Clinical Market Reinsmith is one of two medical directors working on AI at Intrinsic Imaging, a San Antonio medical imaging core lab. They validate novel computer algorithms ML/AI companies are developing by providing imaging support in clinical trials for medical devices in commercial development. Intrinsic works with nearly all ML/AI biotech startups in the U.S. evaluating the model’s performance and collecting data for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, according to Richard Benedikt, a radiologist at Intrinsic. “We’ve become the busiest lab testing AI products being developed for the clinical market,” Benedikt said. “Intrinsic Imaging has become the world leader in imaging support for the FDA clearance of AI software.” A practicing radiologist for over nine years, Reinsmith started working on big data analytics in 2014. By 2018,

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he had written an AI algorithm using convolutional neural networks or CNNs, a type of deep neural network most commonly applied to analyzing visual imagery. Deep neural networks are computer algorithms used in machine learning inspired by the biological neural networks typically found in animal brains.

Healthcare’s AI Use In Early Stages

Reinsmith explained how AI in healthcare has emerged over the past year in part from these deep neural networks approaching human performance levels in detecting malignant growths in images such as mammograms.

“There is some misunderstanding that AI that can do everything,” Mehta said. “The big push in medicine is to find abnormalities faster, and AI can help with that.”

“We’re in the early days of using AI in medicine,” Reinsmith said. “Mammograms are the perfect use case for AI because the exam parameters are uniform and criteria for classifying abnormalities are tightly controlled.” Using neural networks to analyze medical images requires training it with known diagnoses so the model could “see” the way a radiologist’s eyes identify information in an image that correlates with normal structures or disease states. Medical images have millions of pixels and densely connecting multiple layers of a complex neural network potentially creating billions of individual data points to train. Overcoming these obstacles involves understanding the workings of the human eye as well as our brains, hence convolutional neural networks use filters called “convolutions” to mimic the receptive fields naturally found in our retinas. Models trained to identify everyday items in images use these convolutions to highlight distinctive features of different objects. Reinsmith used one such model but fine-tuned some of it to analyze specific parts in chest x-rays. The result is an algorithm that is 90 percent sensitive for detecting a normal chest x-ray. “While this may sound impressive, there is much more work to do,” Reinsmith explained. “For example, knowing an examination is likely normal is not the same as knowing why an examination is abnormal.” A lack of good quality, accurately labeled medical image datasets limits the model, but Reinsmith said, “radiologists in our city are hard at work to solve this problem.”

Intrinsic Imaging founder, vice president, and chief medical officer Amit Mehta, M.D., is a San Antonio radiologist and investor who sees AI as evolving as it learns more from working with more diverse data sets. As a tool, AI can help radiologists, it but “won’t be replacing clinicians anytime soon.”

Mehta pointed to Reinsmith’s unique ability to bridge two worlds: that of technologists expanding the limits of what humans can do and of clinicians who diagnose the patient beyond what is on a scanned image. “Interpretation of an image goes beyond the computer-assisted ability for detection, it’s the synthesis of what a patient is going through to make an accurate diagnosis,” Mehta said. “It’s the combination of the two that makes for great care.” The AI adoption curve is still early, Reinsmith said. He is betting AI will be used initially for an intelligent workflow to help radiologists become more efficient with their time to focus on the most pressing cases first. “Emerging technologies in automation offer enticing options for improving what we can get done in our busy schedules,” Reinsmith said. “What’s more, these advancements offer the potential to make us better at our jobs with enhanced diagnostic abilities and optimized treatment plans.” As Reinsmith continues refining the model, he is confident healthcare will soon realize more benefits as AI becomes widely adopted. “So much of our jobs taken up with mundane tasks. AI can free us up to focus more time on patient care,” Reinsmith said. “AI can make us better at what we do—research, diagnosis, and better use our time. “There is so much promise in AI in medicine, the potential is mind-boggling.”

Featured image is of Dr. Lance Reinsmith, a radiologist with Intrinsic Imaging. Photo credit: dlmoorephotography.



Ractive + DC Industries


Startup Companies DC Industries and Ractive Develop VR-Enhanced Cyber Training

ybersecurity training provider DC Industries is incorporating virtual reality (VR)-based scenarios from Ractive, a Geekdom-based startup, into their training programs. The two San Antonio startups have been collaborating on developing customized cybersecurity VR training over the past two months.

DCI will launch its new VR cybersecurity training with the Threat Actor Targeting and Exploitation – Cyber Espionage course scheduled to start Sept. 24 and again Dec. 10. The Cyber Incident Response VR class will begin Jan. 14, 2019. DCI’s full training schedule is online. Based at Port San Antonio, DCI provides targeted training for veterans transitioning into a cybersecurity career and plans to incorporate virtual reality into every technical training course in its curriculum, DCI founder and CEO Cindy McClister said. DCI is also one of three startup companies that joined to form a collaborative nonprofit organization called SAMSOC or the San Antonio Multidiscipline Security Operations Center. Rob Dodson runs the workforce development nonprofit Red Cell San Antonio helping individuals gain real-world experience needed for specific cyber jobs while RedKnight CEO Red Thomas


specializes in information technology (IT) security work with Department of Defense (DOD) clients. The three founders support SAMSOC’s nonprofit cyber range located at Port San Antonio, a concept being leveraged in five states to help grow the local cybersecurity workforce. Separate from her role supporting SAMSOC’s cyber range, McClister had been considering immersive technologies for her cyber training. After reaching out to Perry, McClister realized the two startups were a “perfect fit,” she said.

“We didn’t see VR training being used in cybersecurity ...” “We didn’t see VR training being used in cybersecurity training but knew we needed to change the dynamics in the training world because students need to see and touch it to grasp new concepts,” McClister said. Red Cell’s Dodson developed the classes to use VR for DCI, according to McClister. The first VR courses were custom designed given the employer demand

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for skills in targeting threat actors and cyber incident response. “You can’t potentially destroy a real system practicing cyber hunting skills,” Dodson said. “Adding VR to DCI’s training course allows students to experience the threat in a full 360-degree perspective.” Plans include incorporating both VR and augmented reality (AR) in the next training module to be developed to train students on how to respond to cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, Dodson said. The ultimate goal is to give students a “Matrix-like” view where students experience going inside the computer to see how hackers implant malicious code and stay hidden and which parts of the computer system are infected. “We’re now seeing ‘digital natives’ in training, and this is how they have learned all along [playing video games], so we’re taking advantage of something they already understand,” Dodson said. “No one else is doing this—they’re not even talking about this yet.” Founder and CEO Jonathan Perry launched Ractive in 2015 to develop interactive virtual reality experiences for training and entertainment. Perry’s VR content for DCI has role-playing elements in which the student is put in the position of a hacker trying to breach a system and access files. “When you think of global complex networks, it’s hard to visualize how that looks in physical space, how they branch off and interact,” Perry said. “Finding ways to help students develop a better mental model, so they understand cybersecurity from the threat hacker’s perspective is exactly what we had in mind as the benefit of incorporating VR.” Ractive completed Geekdom’s pre-accelerator program earlier in 2018 and got to know one of the program participants, the founders of Braustin Mobile Homes. Perry is developing an augmented reality app so the mobile homebuilders can give customers the ability to experience a virtual mobile home model tour. Ractive has also been working with the National Infantry Museum in Georgia since 2017 on VR scenarios. Wearing a headset, a visitor can sit in either a replica Humvee vehicle or Blackhawk helicopter and rescue people while fighting enemy forces and avoiding threats. The museum VR experiences are multiplayer as in a video game, so each person can see, hear and talk to other “players.”

Military, first responders and law enforcement personnel can use virtual reality training scenarios to practice responses to high-stakes situations, Perry said. Ractive is currently a subcontractor on a twoyear research and development-focused firefighter training project to simulate AR technology 10 years in the future. “AR now is not full FOV [field of view],” Perry said. “We’re exploring the user interface benefits of AR for firefighters where the whole visor of their helmet could be capable of a heads-up display feeding information like your oxygen levels and situational awareness of where you are inside a building.” Research indicates VR is an effective tool most suited to training cognitive skills by submerging users into real-life experiences for a safer alternative under controlled conditions to real-world training. Data also suggests VR training can be more memorable than video content, not to mention easily repeatable, scalable, and isolates the user from distractions. “VR-enhanced cyber training is important across the board, not just in the DoD world,” McClister said. “The commercial world is getting hit hard by cyber threats, too.” McClister and Dodson are working to expand the local cyber training ecosystem into a larger, more collaborative one, with different organizations joining to role play. The two founders are in discussions with Dr. Kevin Barton at Texas A&M University-San Antonio to incorporate the university’s cyber red team into DCI’s training. The collaboration between Ractive, a San Antonio downtown tech startup, and the Port-based DCI also demonstrates the value of founders from different sectors working together to produce innovations. “What’s exciting is that we’re seeing a change in how industry is adopting new ways of doing things with tech, and AR and VR are great examples of emerging technologies being adopted,” said Jim Perschbach, CEO of Port San Antonio. “San Antonio doesn’t need to be the next Silicon Valley—we can be the innovative city that is home to creative solutions to industrial and commercial challenges.”

Featured image is a screenshot from Ractive’s virtual reality scenario for DCI’s cybersecurity network control training. Courtesy image. startupssanantonio.com


The IMG Studio


The IMG Studio Shapes User Experiences with Augmented, Virtual Reality

he Pokémon Go craze of 2016 exposed people to location-based mobile games featuring augmented reality (AR) content that can project 3D fictional characters as an overlay on their environment using nothing more than the camera on their cellphones. The ability to connect people to their environment is unfolding in new, innovative ways as mobile phones become the most commonly used AR-capable device.

That AR capability has reached large-scale meetings, particularly ones held at convention centers. The IMG Studio is working with hospitality specialists The RK Group to develop a new application for the Henry. B. González Convention Center. This new technology can “set San Antonio apart from other destinations by allowing meeting attendees to set their own schedules, network with fellow attendees, and navigate the center’s spaces using the AR mapping feature, according to Casandra Matej, president and chief executive officer of Visit San Antonio. “This technology is above and beyond what we’ve seen in other destinations,” Matej said. “We’re looking forward to showcasing it to our clients considering San Antonio for future meetings and events.” After entering a specific code for each conference, the user can customize their schedule, with navigation


to each room and where to get coffee and food along the way. Most convention centers create an app for each convention which is not as cost-effective as a single, integrated platform. Also, none usually include the built-in geolocation since The IMG Studio has mapped the new app to the Convention Center’s layout. “Meeting organizers can use our app instead of building an app for each convention,” RK Group director of special projects Jennifer Brooklyn said. “The navigation features also makes this stand out from what is available.” The IMG Studio-developed app supports all meetings held at San Antonio’s convention center. The app gives meeting participants the ability to communicate with fellow attendees during a selected conference held at the Convention Center. Users can pin locations and leverage the app’s built-in navigation features to revisit them easily with the closing distance shown to that destination. Meeting attendees can also access the app to ask speakers a question before or during a speaker event. The platform will accommodate the addition of AR content designed for specific locations inside the Convention Center.

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The app is in the final stages of production with plans to launch in April. It will be downloadable at the Google Play Store and on iTunes. “As the long-time hospitality vendor for the Convention Center, we wanted to enhance the experience for attendees who come visit us,” Brooklyn said. “The app has turned out even better than I expected, I think it will change the way people experience a large convention center. The four-time Emmy Award-winning company specializes in digital media content including video, animation, web development, virtual reality, augmented reality, and mobile application development. Heather Chandler decided to launch The IMG Studio as a video production company in 2007 because the former news reporter saw a need to create cloud-hosted video content for clients. Her husband James joined the studio to develop websites and apps to host video content and specialized VR and AR content. The Chandlers plan to take the app beyond the Convention Center to other large venues in San Antonio and other cities across the U.S. “We think the potential for this platform is largely untapped,” James Chandler said.

First Virtual Reality (VR) Basketball Game for Adaptive, Paralympic Sports The IMG Studio is also leveraging its AR expertise to innovate how to deliver educational content in an inclusive, engaging manner. The San Antonio digital media content development company created the first-ever VR basketball game that gives players wearing VR goggles the perspective of playing basketball as a wheelchair athlete. The IMG Studio developed this game as a powerful recruiting tool for South Texas Regional Adaptive & Paralympic Sports (STRAPS) and Morgan’s Wonderland to train new basketball players, both with and without disabilities, thanks to funding from Silver and Black Give Back, the official nonprofit organization of the Spurs basketball team. The IMG Studio president James Chandler approached STRAPS with the idea to develop the VR content. “Not many companies are doing this—developing VR content for rehabilitation,” James Chandler said.

“We’re gamifying this to make it fun to play for everyone, regardless of ability to play basketball.” Silver and Black Give Back and STRAPS have given The IMG Studio a second round of funding to add new features to the game they first developed in 2018. The enhancements include incorporating artificial intelligence to enable players to play against one another in the VR game and the ability to access the game in the cloud. The game will be available for download at the Oculus Store in May.

STRAPS’ Brooke Matula speaks to a group of adaptive athletes about The IMG Studio’s new VR basketball game. Photo courtesy The IMG Studio.

“We also added the ability to track the user’s stamina and overall performance for the rehabilitation process,” James Chandler said. “We were invited to the largest rehabilitation convention in the world in 2018 to showcase our work and received lots of positive feedback.” The studio’s goal is to make rehabilitation as engaging as possible using advances in technology. “We at STRAPS are so excited that this emerging technology is putting players in the game in a virtual way and increasing awareness of Paralympic sports,” STRAPS director Brooke Matula said. “This project is unique because it’s building something that has never been done before—building in inclusion.” With augmented reality quickly becoming one of the hottest trends in the marketing and advertising industries, The IMG Studio is open to leveraging its specialized expertise in new applications. “We’re really only beginning to scratch the surface, especially as technology is changing so quickly,” James Chandler said.

The featured image is of The IMG Studio team, from left: Enrique Urbina, Heather Chandler, James Chandler, Andrew Jacobson. Courtesy photo. startupssanantonio.com


Brokerage Engine


Broker Expertise, Rackspace Experience Powers Brokerage Engine

s real estate sales have become more complex, real estate brokerage firms are wrestling with how to manage the massive flow of information generated from sales and purchases of investment properties. One San Antonio startup has developed a web-based software end-to-end platform that addresses this widespread pain point for real estate brokerage firms. Brokerage Engine launched its software as a service (SaaS) platform for brokerage firms in spring 2018 with four co-founders, two from the brokerage world, two from the technology world.

Brokerage Engine’s president Brianne Alston had been working as Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty CFO for over six years (and at the firm for a total of 14 years), working closely with its broker-owner J Kuper. Kuper Sotheby’s has been in business for 40 years in San Antonio and Boerne, but recent acquisitions triggered their expansion to the Austin market. With growth came the challenges of managing large-scale operations efficiently with accurate accounting. “We saw a lack of functionality in software for what today’s real estate brokerages need,” Alston said. “We needed something that could help us manage listings, digital marketing for each listing, as well as support a brokerage’s operations with data on management,


closing transactions, and accounting. What we realized we needed was a ‘brokerage in a box.’” After looking for a software solution on the market and not finding one that worked well, Alston moved the Kuper Sotheby accounting department from Alamo Heights to Geekdom, a downtown San Antonio co-working community in 2016. Co-founders Kuper and Alston were intent on finding tech-savvy partners who could help develop their idea for a new brokerage software platform. Geekdom co-founder and mentor Nick Longo introduced Kuper and Alston to an experienced developer who also happened to have experience in launching a startup that eventually became the global leader in cloud hosting. Longo’s introduction led Alston to none other than Dirk Elmendorf, cofounder of Rackspace Hosting. That introduction led to Dirk and brother Brett becoming both co-founders of and investors in Brokerage Engine.

Building an Enterprise SaaS Company Chief technology officer Dirk Elmendorf was coding the software with several developers at first. Since launching, Brokerage Engine has grown from a handful of employees to a team of 40 who work on platform development, accounting, customer care, and support now that they have moved from a

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converted warehouse on San Antonio’s East Side to an 8,000 square-foot office space in downtown San Antonio. Responsible for the overall experience of the startup’s products and services, chief experience officer (CXO) Brett Elmendorf said the Brokerage Engine platform tracks all real estate transactions so anyone in a brokerage firm with permission can access the software for the latest data. This feature is essential for many brokerage firms that do not have enough staff to cover if a key accounting person is out of the office for any length of time. “We want to level the playing field for brokers,” Brett Elmendorf said. “We’re doing that by giving agents and brokers the best tools available.” Creation of the brokerage software platform has quickly evolved into an enterprise business that spans across three companies. Brokerage Engine chief executive Kuper continues to head the Kuper Sotheby brokerage company. The Kuper Sotheby accounting department has moved into Brokerage Engine to provide support for customers using the software platform, which can handle all client accounting in a related, but separate business activity. Efforts to license the software to other brokerage firms are handled by the parent company Brokerage Engine which has evolved into a software company to handle the SaaS licensing business segment. Brokerage Engine’s platform includes an app so brokers can access data from the platform’s backend accounting or front-end real estate listings and upload on the go in between appointments. The startup is generating revenue with its 30 or so brokerage clients in Washington, Illinois, Florida, California, and Texas, and is focused on servicing brokerages nationwide. After self-funding the software development, the startup is looking to launch its Series A round of fundraising by the end of 2019. “We’re creating enterprise software-- it captures all the business processes for a brokerage firm,” Dirk Elmendorf said. “We have customers in various stages of conversion because we’re getting integrated into their business.” He is excited that the San Antonio ecosystem provides so many opportunities for “industry experts

to collide with technically skilled people to create real businesses,” he said. “I think the latest wave of growth on the internet is going beyond building the internet up [which is what Rackspace did with cloud hosting] to revamping entire industries,” Elmendorf said. “The business people with experience in an industry are the key to unlocking a market because they understand the industry—you cannot build what you do not truly understand.” In today’s competitive software market Elmendorf highlighted the need to differentiate your startup by choosing business partners who can speak directly to customers in their language. Brokerage Engine’s business founders know the needs and challenges of running a brokerage and can demonstrate the true value of Brokerage Engine to others in the industry. “Tech has gotten easier,” Elmendorf said. “The hard part is getting customers to know that your solution is the one to choose. We have a solid idea that can only be created when you have expertise in business and tech—you have to cross disciplines to discover things and innovate.” All co-founders agreed they launched Brokerage Engine to sell it as a brokerage platform to capture accounting data and real estate listings. What they’ve discovered is an even larger unmet customer need. “We built this platform to capture sales accurately because that is what drives a brokerage firm,” Dirk Elmendorf said. “What we’ve discovered is clients need a ‘sales engine,’ a platform that is able to account for every transaction down to the penny.” That realization is driving the startup to build an impressive end-to-end enterprise platform to calculate everything relating to each real estate transaction from beginning to close of sale, including commissions. “We didn’t think we’d get asked to do this,” Brett Elmendorf said. “But we’re obsessed with ‘getting the math right’ and that’s the huge unmet need brokers have. We’re the ones to meet that.”

Featured Image is Brokerage Engine co-founders (from left) Dirk Elmendorf, Brianne Alston, and Brett Elmendorf stand in the Brokerage Engine office at 425 Soledad Street in San Antonio. Not pictured is cofounder J Kuper. Photo credit: Startups San Antonio. startupssanantonio.com


Flightpath Finance


Flightpath Finance Offers Financial Modeling for Businesses

lightpath Finance is attracting the attention of investors for its financial modeling service for small to mid-sized technology companies. The startupreceiveda $515,000 seed round investment from a leading venture capital firm and angel investors in November and $25,000 from the Geekdom Community Fund. The company sells the Connected Financial Model, a financial modeling software as a service (SaaS) planning tool for businesses to track and forecast revenue, cash, and expenses. The platform integrates with the customer’s accounting and internal data sources to provide a financial dashboard that is always up-to-date. Active Capital, a San Antonio-based venture firm that leads seed rounds for founder-led, businessto-business (B2B) SaaS companies, led Flightpath Finance’s seed investment funding round. Alamo Angels and existing customer and angel investor Bill Boebel also participated in the round. Serial entrepreneur and Active Capital’s founder Pat Matthews first invested in Flightpath Finance in 2017. Matthews recognized Flightpath filled the gap in the market for financial modeling tools and services, especially those that give founders a current status rather than a one-time snapshot.


“Every startup and fast growing business needs a robust financial model so they can measure the health of their company and plan for its future,” Matthews said. “This means business leaders must create their own custom models…most quickly grow outdated and therefore become worthless.” Flightpath Finance supports small to mid-sized technology companies, from startups up to $15 million to mid-market companies. Anaplan could be considered a competitor except they service larger international companies, while Flightpath Finance’s modeling services target small to mid-range businesses. Founder Jaakko Piipponen first launched Flightpath Finance in 2015 as Expert To Help, Inc., a service to match companies with specific financial expertise. Over time, Piipponen realized companies needed more in-depth, current financial modeling. “We can organize the dashboard and build the model to produce data that’s displayed in a founder-friendly way,” Piipponen said. “We provide financial insights that point to root causes in a company’s financials.” Geekdom was one of Piipponen’s first clients when Luke Owen was the chief operating officer (COO) for the San Antonio downtown co-working space.

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Owen left his position as Geekdom’s pre-accelerator program director to join Flightpath Finance as chief customer officer (CCO) and co-founder in 2018. Ricky Davila is the chief technology officer (CTO) and third co-founder. Piipponen’s journey as an entrepreneur started on his family’s farm in Finland when he was only seven years old. Selling cucumbers and pigs, his early interest in business led him to study finance at Finland’s Aalto University. After graduation, he moved to London to work in investment banking at Credit Suisse. Piipponen relocated to Los Angeles in 2010 where he became the CEO of two technology startups. His previous companies were Kiitostech, a tool that allowed users to add product information to YouTube videos and Remote Garage, an on-demand storage service. Piipponen moved to San Antonio in 2013 and shut down Remote Garage by 2015. Launching Flightpath Finance in November 2015, Piipponen worked on his financial model concept as a Techstars StartupNext program participant in April 2016. Flightpath Finance’s model is “targeted for bootstrappers and those funded by capital who want to make the best use of their funding,” Piipponen said. The SaaS platform can be customized to organize a company’s existing and current financial data in a format that makes sense for business owners. The initial model focuses on how the company has been performing over the past four months to keep founders aware of emerging issues for quicker remediation. Once the initial model is completed, Flightpath Finance can also create custom forecasts displaying data-driven insights on new customers, expansion, churn, or contraction.

Detecting financial trends and addressing them proactively becomes imperative for startup founders. When a small business makes a mistake, the consequences can be a matter of survival, much more so than at a large company with significant financial reserves. “Most growth companies would benefit from the strategic advice of a CFO, but often it does not make sense to hire one full time,” Owen said. “Our platform and integrations make it much more efficient to provide reporting, forecasting, and financial advice to growing companies to help them make better decisions and accelerate growth.” Flightpath Finance is looking to hire full stack engineers experienced in JavaScript and Node.JS. as well as professionals with a finance background and venture capital experience. The startup plans to further expand its integrations to more customer data sources like sales pipelines from Salesforce, payment data from Stripe, and human resources data from platforms like Gusto, according to Davila. “This is valuable tool and service for founders,” Piipponen said. “We want to be there for founders in the early stages to earn their trust as we support them with their sensitive financial data and provide objective recommendations.” With customers like Jungle Disk, Promoter.io, and VidGrid, the financial modeling B2B SaaS startup is interested in growing along with their customer base. “I invested first because I believe in Jaakko,” Matthews said. “Flightpath is pursuing an enormous market opportunity, and I believe Jaakko and his team are the ones to pursue it.”

Pingboard started as a Flightpath Finance customer. Its founder Bill Boebel became an investor after he realized Flightpath Finance could provide a turnkey “financial model in a box” to companies, giving them a reliable way to start forecasting their revenue and expenses. “I’ve invested in 30-plus startups, and most companies do not (unfortunately) know how to forecast their revenue and expenses,” Boebel said. “Until companies have $5 to 10 million in revenue and hire a CFO, most financial forecasts I’ve seen are very rudimentary and contain a lot of unreasonable growth assumptions that are not based on reality.”

Alberto Piña talks with Flightpath Finance’s Luke Owen at Geekdom. Photo credit: White Cloud Drones

Featured image is the founder of Flightpath Finance, Jaakko Piipponen. Photo credit: Startups San Antonio.





Construction Trucking Loaded with Potential for Dauber

he first startup to join the RealCo accelerator program may not appear to be your typical tech startup at first glance.

Dauber Applications Inc. was co-founded in 2015 by longtime construction industry executive Brian Jones who had worked at Bartlett Cocke General Contractors for 16 years. He, along with software developer (and brother) Travis Jones, and Ward Dow, owner of local utility contractor Ella SA Contracting LP, saw untapped potential in the unpredictable world of construction trucking, specifically, dump trucks. By 2017 the Dauber team had launched their web and mobile applications to help dump truck fleets better serve their customers, including aggregate material suppliers, general contractors, and earthwork contractors. A major challenge for all trucking companies, including ones using 18-wheelers, is the national truck driver shortage. According to the American Trucking Association, there are 50,000 fewer drivers than needed to meet demand. This shortfall is projected to increase over the next decade as older drivers retire and fewer drivers enter the workforce.


This driver shortage has especially hit the construction industry, which has a finite number of trucks and drivers, leaving contractors struggling to find fleets to service their projects. Dump truck fleet operators in particular use antiquated operational and dispatch tools and are unable to meet demand, often forced to turn away work. Construction companies typically use a paper ticketing system and phone calls to subcontractors to set up trucking routes. The volume of paper tickets forms the basis for invoicing, which can take weeks to process payments to drivers. The Dauber app moves that entire process to the cloud, which facilitates faster truck driver payments. It also provides an optimization tool that allows fleets to complete more loads with their existing number of drivers and trucks, in some cases up to 20 percent more loads per day. This increase in efficiency significantly increases the operator’s revenue. The application displays the GPS locations of vehicles so users can watch the trucks driving their loads in real time. While Dauber focuses on providing software to existing small and medium-sized trucking companies, Jones has seen other companies enter the market trying to be “Uber for dump trucks.”

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“We reject the ‘Uber for dump trucks’ business model,” Jones said. “The dump truck industry is built on trust between humans. The great operators spend years building relationships with their customers, drivers, and owner-operators. We respect that. The ‘Uber’ model ends up stealing customers and, most importantly, drivers and owner-operators.” Instead, Dauber believes their software will help existing trucking companies run operations and dispatch more effectively while providing customers real-time information in a user-friendly interface. At least 20 companies across Texas are using the startup’s app with more coming onboard soon from California and other states. Dauber has raised $1.5 million in seed funding to date, with more than half of its investors representing construction and trucking companies. The goal for the startup is to start its Series A round of funding by the end of 2018 and into the first quarter of 2019, Jones said. The investment would be used to help the company scale up sales and development for expansion across the U.S.“Our time in RealCo has helped us address that span from seed

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funding to Series A—where all the hard work is,” Jones said. “We’ve learned that you’re not going to get much more investment if you don’t have an idea that has a market and is scalable.” As more freight is moved greater distances as part of far-flung supply chains among distant trading partners, more efficient trucking operations will be paramount in reducing traffic, maximizing loads, and minimizing costs. By using technology to optimize trucking loads Dauber addresses this major pain point, a “big problem” RealCo managing director Rich Grote sees as the startup’s unique market. “Dauber’s founders have deep experience in an often ignored vertical and have done a great job of identifying a real problem, using best practices and data-driven decisions in how they run their business and close deals,” Grote said. “They have their ears to the ground in this niche.”

Featured image is the Dauber team: (from left) Ward Dow, Brian Jones (in front), Travis Jones, Jay Heck (holding phone). Courtesy photo.

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Chargify Grows As SaaS Companies Need More Flexible Billing

onsumers like fixed pricing and an easy payment process when it’s time to spend money on recurring purchases. That explains why the subscription model of billing for services has exploded over the past decade. Starting in the business-to-business (B2B) software to consumer services, subscription billing has become the business model for products and services from shaving supplies to online streaming video and more. Benefits for companies using the subscription billing model include better customer retention, higher lifetime value from customers, and more predictable revenues. Customized subscription billing can get complicated pretty quickly, however. Get it wrong, and a bad customer experience could mean lost clients and revenue. That’s where Chargify comes in as a leader in the subscription billing space. The San Antonio-based company offers recurring billing and subscription management for thousands of B2B software as a service (SaaS) companies with more than 23 million subscriptions globally and $3 billion the company has processed in revenue since its launch in 2009. David Hauser, Michael Klett, and Siamak Taghaddos founded Chargify; Klett remains as Chargify’s


chief technology officer. Venture equity company Scaleworks acquired Chargify in 2016.

A Busy Year for Chargify Chargify developed Elastic Billing in early 2018 to give companies the ability to easily set different price points for each customer type from one central interface. Adding or removing categories as requirements change does not require in-house coding, so customer-facing teams can give a break to non-profits and startups that might not be able to pay the full price, for example. Chargify’s analytics also tracks the impact of price changes on revenue and customer turnover. Before Chargify offered Elastic Billing, only the largest companies who could afford to create custom billing software. “The economy is clearly moving to subscription-based models,” Scaleworks co-founder Lew Moorman said. “But we are just in the early days of this transition. People expect upgrades and constant improvement and less upfront cost. This can apply to almost any part of the economy—and it soon will.” Chief executive Tom Rotem came to Chargify in August 2018 from Yotpo where he was senior vice president for strategic partnerships. At Yotpo, which

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sells marketing software, Rotem used Chargify’s services and knew firsthand Chargify was a company with strong organic growth, impressive considering the startup is one of the first SaaS companies.

for accounting. Founded in 2014, ProRata has several employees who now work for Chargify providing financial reporting software for $600 million worth of recurring revenue of customers.

“We’re helping teams be more innovative and creative ...”

ProRata addresses the need Chargify’s customers identified to improve their ability to generate financial reports in compliance with new Financial Accounting Standards Board rules that went into effect Jan. 1. The new rule helps standardize business financial reporting, so it is easier to understand and compare across industries.

“SaaS has grown so much as a sector there’s more companies offering subscription billing, but a company’s infrastructure may hamper innovation if they are not able to implement complex billing,” Rotem said. “We’re helping teams be more innovative and creative by allowing them to experiment with pricing, product, and service offerings without creating a billing nightmare and having to write code.” Chargify launched WhoPays in October 2018 to allow a payer to assign or reassign payment responsibility for subscriptions or groups of subscriptions, according to the company. Think of a large company with different teams using a subscription service with each team paying separate invoices for varying levels of service. WhoPays helps the business consolidate and manage their payments with different subscribers within an organization into a single invoice that can be paid in one transaction. Rotem explained how WhoPays was designed to relieve the pain points for employees involved in tracking so many subscriptions. “We use our product, so we approach product development from a customer-based approach,” Rotem said. “We realized client-facing teams not only needed a way to tailor offerings over time for customers, they also need to track it in billing.” Chargify’s latest innovation was designed for financial teams in companies charged with tracking accounting and inventory. Their NetSuite integration syncs Chargify customers and transactions to NetSuite’s accounting and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software to eliminate manual, time-consuming financial tracking and reporting processes for a company. In December Chargify acquired the Atlanta-based ProRata, a tech startup used by software companies

Chargify’s Plans for 2019: More Growth Rotem plans to focus in 2019 on giving Chargify’s SaaS customers even more flexibility with the addition of new tools designed to help companies scale internationally. The tool will focus on how to capture and recognize revenue, which can get complicated when dealing with different currencies. “We’re working to help on customers make better business decisions in their recurring subscriptions,” Rotem said. “We’re working to solve challenges for the whole company—product teams, client-facing teams, developers, and finance and accounting.” A native of Israel, Rotem has a master’s degree from Harvard Business School and two bachelor’s degrees — one in accounting from Brigham Young University and one in plant sciences from The Hebrew University. He was a pilot in the Israeli Air Force for ten years on active duty and five years in the reserves before becoming an entrepreneur. Since moving to Texas from Salt Lake City, Rotem has found San Antonio to be an especially welcoming city. “I’ve been offered the military discount at businesses even though I did not serve in the U.S. military,” Rotem said. San Antonio has also become a good place to grow Chargify. The company has almost doubled its workforce over the past 22 months to about 70 employees and continues its aggressive growth with ten job openings. “Not all companies are scaling at this rate,” Rotem said. “We’re looking to build a great company by staying ahead of the market.”

Featured image is of Tom Rotem, CEO of Chargify. Photo credit: Startups San Antonio. startupssanantonio.com




Dearduck Makes it Easier to Buy for Others

he entrepreneur who pioneered “buying for others” marketing is helping retailers by using her knowledge of deep machine learning and psychology. Dearduck founder Katy Aucoin has created a software as a service (SaaS) recommendation platform that businesses can use to help their customers make informed purchases. She calls this customized marketing approach BFO or buying for others which makes up 30 percent of all retail sales, according to the National Retail Federation. That 30 percent can distort the profile of a retail customer, Aucoin explained. Businesses pay money to collect data on a customer’s personal preferences, but it may reflect a customer’s needs to buy for someone else. “The way it works now we get ads generated on our past internet searches without any understanding of the context behind the purchase—was it for you, or someone else?” Aucoin said. “There has been no easy way to receive recommendations for someone else or to learn all the little things others love.” Dearduck initially launched as a consumer-facing app for shoppers to discover gifts for their friends. Aucoin pivoted the startup to focus more on the business-to-business or B2B market to give retailers the means to help their customers buy for others.


The retailer would use Dearduck’s front-end toolset to create interactive, white-labeled targeted marketing (say, an engaging poll for you and your friends to preview a retailer’s clothing collection). The customer makes choices and shares the unique online link with friends to discover what preferences they share in common. Retailers can then learn about customer preferences and identify the relationships between shoppers. Dearduck’s cloud-based platform collects, stores, and applies preference and network data to automate BFO marketing for retailers via emails with personalized recommendations for the shopper and their friends. Dearduck’s software has increased growth for retailers up to four times by converting a brand’s social followers (and their friends) into highvalue customers. “The way people engage with each unique relationship helps us refine the software’s deep machine learning and continue to grow it into artificial intelligence,” Aucoin said. Developing this new BFO marketing segment and an AI-powered tool that can offer recommendations based on customer preferences and relationships landed Dearduck on Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of 20 companies investors are watching.

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“We’ve created BFO marketing as a new category to help people learn about the people they care about,” Aucoin said. “It’s my way of deepening relationships. When you don’t have information about someone’s preferences, we often choose based on our own preferences.”

Buying For Others Makes You Happy As Dearduck focused on the B2B retail market, Aucoin applied what psychologists have been able to prove—that emotion is a driving force in purchasing decisions. Make the right choice for someone and that happy feeling can reinforce the relationship and make you happier in the process. Emotions—like the feeling that a brand’s values align with one’s own— are the root of consumer preferences for certain brand-name products.

about many Pearl events without overwhelming people. “With Dearduck’s expertise, we’ve been able to build thousands of Pearl user profiles and dramatically grow our newsletter subscription base and open rate,” Fauerso said. “We are now able to target events, culinary offerings, and retail experiences based on the personal preferences for thousands of Pearl users.” Typical marketing emails have an average of 10 to 15 percent open email rate, in contrast to Dearduck’s BFO email open rate of 50 percent or more. Their software platform has helped the Pearl Brewery complex link its restaurant and retail tenants in more meaningful ways by getting the right messaging to the right people.

Aucoin’s interest in learning what people enjoy most started when she was a child trying to convince her parents to let her give personalized swag bags to each of her friends coming to Aucoin’s birthday parties. She charged one dollar for a customized tour of her grandparents’ backyard garden based on which flowers each family member seemed to like best.

Aucoin is working on creating a network effect that can boost a retailer’s ability to acquire customers at an exponential rate. By applying the software algorithm to interactions on social media channels, press releases, and email marketing, multiple channels can be used to build upon the company’s relationship with customers via BFO marketing.

When she was an information technology consultant working with large retailers like Walmart, Aucoin helped them create internal efficiencies across multiple applications for enhanced customer experience. That got her thinking about the need to learn about customers within a larger context—their buying networks.

“Dearduck is doing innovative work at the intersection of consumer preferences and online relationships,” Fauerso said. “We’ve seen incredible results over the last ten weeks—far exceeding our expectations—especially as it relates to the network effect of growing our customer base.”

By 2015, Aucoin realized that leveraging her background in data analytics with her interest in the psychology of understanding others could help retailers convert a new segment into customers buying for others. “When people see something that reminds them of a friend, they often buy it—special occasion or not,” Aucoin said. “When in doubt, people don’t buy and that loses retailers an enormous amount of money.”

Helping Businesses Connect to Customers Aucoin’s clients include the San Antonio Spurs basketball team, online digital resource CultureMap, and San Antonio’s Pearl Brewery complex of tenants. Pearl Brewery’s chief marketing officer Elizabeth Fauerso has been working with Aucoin to address their challenge in connecting to online followers

Ongoing discussions with global retailers interested in adopting BFO marketing are driving the startup’s rapid growth as the core team of four looks to hire those with strong data science experience. As for Aucoin, she is participating in the Tech Stars Austin 2019 class and continues to evolve BFO marketing. “When we started it was about making recommendations for gifts,” Aucoin said. “We have evolved into an engaging tool that helps people learn about others and deepen their relationships.”

Featured image is of Dearduck founder Katy Aucoin. Courtesy photo.




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Tailored for Smaller Businesses, CyberFortress Delivers New Kind of Cyber Insurance


ost insurance providers tend to tailor their cyber insurance policies for large-scale enterprises. Business owners usually must pay large annual premiums upfront for oftentimes confusing coverage options that lack historical data to quantify cybersecurity risks. Most policies do not cover cyber-instigated business interruption which can lead to significant losses in online revenue. If the company files a claim, the investigation can take many months during which the owner must survive financially before receiving a payout on an insurance policy. Lacking the robust reserves of larger companies, small- or medium-sized business owners may face bankruptcy in the aftermath of a cyber event. What CyberFortress does is offer cyber insurance policies designed for small- and medium-sized companies.

“Applying analog methods to quantify digital risk just doesn’t work—actuary tables for cyber risk do not exist,” CyberFortress co-founder and CEO Huw Edwards said. “What we’re building is a data-driven model to assess cyber risk for small businesses.” Cyber coverage carries high risks, so only major carriers such as AIG, Apogee Insurance Group, Chubb, and Zurich offer such policies. These relatively new

policies usually exclude coverage of losses from socially engineered attacks like phishing, the theft of intellectual property due to a cyber attack, or the loss of online sales. Despite these caveats, cybersecurity insurance is projected to grow to $20 billion by 2025 and become the fastest-growing sector in insurance.

Focus on Smaller Businesses Leads to a New Kind of Cyber Insurance Edwards has long recognized the need for smaller business owners to protect themselves from cyber risks. Edwards and Bret Piatt founded Porthcawl Holdings to buy the data backup and cybersecurity company Jungle Disk from Rackspace in 2016. Piatt became Jungle Disk’s CEO and Edwards its chief financial and strategy officer. Jungle Disk provides small- and medium-sized businesses secure data storage and associated services such as password management from Team Password, the startup Jungle Disk acquired in early 2018. “When we first bought Jungle Disk it only offered encrypted backup storage,” Edwards said. “We’ve since added cybersecurity, password management, network threat protection, and email archiving. Part



of our long-term plan was always to offer financial protection against cyber-related events.”

the change and adjusts the policy price to reflect the reduced risk.

Edwards at first attempted to become a third-party cyber insurance broker selling an existing carrier’s cyber insurance policy. He discovered cyber policies were complicated, lacked risk-based, data-driven assessments, and entailed a painful claims process— in short, “not small-business friendly,” as Edwards told Startups San Antonio.

“When we provide a potential customer their risk score for free, we also give them recommendations based on the score every month, regardless of whether they buy our insurance policy or not,” Edwards said.

The experience drove Edwards to create a new kind of cyber insurance company focused on meeting the specific needs of smaller businesses. In early 2018 Edwards left Jungle Disk to launch the San Antoniobased CyberFortress with four Jungle Disk employees: chief technology officer Michael DeFelice, business development lead Beth Watts, product lead Nate Shames, and operations lead Grant Herbon. Piatt said CyberFortress is “a solution for real risks in online businesses, closing the major gaps left after they obtain policies required by public policy today.”

How CyberFortress Insurance Works The emerging cyber insurance industry lacks historical data, so Edwards looked for other datadriven approaches to assess cyber risks. CyberFortress looks holistically at the cyber “hygiene” of a smaller business to uncover potential weaknesses when pricing cyber policies. Once a business owner submits a website address to inquire about insurance, the CyberFortress proprietary model calculates the cyber risk score for the business based on factors such as the email domain and website infrastructure the company uses. Using a deep machine learning algorithm, the model gets “smarter” over time at generating a risk score for applicants interested in cyber insurance. The first policy CyberFortress will offer insures against business interruption for companies with online revenue. The insurance is broader than what is currently available in the event of a cyber attack, as CyberFortress will also cover business losses due to an interruption in the company’s hosting service or e-commerce payment platform. Another benefit CyberFortress offers is reassessing the customer’s cyber risk on a continuing basis. When the business owner takes steps to strengthen its cyber defenses, the CyberFortress model detects


CyberFortress also plans for a responsive claims process to “get money fast into the hands of the small business owner,” according to Edwards. The intent is to pay claims proactively to businesses in the event of a detected business interruption. The business interruption policy does not cover the costs of the data breach, remediation efforts, or for a cyber investigation, Edwards said. However, should an e-commerce company’s website go down for 12 or more hours, CyberFortress will initiate the claims process for the business and send payments. “If a small business cannot recover quickly from such an interruption, it’s enough to derail the company,” Edwards said. “CyberFortress can get a cyber claim paid within 24 hours of an incident and continue to pay business owners on a daily basis.” CyberFortress plans to roll out policies in 2019 on a state by state basis, with Texas as its first base for operations. Plans are to offer small business owners the option to pay policy premiums on a monthly basis, rather than in one lump annual sum. The company has received a seed round of funding from Porthcawl Holdings, Jungle Disk’s parent company, and has the potential for additional funding in the coming months, according to Edwards. The cyber insurance startup operates out of Geekdom, a San Antonio co-working space. The five-member startup is looking to hire a data scientist and others to fill insurance-related roles in the new company. Launching a new way of providing cyber insurance will hopefully prompt small business owners to take steps to strengthen cyber defenses for reduced premiums. “We’re helping to promote good cyber hygiene by building an ongoing relationship with our customers,” Edwards said.

Featured image is of the CyberFortress team, from left: Michael DeFelice, Huw Edwards, Beth Watts, Nate Shames, and Grant Herbon. Not pictured is Halie Koehler. Courtesy photo.

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Innovative Cybersecurity Services for National Security Drive Inflow’s Growth

here is a cybersecurity company in San Antonio that is scaling even as it keeps a low profile. Inflow landed in third place on the San Antonio Business Journal’s list of fastest-growing companies for 2018. The startup grew its revenue by 686 percent from 2015 to 2017 to a reported $3.2 million. What Inflow does is provide “innovative services solving emerging National Security issues.” That translates into a startup that works for “threeletter agencies doing work classified Top Secret and above,” said Angel Crockett, chief executive officer of Inflow. Crockett founded the cybersecurity company to provide specialized expertise and services to the U.S. government. They have over 50 employees working at multiple locations worldwide on everything from cyber and intelligence to identity intelligence and specialized training.

“We take concepts and best practices leveraged in the IT [information technology] industry and apply it across the intelligence community and traditional weapons analysis,” Crockett said. “With our streamlined processes, something that would take a year to analyze we can get done in a month.”

Crockett was born in Waco and grew up in Texas and Singapore. Her supply chain education and experience while working at IBM on cutting edge IT solutions for U.S. government customers brought her to work for an Army veteran who started a new company, Information Innovators Incorporated. After that business grew into a $100 million enterprise, Crockett left to get her MBA degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she met classmate Ryan Hayes. The two partnered to create Inflow in 2014. The startup has developed a new way of fusing multiple disciplines for unique processes that produce actionable intelligence—information that can be acted upon to prevent or stop an adversary. Integrating different approaches into determining what bad actors may be planning means Inflow can provide U.S. government agencies insights on where to expect possible threats before they happen, rather than react to them after the fact. “The challenge with about half of our cyber companies in San Antonio like Inflow is that the work their primary customers do is classified,” Jungle Disk CEO Bret Piatt said. “It doesn’t mean we don’t have cyber innovation—it only means we can’t know about it.”



Reverse Engineering and Prototypes Using reverse engineering, Inflow has identified sources of specific technology components used in improvised explosive devices (IEDs). One public example of Inflow’s support is first responder training for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) in Alabama. The scenariobased training helps field agents decipher evidence recovered at the scene after an explosion. This type of training enabled first responders to identify the Austin bomber in 2018.

prevent drone incursions. Inflow works for the U.S. Air Force, Defense Intelligence Agency, ATF, and other government agencies to provide these unique processes in support of national security, Crockett said. “Technology is getting cheaper, so we need to develop emerging threat research and methods,” Crockett said. “That’s what we’re actively doing as a company.”

“Our experts train them [ATF] on how to rapidly retrieve critical intelligence at the scene of a crime because a package will look different depending on whether it uses home-grown explosives rather than C4,” said Crockett. (The U.S. military is the primary manufacturer of the explosive C4; it is not easily available.) Only recently has the U.S. Air Force admitted in open sources that the San Antonio-based 24th Air Force is the service’s lead organization for offensive and defensive cyber operations. Up until 2018, there was no mention of offensive cyber countermeasures against adversaries. Now called “full spectrum cyber operations,” it requires specialized expertise that Inflow provides.

Predicting Emerging Threats Inflow has also used its unique processes to project how an enemy might use weapons in a future attack, such as drones. New Jersey’s Newark Airport is the latest airport plagued by unauthorized drones. A commercial pilot spotted a drone as he was landing a civilian airliner January 22. While troublesome drone operators at airports pose air safety concerns, other adversaries are already resorting to this common consumer technology to create new weapons. Mexican drug cartels have figured how to outfit commercially available drones with explosive devices. ISIS has already modified small mortar bombs to use them on exploding “suicide drones” in attacks on Syrian and Iraqi troops and members of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition. Crockett talked to Startups San Antonio in general about how available counter-drone measures could


This explosion is part of the training San Antonio-based Inflow provides the ATF in Alabama. Courtesy photo.

An example from Inflow’s training shows how an object like a portable cassette player can be used as an explosive device. Courtesy photo.[/caption for blue boom box photo] Both offensive cyber weapons and IEDs have cyber components. Inflow looks at combating adversaries by thinking through the most likely low-tech attack approaches and possible countermeasures. They’re also leveraging big data analytics and artificial intelligence to predict the next threat before it happens by looking for commonalities analysts could not find before. Inflow develops prototypes in a laboratory reverse engineering different kinds of IEDs, in part, to create a new database about IED making. “The challenge is you need lots of data, so we’re setting up these analytic processes for the future,” Crockett explained. “Our value is to help create prototypes to make a case for collecting certain kinds of data.”

Startups San Antonio San Antonio 2019 Startups Book

Crockett said Inflow is also doing more material analysis, taking approaches from other classified analysis programs and applying them to situations never used before. Getting niche expertise into databases that can be updated is critical to stay ahead of emerging threats.

expects the company will continue to grow as the government modernizes digitally and develops its cybersecurity countermeasures and offensive capabilities.

“We have to get away from leveraging the expert versus the process,” Crockett said. “Look at latent fingerprint analysis experts—they’re dying out. Also, there are too few engineers who are comfortable with analyzing an IED.” Cyber Innovation Isn’t Always Apparent Integrating multiple disciplines for a more streamlined, responsive process is why the company is called Inflow. In information logistics inflow is the optimized flow of information across an organization. “As we mature as a country we have to decide what is important because we have limited resources,” Crockett said. “The focus of our work is the highimpact, high-value actionable intelligence that matters.” Inflow is looking to expand its footprint in San Antonio as it continues its work overseas. Crockett

An example from Inflow’s training shows how an object like a portable cassette player can be used as an explosive device. Courtesy photo.

“San Antonio is the epicenter for cyber for the state of Texas, and companies like Inflow demonstrate why,” said Amanda Keammerer, acting vice president for cybersecurity and director of CyberSecurity San Antonio at the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.

Featured image is of the Inflow team from left: Tiffany Perkins, John Goodwin, founder Angel Crockett, Karla Brown, Katherine Garza, and Mason Cardiff. Courtesy photo.

Spark your imagination at Port San Antonio

The San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT) is open to the public on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free admission. MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

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Olifant Medical


UT Health SA Clinician-Entrepreneur Invents Next-Generation Airway Device

owever easy it might look in movies or television shows, intubating or inserting a breathing tube into an unconscious person can be quite difficult, especially under stressful emergency conditions. When a patient is not breathing, every second counts until that person can receive oxygen again. San Antonio-based anesthesiologist and critical care physician Steven Venticinque, M.D., knows well the challenges in intubating patients both in the operating room and beyond. During his career in the U.S. Air Force, Venticinque led critical care air transport teams flying in Iraq and Afghanistan. This clinician-tinkerer turned entrepreneur created a new type of airway device in his garage workshop that aims to make intubation easier. Venticinque has been at UT Health San Antonio since 2007 and is a professor and interim chair of the anesthesiology department at the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine. He now carries a second business card as the founder and chief medical officer for his company, Olifant Medical, which he launched in 2018. He is working with UT Health’s Office of Technology Commercialization where he has filed patent protection for his invention.


The University plans to license the airway device to Olifant. To insert a breathing tube, a doctor must use a stiffening stylet and a device called a laryngoscope to look at the larynx while trying to guide the breathing tube past the vocal cords to establish an airway. The occasional inability to see the vocal cords makes this technique arduous. Modern video-based laryngoscopes have improved the ability to see the vocal cords, but operators still occasionally struggle to insert the breathing tube. This paradox is what led Venticinque to develop his device. He constructed a stylet with an ergonomic shape, and a built-in guiding technology that he believes will make inserting breathing tubes easier and faster, which can make a huge difference particularly in emergency care situations for first responders or military physicians. “Video laryngoscopy moved the needle, but only incrementally,” Venticinque said. “Stylet technology has not benefitted from strong innovation. This device makes a disruptive advance in that space.”

‘Bootstrapping’ the Next-Generation Stylet Venticinque felt driven to invent this new airway device because of the variability in both the

Startups San Antonio San Antonio 2019 Startups Book

circumstances and experience levels for the person trying to establish an airway. Research shows that repeated attempts at intubation significantly increase the chances for the patient to experience complications such as cardiac arrest. “Tracheal intubation is a foundation of acute care and is applied in the hospital, out of the hospital, by military and civilian alike, in the U.S. and internationally,” Venticinque said. “Yet, even in skilled hands this procedure can be difficult—when it doesn’t go well, it can be devastating for the patient and harrowing for the provider.” Venticinque analyzed the problem by breaking down the process of intubation into its discrete steps in a process he calls “unlearning things to innovate,” because healthcare providers learn to develop workarounds over time. Using 1⁄4-inch copper pipe, a plumbing fitting, and some tubing from Lowe’s, he assembled a crude prototype that worked on a training mannequin. “I had to learn to ask myself, ‘Why do we do it this way?’ because we develop habitual views of our workspace that make it difficult to reframe problems and opportunities that are right under our noses,” Venticinque said. He started by using an engineering group for design, taking his illustrations for conversion into 3D drawings, but the iterative cycle took too long. The doctor learned computer-assisted design to develop the device illustrations himself and outfitted his home workshop with two types of 3-D printers to produce iterative airway device prototypes. Venticinque received a $25,000 grant from UT Health San Antonio to refine the technology and was able to buy a training mannequin and video laryngoscope for more prototype testing and validation. His doit-yourself approach saved him time and money, as “outsourcing the prototype development can easily cost $500,000 or more in the early stages of creating a medical device,” he said. “I would work with patients all day and have my 3D printers going all night,” Venticinque said. “The next day I would assemble the prototype, see quickly that it needed improvement, tweak the design, and redo the process all over again.” Bootstrapping the development of his new airway device was by necessity. As a busy practicing doctor,

he said there was no time to attend classes to learn the business side of biomedical entrepreneurship. It took over two years of iteration, validation, countless hours, and another small grant before Venticinque completed the new device, now called the Tusk Tracheal Cannulator. “Dr. Venticinque used his clinical experience to not only identify an unmet clinical need and conceive of a next-generation intubation device, he designed and produced the prototype himself,” said experienced medical technology innovator Dr. Pratap Khanwilkar, vice president of product development at InCube Labs. “He reached out to others for help in engineering and business matters because he realized it takes a team to succeed in the medtech business.” The doctor turned entrepreneur sees the new airway device as an advance in the standard of care in airway management, one that will join UT Health San Antonio’s portfolio of commercialized technologies. Venticinque formed a business team and a medical advisory panel for his company. UT Health San Antonio assistant professor of emergency medicine Christina Bird, M.D., became one of Olifant’s advisors after seeing how the new device will improve patient care “to impact the ease and efficiency of intubation for providers,” she said. ‘“The need for a product like this was realized by taking a look at where previous devices have fallen short and asking what improvements could be made,” Bird said. “This … led to an innovative and sleek design that is also simple and intuitive to use.” Olifant Medical’s market strategy is to initially target early adopters of airway management technology— those who only occasionally intubate patients, such as field medics, who will benefit most from a leveraging technology. “To know that my device could be saving battlefield lives and making medic’s jobs easier and less stressful would be the best possible outcome, Venticinque said. “If that materializes, it will represent the perfect merger between UT Health San Antonio, our military, and San Antonio’s growing business community.”

Dr. Steven Venticinque is interim chair of the anesthesiology department at the Long School of Medicine, UT Health San Antonio. Courtesy photo. startupssanantonio.com




Trinity University Students Launch Smart Pill Bottle for Clinical Trials—PATCH

onducting clinical drug trials data can be challenging and gets expensive when it comes to collecting enough verified data on patients taking medicine correctly. Two Trinity University students are launching a smart pill bottle that could revolutionize clinical trials and possibly help prevent drug abuse of potentially addicting pain medication.

which patients are compliant and provides access to the aggregated data needed for FDA approval of a new drug.

PATCH, or Pill Administering Technology for Compliant Healthcare, is an internet-connected pill bottle that gives clinical trial researchers the ability to track a patient remotely. Two student co-founders submitted the PATCH concept to Trinity University’s annual Louis H. Stumberg Venture Competition, a two-part pitch competition hosted each spring and the fall. PATCH’s Andrew Aertker ’19 is majoring in computer science while Gavin Buchanan, ’21 is studying mathematical finance.

Aertker and Buchanan discovered a market for improving the accuracy of clinical research with better tracking of patient compliance in clinical trials. The co-founders first thought of the smart pill bottle as a solution to substance abuse after reading a 2009 Oxford University study which found making pill bottles harder to open decreased suicide rates by 43 percent.

The pill bottle cap releases pills one at a time according to the prescribed dosing schedule for the patient. The bottle records when the medication is dispensed and sends that information directly via Bluetooth low-energy technology to the cloud-based PATCH application. The software platform collects patient data and notifies the patient when it is time for the next dose. The bottle’s automated data collection gives researchers the ability to identify


PATCH co-founders Gavin Buchanan (left) and Andrew Aertker demonstrate how their PATCH internet-connected pill bottle works. Photo credit: Startups San Antonio.

PATCH won $5,000 as a finalist in the university’s spring pitch competition and used the seed money to develop their bottle prototype. As one of five finalists in the spring pitch competition, PATCH secured a spot in Trinity’s Summer Accelerator program, which provides $4,000 for each member of the startup and free housing. Trinity’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship also provides student entrepreneurs like the PATCH team mentoring, funding, and connections to experienced business leaders in San Antonio.

Startups San Antonio San Antonio 2019 Startups Book

By the end of summer, the startup had a patent pending for their universal pill bottle cap design, which can fit on different bottles. “We also raised $100,000 in private funding over the summer,” Buchanan said.

Connecting talented undergrad students nationwide with local San Antonio startups StudentStartUps.com

PATCH won $10,000 in Trinity University’s Stumberg Competition September 2018. From left: Trinity’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship director Luis Martinez gives the check to PATCH co-founders Gavin Buchanan and Andrew Aertker. Photo credit: Startups San Antonio.

The students went on to win a $10,000 secondplace award in the fall Stumberg pitch competition. Student founders retain full ownership as there is no equity share required in exchange for funding. “Our student founders often go on to compete in national and international pitch competitions and do well after their experience in the Stumberg competition,” Trinity’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship director Luis Martinez said.

Students + Startups is an 80/20 Foundation and Trinity University collaboration

Long-term accelerator that helps B2B software founders build real, fundable companies.

Martinez connected Buchanan and Aertker to Dr. Joseph Schmelz, director of clinical trials at UT Health San Antonio. Schmelz and other experts helped the startup focus on clinical trial researchers as their target market for the internet-connected bottle. Many smart bottle companies are competing to gain market share, but PATCH’s prototype allows for remote data collection when the bottle is used to dispense a dose, a useful feature for clinical trial researchers. The co-founders plan to manufacture the Bluetooth-capable pill bottles on a larger scale at a lower price point and are already working with




the San Antonio-based BJN engineering firm to make more bottles. PATCH released its first iteration of the pill bottle in late September, and after testing, it will be ready by mid-January. “The evolution of their device from initial concept to clinical trial in 16 months has been remarkable,” said David Girault, who mentored PATCH as the entrepreneur in residence for the Trinity program. PATCH is also working with Real Time CTMS, a San Antonio-based company that specializes in clinical research trial software systems. They are developing the dual portal researcher-patient software that will be integrated with the PATCH bottles and expect completion sometime in March. The bottle’s mobile app is complete; PATCH will be used in its first clinical trial starting in February. The co-founders plan to launch PATCH by April. Martinez emphasizes the value of teaching entrepreneurship while students are still in school. Programs like those in Trinity’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship give students opportunities for creativity, innovation, and collaboration, Martinez agrees, but he also stresses college is a good

time for students to gain entrepreneurial skills. Not only will these experiences help graduates navigate the post-graduation workplace, “college is a good time to take calculated risks before one typically takes on multiple financial responsibilities later that could hamper their ability to launch a new business,” Martinez said. For the PATCH co-founders, Trinity’s mentoring and support helped them refine a concept that started with their abiding passion coupled with skills in computer science, engineering, and technology to solve a pressing problem. “We started by focusing on helping people with this internet-connected bottle,” Aertker said. “We’re focused on continuing with PATCH no matter what.”

Featured image is of PATCH co-founders Gavin Buchanan (left) and Andrew Aertker demonstraing how their PATCH internet-connected pill bottle works. Photo credit: Startups San Antonio.

The Health Cell salutes Startups San Antonio and all San Antonians who are charting a new course through innovation, invention, diligence and drive.

Where San Antonio’s healthcare and bioscience leaders meet. Sign up to receive information on future events at www.thehealthcell.org.


Startups San Antonio San Antonio 2019 Startups Book



GaitIQ Spots Early Signs of Alzheimer’s in Your Walk

an technology help predict your risk for Alzheimer’s disease years or decades before symptoms of dementia appear? One San Antonio team is working to do just that using deep learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze a video taken in your doctor’s office.

Rick Morris is the San Antonio-based entrepreneur who founded GaitIQ, an early-stage digital health Software as a Service (SaaS) company in 2017. The GaitIQ cloud-based platform will give healthcare providers an affordable, easy-to-use application to measure a patient’s gait. The technology leverages machine vision, AI, and big data analytics to evaluate subtle changes in the way a person walks that have been linked to the risk for dementia. Changes in gait are important early warning sign of cognitive decline and emerge as early as decades before memory symptoms occur. Early detection provides opportunities for medical intervention and lifestyle changes that could slow or even reverse the progress of the underlying disease that leads to the devastating symptoms of dementia. Morris envisions GaitIQ as a personalized risk screening in the early stages of the disease that would help doctors decide whether further diagnostic or preventive intervention is needed. The physician,

using an internet-connected tablet during an office visit, would videotape a patient’s walk using the GaitIQ application, with results classifying the patient’s gait available within five minutes. “It takes half a day and three specialists in a gait lab to complete a quantitative gait analysis,” Morris said. “The cost is prohibitive, so providers and their patients are not getting the benefit of the existing clinical research.”

GaitIQ Addresses Need for Early Detection in Alzheimer’s Alzheimer’s disease is a public health and looming financial crisis. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that the disease will affect 16 million people and cost the U.S. health care system one trillion dollars by 2050. Yet, fewer than 50 percent of patients are ever diagnosed. Researchers are focused on early detection so patients can be treated more effectively when lifestyle and drug interventions are better at slowing the disease’s progression. Healthcare providers typically recognize Alzheimer’s in a patient only after family members report late-stage symptoms like memory loss, mood swings, and personality changes, once



the brain is so damaged that treatment is no longer effective. A University of Southern California study revealed the value of early intervention. Delaying the onset of dementia by five years could reduce the projected 2050 healthcare costs by 40 percent and increase a patient’s lifespan by 2.7 years. “Catching Alzheimer’s early works because treatment and lifestyle changes are most likely to be effective 15 to 20 years before symptoms that affect activities of daily life occur,” Morris said.

San Antonio Collaboration Yields Winning Team Morris is a serial entrepreneur who came to San Antonio in 2015 from San Diego, California. He first worked at Duke University Medical Center with the team of physicians and engineers who developed the first wireless monitoring systems for patients undergoing open-heart surgery. This early experience in medical technology informed Morris over his 30 years managing software and hardware system development and product commercialization in networking, telecommunications, healthcare, and home entertainment industries. After Morris lost his mentor to Alzheimer’s, he recognized artificial intelligence and deep learning technologies could be applied to the problem of early detection. Morris secured a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institutes of Aging in September 2018 to fund early stage development of the GaitIQ application. Morris discovered the experts needed from various disciplines to develop a digital health diagnostic tool all worked in San Antonio. The GaitIQ team draws upon specialized expertise from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), and UT Health San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio). GaitIQ system engineer and data scientist Barbara Schnan Mastronardi is developing the algorithms and analytics while Slidewave’s David Daeschler is designing the application. Jeff Prevost, an assistant professor and co-director of The Open Cloud Institute at The University of Texas at San Antonio, is consulting on system scalability and performance.


The SwRI Human Performance Initiative team develops advanced markerless motion capture technology using biomechanics, machine vision, and artificial intelligence and provided research that was included in the successful SBIR grant application. “This research collaboration allows us to apply our advanced technology towards the goal of improving human health and performance and also highlights San Antonio’s collaborative and robust biomedical R&D community,” said Dr. Dan Nicolella, a SwRI engineer and manager of musculoskeletal biomechanics. UT Health San Antonio’s clinician-scientists are contributing their specialized medical expertise. Dr. Sudha Seshadri is the founding director of the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases and a consultant for GaitIQ. Dr. Seshadri and assistant professor of research Dr. Mini Jacob are helping to validate the software in a clinical setting and identifying potential users for the tool. Dr. Carlos Jaramillo, assistant professor and director of resident research for traumatic brain injury in San Antonio’s Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, is the primary investigator for the human subjects testing component of the diagnostic tool. “Research has confirmed a robust association between gait and cognition,” Seshadri said. The GaitIQ technology “has great potential to have a paradigm-shifting impact on clinical screening for dementia.” Morris plans to apply for a phase II SBIR grant in 2019 and is looking for early-stage investors to accelerate product and business development. “The uniquely collaborative research organizations and deep healthcare expertise available in San Antonio make it a great place for those who are interested in bold innovation with advanced technologies in healthcare. “Morris said. “San Antonio turned out to be the perfect place to launch GaitIQ.”

Featured image is of GaitIQ founder Rick Morris talking to Dr. Carlos Jaramillo. Photo courtesy UT Health San Antonio.

Startups San Antonio San Antonio 2019 Startups Book

BioBridge Global


BioBridge Global-led Collaboration Develops Stem Cell Biomanufacturing At Scale

an Antonio bioscience industry leaders have identified regenerative medicine as a unique capability to stand out from other cities for a good reason. Local experts from both public research centers and private firms have close ties to San Antonio’s military medical community and its expertise in trauma care, yielding rich opportunities for stem cell study. Nationally, biotech industry leaders agree that the future of regenerative medicine hinges on reliable access to high-quality stem cells for groundbreaking research that benefit civilian and military patients alike.

A four-organization biotechnology group led by the San Antonio-based nonprofit BioBridge Global (BBG) is working together to develop large-scale manufacturing capabilities, so more stem cells are available to researchers in larger quantities. Three of the organizations are based in San Antonio: BBG, biomedical startup StemBioSys, and Fort Sam Houston’s U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research (USAISR) which provides combat casualty care. The fourth, RoosterBio Inc., is based in Maryland.

The Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium (MTEC), a nonprofit corporation created by the U.S. Army’s Medical Research and Material Command, awarded the four-organization biotech group a $7.8 million contract in 2016 to fund three years of stem cell research, process development, and manufacturing. MTEC collaborates with companies, universities, foundations, and other entities to develop innovative medical technology solutions. The MTEC funding is underwriting the BBGled group’s development of large-scale economic manufacturing capabilities for clinical-grade stem cells to be used in regenerative medicine not only in combat military care but in civilian healthcare as well. Mesenchymal stem cells derived from bone marrow are the most widely used type of stem cell in research and clinical settings. It is difficult to acquire this type of stem cells in volume without compromising on quality controls. The limited stem cell supply has constrained laboratory research and development of new cell therapy and regenerative medicine products.

BBG Biomanufacturing Expansion BioBridge Global offers different services through its subsidiaries: the South Texas Blood and Tissue



Center (STBTC), QualTex Laboratories, GenCure, and the Blood and Tissue Center Foundation. BBG provides products and services in blood resource management, cellular therapy, donated umbilical cord blood and human tissue as well as testing of blood, plasma and tissue products for U.S. and global clients. STBTC provides the source material, while QualTex tests all stem cell products. GenCure does the initial processing and final manufacturing and provides support for regulatory filings of new products. “Ours is the only group that gets you close to a ‘one-stop shop,’” BBG chief executive officer (CEO) Martin ‘Marty’ Landon said. “We not only have the ability to produce base cells, we have the testing and manufacturing capabilities. That is something that is unique to us.” As it reaches the end of the MTEC contract BBG’s plans are “on track for both time and budget,” said Becky Cap, chief operating officer for GenCure. Its biomanufacturing has progressed from a twodimensional system to a three-dimensional one that

The current capacity of its bioreactor stir tanks is five liters of cells, with plans to move to 80-liter bioreactors. As the output grows, so will the quality controls to produce consistent cells in each batch and across all batches, Landon said. “There are no other biomanufacturers of this cell type doing this in the U.S.,” Cap said. “Biologics manufacturing is a big space, but we are the only ones doing stem cell manufacturing at scale today.”

StemBioSys Ramping Up Stem Cell Therapy Production BBG is not the only consortium participant to grow as a result of the MTEC contract. Since its launch in 2010, San Antonio-based StemBioSys has been expanding its portfolio of advanced stem cell technologies for researchers in regenerative medicine. CEO Bob Hutchens has overseen the growth of StemBioSys from one stem cell therapy in November 2017 to add nine more to market by the end of 2019. By 2020, StemBioSys expects to have 16 products on the market. “Being a part of the MTEC collaboration has enhanced our relationship with the GenCure subsidiary of BBG,” Hutchins said. “We have worked closely with them on our product launches in 2018 and 2019.” The chief executive decided in late 2017 to hire a senior scientist to get more of its stem cell therapies to market. Coupling its scientific expertise with GenCure’s biomanufacturing capabilities allowed the bioscience company to increase its therapeutic offerings.

GenCure COO Becky Cap speaks with members of the BioBridge Global staff during an open house in one of the clean rooms in the GenCure BioManufacturing Center. Courtesy photo.

produces better quality stem cells at higher volumes. Current practice is to grow the cells in flat trays of cell culture, according to Cap. BBG has moved to growing stem cells in bioreactor stir tanks that move the cell solution continuously. “The cells are always moving, which mimics how the body grows its cells,” Cap said. “We’re making progress as we’ve completed components, optimizing the materials that go into production scale-up, and working on assays that characterize the product as they come out.”


Hutchins said StemBioSys would announce a new marketing partnership in late February that will help the bioscience company commercialize its expanded therapy line. He added that the company plans to announce later in 2019 a new application of its stem cell technology for use in preclinical toxicology testing.

Plans for 2019 Include Series C, New Facility As the MTEC contract enters its third and final year, the participating companies are on track to expand capabilities for more quality stem cells and new therapies. For StemBioSys it means potential investors are focused on the company’s plans to launch its Series

Startups San Antonio San Antonio 2019 Startups Book

C funding round in late February with an initial goal of $3 million. “We will be limiting our Series C to existing investors throughout the first quarter of 2019, and then will open it to outside investors starting in the second quarter,” Hutchens said. BBG will soon announce the location for its expanded capabilities. With little room left on BBG’s campus, the organization’s leadership has been planning for a suitable location to build a larger state-of-theart biomanufacturing facility. At press time, BBG was close to announcing the construction of its new biomanufacturing space in an innovation hub being built on San Antonio’s Eastside. The new facility will refl ect the latest advances in large-scale stem cell 3D bioreactor manufacturing. Beyond the physical space, BBG has been putting into place quality control systems that cover endto-end stem cell manufacturing. That expertise does not develop quickly, but BBG’s ambitious plans have been helping to attract new talent to San Antonio’s growing bioscience community, Landon said.

“We’re also building our expertise from collaboration in reaching out to researchers at Texas BioMed, SwRI [Southwest Research Institute], and UT Health San Antonio,” Cap said. “There’s much interest in making San Antonio’s footprint bigger in this space.” Advances in stem cell biology have accelerated the development of pre-clinical cell-based therapies, but that research has hinged upon scalable manufacturing platforms that can produce clinically significant quantities for many patients. BBG’s move to the continuous stirred-suspension bioreactor manufacturing method not only helped StemBioSys expand its line of therapeutics, but it will also help define San Antonio as a city for regenerative medicine research and development. “The ‘valley of death’ has shifted,” Cap said. “Four years ago it was because of financing. Today, your ‘valley of death’ is whether you have adequate biomanufacturing or not.”

Featured image is of a GenCure biomanufacturing team member testing cord blood stem cells in the center’s cleanroom facility. Courtesy photo.






(210) 362-7800

“San Antonio’s collaborative culture and nurturing of bioscience is essential to growing a leading research institute and was critical in my decision to join Texas Biomed and bring my research team from Ohio to San Antonio in 2017.” –– Larry Schlesinger, M.D., President and CEO, Texas Biomedical Research Institute

SAN ANTONIO: WHERE INNOVATION IS BORN San Antonio is on a mission. We’re driving innovation to solve some of the world’s most complex health challenges. Our rapidly growing healthcare and bioscience industry has unique biomedical assets and the collaborative culture needed to effectively explore solutions to cancer, diabetes, infectious diseases, neurological disorders and trauma. As a result, San Antonio is now recognized as a City of Science and Health. With an annual economic

For jobs openings: www.PortSanAntonio.us/Jobs

impact of over $40 billion, San Antonio’s healthcare and bioscience sector is actively working to turn a collaborative culture into an economic engine, fueling

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regional growth and becoming a resource to the world.

aerospace To learn more about this vibrant industry, contact: President Ann Stevens of BioMed SA at astevens@biomedsa.org or 210.468.1829.


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biomedsa.org BioMed SA is a non-profit, membership-based organization, supported in part by the City of San Antonio.

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Issue No. 1


Startups San Antonio


San Antonio’s

Companies to Watch Startups with Social Impact • Robotics • Artificial Intelligence • AR/VR • Software as a Service • Cybersecurity • Bioscience and Healthcare

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2019 Startups San Antonio Magazine - Issue 1  

2019 Startups San Antonio Magazine - Issue 1