SXSW 2016

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama may be getting all the hype for this year's South by Southwest, but a group of startups from the Triangle area hope to get some buzz as well. The following companies are participating in the festival, and in a variety of ways—from pitching during contests to serving on panels to promoting events and causes. 

All of their efforts combined will help show the world that the Triangle is hotbed of innovation and creativity. 

Here's who to keep an eye on during the festival, which kicks off tomorrow in Austin: 


Over 470 startups from around the world applied to pitch at the eighth annual SXSW Accelerator pitch competition in Startup Village, and Durham’s Neuro+ made the final 48. 

Neuro+, founded by Jake Stauch, integrates neurofeedback, motion feedback and cognitive training protocols in video games that train the brains of kids and adults with ADHD to develop attention skills. The company launched last July with the hope of treating ADHD without meds. This affordable tool uses games such as “piloting flying dragons and defending towns” to teach skills in focus, the ability to sit still and ignoring distractions. 

Jake Stauch Neuro+
Jake Stauch

On Saturday, Neuro+ and the other finalists will attempt to captivate not only an audience with their pitches, but also a panel of judges. On Sunday, the final 18 companies will compete before a new panel of judges, who will decide a winner in categories that range from virtual reality to health to wearable technology. The winners of each category will be recognized at an award ceremony on Sunday evening. Neuro+ is also in the running for the 1776 Challenge Cup.

Orora Global 

Orora Global was created by social entrepreneurs at the Women Innovating Now Accelerator lab at Babson College. Savitha Sridharan and her team are providing reliable and renewable energy to rural and urban communities around the world, in an effort to bring an end to the use of kerosene lamps. The team also empowers women in those communities to sell the solar energy products. A former master’s student at NC State University, Sridharan and Orora Global were featured as part of a SXSWedu presentation by WIN Lab co-founder Susan Duffy.


If you wanted to learn more about EdTech, you could have stopped by SXSWedu this week to hear from Lea(R)n, a startup based at HQ Raleigh. SXSWedu brings together stakeholders in education to discuss possible innovations in the field of education and Lea(R)n is a software platform that lets educators and administrators evaluate new learning technology. More than 3,900 digital applications have been created to assist teachers in their classrooms or administrators in their jobs. Lea(R)n aims to help teachers and school districts assess tools before buying them and implementing in classrooms. 

Lea(R)n CEO Karl Rectanus discussed EdTech disruption during two panels on Tuesday, March 8th. His company returned to Austin after becoming a finalist in a LAUNCHedu pitch competition last year, where Rectanus competed against other startup products designed for the educational space. Rectanus also spoke on Capitol Hill last week during an event called App Economy Jobs in the U.S.

Reveal Mobile

Reveal Mobile uses a network of sensors that collect location data from smartphone users all over the country. The company provides those insights to publishers and developers to help inform mobile advertising or targeting strategy. Reveal uses data from beacons located in local businesses. Every time a smartphone pings the beacon, Reveal captures a user's demographic information, behaviors, interests and political affiliation based on the apps she uses and places she goes. The company’s website says that this can translate to a 200-500% increase in mobile engagement for advertisers or publishers with potential customers. 

Matthew Davis, Reveal's vice president of marketing, will serve on a panel titled “Measuring Location Based Ad Effectiveness”, on Sunday March 13th. Davis says that the panel will mainly concern metrics and how to define success for this new platform. 

“Ultimately most advertisers care about getting foot traffic to their stores. They want to be able to attribute their ads to increased store visits, and therefore sales”, says Davis. The panel will explore how to measure such foot traffic and ensure companies are getting “bang for their buck” when it comes to using this advertising method.

Black Wall Street

The group that organized the first Black Wall Street Homecoming event in Durham last fall is heading to South by Southwest to make connections and introduce the event to Austin and other cities. American Underground's Jes Averhart is part of the team, and will be sharing about the startup campus's partnership with Code2040 to bring entrepreneur-in-residence Talib Graves-Manns to Durham last year. He's an impetus for what BWS organizers hope will be a traveling conference and platform spotlighting and inspiring minority entrepreneurs around the nation. Graves-Manns will also blog about his experience at SXSW for ExitEventHere's the intro to that series.

IBM Cognitive Studio 

The IBM Cognitive Studio will be set up from Friday through Tuesday at the festival.The studio will have a variety of technologies for attendees to interact with during the event, including IBM Watson, the advanced cognitive computing program that famously won on Jeopardy and is now being used by a variety of startups. 

See how the program digests and processes information, but also watch it participate in activities like a cognitive cocktail bar. IBM Watson will take the information it has learned about a participant and create a personalized cocktail recipe just for him or her.
IBM Watson Logo
IBM Watson is a technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data.

The studio will host many other interactive activities such as virtual cycling and live mural painting by local artists. Attendees can also try to pilot a robot with their mind, beat the robot at ‘Rock, paper, scissors’ as it gets smarter after every move, and finally, take a selfie with the world’s most intuitive robot Pepper. 

Steve Case 

Steve Case, the co-founder of AOL and CEO of the D.C. venture capital firm Revolution, will speak with his wife Jean Case about how innovators and entrepreneurs can change the world in this “internet of everything” economy. Many may remember Case from his visits to Raleigh and Durham during the Rise from the Rest last May. He’s been known to say positive things about the Triangle startup ecosystem, and he’s also provided funding to Windsor Circle, Automated Insights and Mati Energy through the Google for Entrepreneurs’ Demo Day. 

Automated Insights 

Senior executives from Automated Insights will participate in talks with other artificial intelligence experts at the festival. While it works with major news organizations like Yahoo Finance and the Associated Press to automate the telling of routine sports and finance stories, its Wordsmith product allows customers to take spreadsheets full of data and create their own company stories, cutting down on the time and work needed to make sense of their reports.

Automated Insights CEO Robbie Allen, will discuss how to find a job in an automated future on Sunday, March 13th. Joe Procopio, the company's chief product officer, will discuss the future of sports reporting and analysis and consider how algorithms and data affect sports coverage. His talk will be held Saturday, March 12th. 

“We’re excited to return to SXSW to discuss how people and computers are working together to reinvent how we write, work, and play,” Allen writes in a company blog post. 


Wake Forest Internet of Things startup MiPayWay is in the running for’s SXSW Startup of the Year competition. The mobile app and device allows for customers to give money to other individuals for gratuity, tips and donations. 


A Durham startup bringing transparency to the automotive sales and trade process will demo its vehicle valuation product called SNAP at McCombs Entrepreneurship Night Saturday and in the McCombs School of Business Booth during the SXSW trade show Monday. Founder Brice Englert is a University of Texas at Austin graduate, who founded the company, which is based at American Underground, in December 2014. Here's the scoop from the TradePending blog.


Health and med tech are an increasingly important topic at the interactive festival and Durham's Validic is in the mix to share its experience connecting physicians and hospital systems with all the data coming from wearable devices. Co-founder and chief technology officer Drew Schiller will present with a Garmin marketer on the topic "Wearables: The Powder Keg for a Health Revolution" Monday morning.

**If your company is demoing, pitching or presenting at South by Southwest this week, tweet us @exitevent or email with the details!