STL Entrepreneurs Impress at SXSW
Although South By South West is in the books, St. Louis has left a lasting impression on Austin. The Gateway City’s presence at the annual conference is remarkable: no fewer than seven entrepreneurs were part of the official SXSW programming, five startups pitched in four separate competitions, two St. Louisans participated in a panel discussion and one received an award.
Here’s a roundup of which entrepreneur did what, how they fared and what they thought about the conference:
Trep-ology founder Lachlan Johnson was not only a panelist alongside Stadia Venture’s Tim Hayden, the SLU student and serial entrepreneur was also a finalist in the Student Startup Madness competition together with WashU junior Andrew Glantz, founder of FoodShare.
Glantz, who won $2,000 for finishing 3rd out of 64 original contestants, said the real prize was the trip to Austin. “SXSW is the place to be, especially for tech startups,” he said. “The conference was unbelievable. Going to different sessions, being able to network with great people and potential partners, meeting like-minded individuals— everyone, everywhere was willing to talk to you.” J
ohnson said she is thankful for the support she received as a student entrepreneur. “It’s amazing that St. Louis universities are recognizing how important South By South West is.”
Tim Hayden, director of St. Louis University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, not only judged startups for the SXSW Accelerator competition, the native St. Louisan also helped organize and participated in a panel discussion about Gen Z entrepreneurship.
“The beauty of SXSW is that it attracts the best and the craziest,” said Hayden. “There’s all this talent from St. Louis that is being embraced in Austin, and it’s being recognized as some of the best in the nation.”
Taptl, a startup that makes see-through touch screen displays, competed in Dolphin Tank and ReleaseIt. Dolphin Tank is an event that allows five startups to pitch to a panel of judges from Microsoft, Dell Ventures and Springboard, among others. “The theme was for the judges to give helpful feedback and resources to the startups,” said Mary Wolff, Taptl’s co-founder.
During ReleaseIt, Taptl and nine other companies launched and presented their product to a panel of industry experts. “They named us 4th, and they said they don’t name a fourth ever and that they felt like they had to include us,” the lawyer-turned-entrepreneur explains, and she recommends the conference to anyone. “The access to influential executives, key investors and other startups is unparalleled.”
Emile Cambry (the Chicago native set up shop in the Gateway City last summer with Blue1647) received the prestigious Dewey Winburne Community Service Award for his work with the tech innovation center.
Cambry and nine other honorees received a $1,000 grant to their favorite 501(c)(3) and complementary registration to the conference. “South By South West has exceeded all my wildest imaginations,” said Cambry. “Being here gets me to think not just about myself but about all the youth that we work with—how do we get them out here next year?”
Live-streaming app Clone.tv and health-tech startup Epharmix represented St. Louis in the SXSW Accelerator, the conference’s flagship startup competition. In two rounds and as many days, 48 finalists showcased their companies to a panel of judges and investors. Clone.tv’s founder Doug Wulff, who competed in the entertainment and content technologies category, said SXSW’s brand alone is worth going. “People know SXSW, so I’d recommend going if you’re selected and can afford it,” said Wulff, who also pitched at investor forum FundingPost while in Austin.
He had a word of warning for other startups though: “Don’t go to SXSW expecting you’ll find a lead investor. It’s a lot of fun, but there’s too much noise to stand out,” he said. Blake Marggraff of Epharmix, which was an Accelerator backup in the health and wearable technologies category, competed in a one-minute speed pitch against the alternates from the other categories. “SXSW brings together founders, investors and thought leaders from all geographies,” said Margraff, who took second place at Student Startup Madness last year. “The health technology expo was particularly impressive. It positions SXSW to grow as a destination for digital health companies in years to come,” the WashU alum said.