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7th Annual SXSW Accelerator uncovers new startups

The 7th Annual SXSW Accelerator uncovers new startups from the United States and all over the world.

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SXSW showcases budding startups

The SXSW Accelerator showcases emerging new technology startups from around the world. This year’s SXSW Accelerator, presented by Oracle, takes place in Austin, at the Hilton Downtown, March 14th and 15th. SXSW started with 500 applicants ready to showcase their technology talents and was quickly narrowed down to 48 finalists who will showcased over the weekend at the Accelerator pitch event.

A live audience, as well as a panel of expert judges will discover advancements in various sectors of emerging technology. The best part is product demonstrations by the most ambitious talents in the world with the most creative new ideas to change it. Many of the companies that have been part of SXSW have gone on to be acquired by some big name companies like Google.

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How does the competition work? 48 companies are selected by the SXSW Screening Committee from the hundreds of startups from across the United States and all over the world, who apply for SXSW Accelerator. They will then present their innovations, products, and service during Round One of the event on Saturday, March 14 for the live audience and panel of judges. After each company has their turn, the field of 48 will be narrowed down to the top 18 on March 15.

The 18 finalists will then present a new set of co-emcees and judges. At the end of the day on Sunday, these judges will select the grand prize winners for each category. The winners will go on to be honored at the SXSW Accelerator Awards on Sunday evening.

Austin’s beloved Pike Powers just one of the high profile judges

Judges for the SXSW event will include Thomas Ball, Richard Garriott de Cayeux, and Pike Powers. Thomas Ball joined Austin Ventures in 2005 and serves as General Partner. Tom’s investment focus is on early-stage information technology companies, with a primary focus on Internet, software, and technology-enabled business and consumer services. Richard Garriott is considered a founder of the computer gaming and commercial spaceflight industries. He is in the Computer Gaming Hall of Fame, and is a flown Private Astronaut. He has co-founded about a dozen highly successful companies to date. Pike Powers is a super-lawyer-turned-entrepreneur whose leadership helped turn Austin from a university town into a high-tech powerhouse.

Emcees will include Bob Metcalfe and Jeff Dachis. Bob Metcalfe is UTAustin Professor of Innovation.  He was an Internet pioneer at MIT and Harvard starting in 1970, inventing Ethernet at Xerox in 1973.  In 1979, he founded 3Com, the billion-dollar networking company merged with HP in 2010.  Jeff Dachis is a serial entrepreneur. Jeff is a digital visionary who co-founded and served as CEO and chairman of Razorfish, the transformational digital marketing brand. Additionally, Jeff was CEO and founder of Dachis Group, a big-data social analytics and consulting firm, acquired last year by Sprinklr.

Early favorites eyeing a win

Some of the early-favorite companies include: Hypori, RealSavvy, and Peepsqueeze.

  • Hypori is an enterprise software company providing Virtual Mobile Infrastructure (VMI) which can be accessed from both Android and iOS devices. An enterprise can provide employees with virtual mobile devices running in the cloud, ensuring secure separation between personal and enterprise data for mobile users.
  • RealSavvy is akin to a Pinterest for real estate. Consumers pin homes to boards they share, in order to help organize their home search. Agents will get a CRM built to simplify client collaboration.
  • Peepsqueeze aims to unite people on one video through their app. Simply record your video, select a recipient and delivery date, then invite friends to join you with their own videos. Peepsqueeze will then unit them into one cohesive, downloadable video.

To find out more about the competition, or to register if you’re in the Austin area and interested in attending, the SXSW site has more information and video of last year’s winners.

#SXSWAccelerator

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Tech News

Get all your digital organization in one place with Routine

(TECH NEWS) Routine makes note-taking and task-creating a lot easier by merging all your common processes into one productivity tool.

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A desk with a laptop, notepad, smartphone, and cup of coffee settled into an organized routine.

Your inbox can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. Without organization, important emails with tasks, notes, and meetings can become a trash pile pretty quickly. Luckily, there are a lot of tools that aim to help you improve your efficiency, and the latest to add to that list is Routine.

Routine is a productivity app that combines your tasks, notes, and calendar into one easy-to-use app so you can increase your performance. Instead of having to switch between different apps to jot down important information, create to-do lists, and glance at your calendar, Routine marries them all into one cool productivity tool. By simply using a keyboard shortcut, you can do all these things.

If you receive an email that contains an actionable item, you can convert that email into a task you can view later. Tasks are all saved in your inbox, and you can even schedule a task for a specific day. So, if Obi-Wan wants to have Jedi lessons on Thursday, you can schedule your Force task for that day. Likewise, chat messages that need follow-up can also be converted into tasks and be scheduled.

To enrich your tasks, notes can be attached to them. In your notes, you can also embed checkboxes, which are tasks of their own. And if you have tasks that aren’t coming from your inbox, you can import them from other services, such as Gmail, Notion, and Trello.

To make sure you can stay focused on the events and tasks at hand, Routine makes it easy to take everything in. By using the tool’s keyboard-controlled console, you can access your dashboard to quickly see what tasks need to be addressed, what’s on your calendar, and even join an upcoming Zoom session and take notes about the meeting.

Routine is available for macOS, iOS, web, and Google accounts only. Overall, the app centralizes notes and tasks by letting you create and view everything in one place, which helps make sure you stay on top of things. Currently, Routine is still in beta, but you can get on a waitlist to test the product out for yourself.

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Tech News

The paradox of CAPTCHAs: Too smart for humans vs AI?

(TECH NEWS) AI is catching up to our cybersecurity technology and often tricking humans too — so what’s next for CAPTCHAs and the internet?

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Person using phone with laptop to verify CAPTCHAs and code.

We’ve all encountered it before: The occasional robot test that feels impossible to beat. If you’ve felt like these tests, also known as CAPTCHAs, have gotten harder in the last couple of years, you aren’t wrong—and the reason is as ironic as it is baffling.

Simply put, AI are just as good as—and often better than—humans at completing CAPTCHAs in their classic format. As machine learning and AI become more advanced, the fundamental human attributes that make consistent CAPTCHA formats possible become less impactful, raising the question of how to determine the difference between AI and humans in the future.

The biggest barrier to universal CAPTCHA doctrine is purely cultural. Humans may share experiences across the board, but such experiences are typically basic enough to fall victim to the same machine learning which has rendered lower-level CAPTCHAs moot. Adding a cultural component to CAPTCHAs could prevent AI from bypassing them, but it also might prevent some humans from understanding the objective.

Therein lies the root of the CAPTCHA paradox. Humans are far more diverse than any one test can possibly account for, and what they do have in common is also shared by—you guessed it—AI. To create a truly AI-proof test would be to alienate a notable portion of human users by virtue of lived experience. The irony is palpable, but one can only imagine the sheer frustration developers are going through in attempting to address this problem.

But all isn’t lost. While litmus tests such as determining the number of traffic cones in a plaza or checking off squares with bicycles (but not unicycles, you fool) may be beatable by machines, some experts posit that “human entropy” is almost impossible to mimic—and, thus, a viable solution to the CAPTCHA paradox.

“A real human being doesn’t have very good control over their own motor functions, and so they can’t move the mouse the same way more than once over multiple interactions,” says Shuman Ghosemajumder, a former click fraud expert from Google. While AI could attempt to feign this same level of “entropy”, the odds of a successful attempt appear low.

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Move over, Clubhouse: Slack adds their own audio chat rooms

(TECH NEWS) Slack planning to co-opt Clubhouse’s synchronous audio rooms has lead to mixed response. Did it really need to be done?

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Woman in green cardigan and headphones listening to audio chat room on mobile, where Slack becomes a competitor.

Slack is adding a synchronous audio chat room feature similar to what Clubhouse already has. While not everyone is happy about it, the addition is true to Slack’s ongoing form—if a little redundant.

Slack’s audio rooms would work similarly to Clubhouse’s current feature of the same persuasion. The rooms themselves would be ongoing for as long as they were open, and users would be able to drop in and out of calls at their leisure, even joining the conversation when permitted by the host or settings. In theory, it’s a cool way to round out Slack’s platform and make for yet another way for people to engage during the work day.

But not everyone is stoked about the addition. Pocketnow’s Nadeem Sarwar makes a strong point about the redundancy of adding a Clubhouse feature to the already-packed Slack deck: “…from a regular remote worker’s perspective, I’d rather use services such as Telegram, Discord, or Google Meet that we’ve grown accustomed to using for jumping into a group call with my teammates.”
“…[T]he need for audio chatrooms to get in a chaotic chat with colleagues, with whom you already chat over work and share memes five days a week, doesn’t make much sense,” he adds.

Sarwar also references research about remote meeting fatigue from Stanford and The Washington Post, positing that—since video conferences are already played out at this point—adding another quasi-conference option to Slack doesn’t serve much of a purpose.

He isn’t wrong. There are multitudinous conference options on the market now, many of which are free. One could argue that Slack, having marketed itself as a text-first communication hub, has no business entering the audio chat landscape.

That argument falls on its face when you consider Slack’s model—something both Sawar and the Slack CEO himself mention—involves “stealing” and implementing “good ideas” from others in order to make their own platform as comprehensive as possible. If one is able to use Slack for the majority of tasks that Google, Discord, and Clubhouse offer, that makes the platform a lot more attractive to users who are on the fence.

And, perhaps more importantly, it ensures that current users won’t migrate to a comparable platform in the future—especially if their colleagues are making the same choice.

It’s a smart move for Slack, especially given Clubhouse’s lack of Android support at this time—something Clubhouse has said probably still won’t launch for a couple of months.

The Clubhouse team, for their part, continues to add new features in efforts to maintain the platform’s upward mobility. One such feature is the option for paid subscriptions to content creators, allowing for people to monetize their presence on the platform. At the time of this writing, Clubhouse is valued at around $1 billion.

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