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Congrats! We made it to Friday, and it’s looking like clear skies and sunshine this weekend.I’ll be out on Monday and Tuesday. But my colleague Will Flanagan from Chicago Inno will be here to keep you up to speed.

Now, let’s hit it and cruise into the weekend.

Brent: When Instagram announced earlier this week that it is expanding its in-app shopping capabilities, it almost instantly provided a boost for ecommerce specialists like Austin’s BigCommerce and ShopGate.

For consumers, this is a fairly incremental improvement. You essentially get an opportunity to explore and purchase the products you may be seeing in a company’s Instagram post. For ecommerce platforms and their users, which include big time online stores and thousands of one- to two-person startups, the new features put them in front of the roughly 600M users Instagram now has.

“As one of the most heavily trafficked apps in the world, Instagram has recognized and capitalized on the inherent value of a user who’s already tuned into an app, while removing pain points in the buying process, to optimize conversion rates for retailers,” said Casey Gannon, VP of marketing at Shopgate.

BigCommerce, the ecommerce platform company co-headquartered in Austin, was amongst the first to integrate the new Instagram features into its lineup of social media channels along with prior native integrations with Facebook, Pinterest, Square, Amazon and eBay. Soon, businesses will also have access to Instagram metrics, including how many tapped through to product details.

The relatively small step inside the app is also a lesson in scale and how an incremental change in mass market apps can set off a chain reaction of opportunities — so long as it doesn’t annoy too many users.

Iris Plans, an Austin-based telemedicine company specialized on end-of-life planning, won the Vator Splash Health award in San Francisco Thursday evening. The company says it now reaches 110 physicians and has served 500 patients. Iris Plans has raised $1M to date from Better Ventures and angel investors. Austin Inno gave you a first look at this startup about a year ago — you can read more about Iris Plans here.

– National Instruments hired Karen Rapp as its new CFO, starting May 9. Rapp was most recently the senior VP of corporate development at NXP Semiconductor where she led the integration efforts for the NXP-Freescale merger.

The University of Texas got a $1M gift from Robert Malcolm, a well-respected marketing executive and angel investor, the ABJ reports. The cash creates a new endowed chair position focused on marketing innovations in the business school.

Also, for those who have the munchies and don’t want to miss a second of March Madness, Favor is doing free deliveries this weekend.

Seldom does state government give us something so perplexing and equal parts amusing and disappointing as the Texas Tribune’s report on the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission‘s travels on the taxpayer dime (lots of dimes, actually). Turns out the commission loves attending liquor industry conferences, and they even made a little cartoon depicting themselves jetting out to California while gripping some Lone Stars on the plane (seen above).

I’m not here to say an alcohol regulator can’t party — but on state taxpayers’ money and time? Put a cork in it.




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