2017 was a pivotal year for dozens of Austin tech startups. So which companies will emerge with big moves in 2018?
We’ve been exploring that question by reading through our 2017 coverage, talking with investors and founders and looking at some of the larger trends in tech. For this list, we’ve looked at venture-backed startups that have raised at least a seed round.
And, this year, we’ve added an event to go along with the list of 18 Austin tech startups to watch. On January 17, you’ll have a chance to meet some of the 18 to watch and hear about their plans for 2018. Stay tuned for additional details on that.
Meanwhile, let’s check out the 18 to watch in 2018.
Bumble has experienced a prolific rise since Whitney Wolfe Herd launched it in 2015 after leaving the company she co-founded, Tinder, after a court settlement tied to gender discrimination and harassment allegations. The startup she created left behind the hookup culture of Tinder and empowered women to make the first move. It has since become one of the nation’s most admired startups. In 2017, following news of proposed acquisitions, Bumble appears to have reached a valuation of more than $1 billion. Meanwhile, Wolfe Herd made the cover of Forbes’ ’30 Under 30′ issue in December. And, when that cover story was first announced, Bumble made it about much more than its own success as a company. “If you have a dream, believe in yourself, and work — you can do anything you want. Never stop making the first move, bees. Together, we can create equality in dating and business. Your life is in your control,” the company wrote on Twitter.
The Zebra, a fast-growing auto insurance comparison platform, was also on last year’s ‘17 to Watch in 2017‘ list. And it might have made the 2018 list even without the $40 million Series B it closed in September. Heck, it probably would have made the cut even if it hadn’t hired former Kayak President Keith Melnick as its new CEO. But it did both those things, and, with the support of VCs like Mark Cuban, Floodgate and Accel Partners, it’s poised for a big year in 2018.
CognitiveScale has been highlighted on a lot of lists, such as Fortune’s ’50 companies leading the AI revolution,’ CB Insights’ ‘AI 100’ list and the Austin Chamber of Commerce’s ‘A-List.’ But perhaps the best validation of the company’s advancements in machine intelligence software is the big investments it has attracted from Intel Capital, Microsoft Ventures, USAA and others. The company has made some of the most impressive executive hires and board appointments in Austin, and, with a $15 million investment in June, it now has more than $50 million in funding.
Opcity is white hot. Since it announced its $27 million Series A round in May, the real estate referral management and agent-matching tech startup has been hiring at a rapid pace. They’ve grown so fast they outgrew their downtown headquarters in less than a year and moved into a new headquarters that has enough space to double headcount from 225 to 450. Opcity is operating in at least 30 states now — it plans to be approved in all 50 states in 2018 as its workforce continues to expand.
With a $32.5 million Series B led by Verizon and Boeing in June and a pileup of noteworthy partnerships and awards, SparkCognition is among Austin’s fastest moving companies. The startup, founded in 2013, uses AI to predict data breaches and other activity for the energy, oil and gas, manufacturing, finance, aerospace and defense sectors. In 2017, it won awards from the Department of Energy and DIUx, the Department of Defense’s tech innovations unit.
Consumer discounts are big business — both for businesses and consumers. And Dosh has created a cashback app for consumers that requires very little effort for users. That, along with a high-quality team of experienced engineers and marketers, makes Dosh a contender to become one of Austin’s most promising consumer-facing startups, the ABJ reported in 2017. And we agree. Their platform has 100,000-plus businesses on it. And the startup has raised $18.4 million from top notch investors to focus on bringing hundreds of retail businesses onto its platform in 2018.
Many people struggle to afford a home in booming cities like Austin. So any solution to put home ownership within reach is exciting on its own. Kasita’s tiny smart homes are one of the most promising solutions. They’re tech-forward, incorporating almost every cool new IoT device into one simple home app. They have funding from people who know real estate, including Gary Keller, founder of Keller Williams. And, in 2018, the startup is focused on locking in potentially game-changing deals to sell multiple units to real estate developers and to disaster relief agencies that need temporary housing and transitional housing as cities rebuild from hurricanes and other disasters.
data.world is helping facilitate collaborative and open projects by networks of data scientists, nonprofits, government organizations and journalists. With one of Austin’s most accomplished CEOs, Brett Hurt, leading a highly-experienced team that raised $32.7 million since launching in 2016, the startup is poised to have even more impact as thousands of new people add terrabytes of new data and open that data up to researchers and anyone who wants to glean insights from the information.
It’s easy to envision a future in which we’re able to better prepare for a healthy future by analyzing our DNA. EverlyWell is one of the startups best positioned to win consumers over in these early days of at-home DNA test kits. The startup, led by Julia Cheek, has raised more than $5 million in venture capital. And, in fall 2017, it landed a $1 million line of credit from “Shark Tank’s” Lori Greiner — along with all the awareness being on the popular TV show brings.
With a $23 million funding boost in August, Pivot3, Inc. has been on a tear as it seeks to simplify IT infrastructure and data centers. The company’s flash storage and consolidated IT solutions have made it one of Austin’s fastest growing tech companies. In Q3 2017, Pivot3 reported a 50 percent increase in bookings, including million dollar orders.
For small- and mid-sized businesses, e-commerce represents a big part of the future. And BigCommerce has one of the best platforms on the market to help those smaller shops succeed. With new partnerships inked in 2017 with Instagram, PayPal and Visa — and the $4.5 million investors added to its Series E, BigCommerce is poised for a big 2018.
You might find disagreement about the future of bitcoin. But few doubt the strong potential of bitcoin’s underlying technology — blockchain. That’s why VCs have flocked to startups like Factom, which is using blockchain tech to verify and secure a wide variety of records — from government documents to mortgage records. Launched in 2015, Factom has gotten funding support people including Tim Draper, the VC who runs Draper Associates and is known for his early interest and investment in blockchain and bitcoin.
For Civitas Learning, 2017 was a year of growth and transition. In June, it announced Lumina Foundation and Valhalla Charitable Foundation had committed an unknown amount of additional funding for the education technology startup. Officially, the company has over $70 million in funding. But if you add in other private equity investments, it appears the startup has raised closer to $89 million. It laid off 10 percent of its staff in June. But executives say it was a strategic move. Since then, it has hired former Google executive Zain Nemazie as VP of engineering and the company continues to show gains in helping more students graduate from college.
Aceable has brought technology to drivers education. And, as it continues to grow nationally there, it has branched out to real estate licensing and other online courses in Texas. And it continues to find new ways to improve old school education and licensing programs. Meanwhile, it partnered with former NFL quarterback Vince Young to help encourage folks to get a safe ride home.
Tech + music — what more do you want from an Austin startup? TheWaveVR combines both to provide an immersive musical experience that has a ton of potential for big festivals and small artists alike. The VR experiences have almost no visual limitations, and it provides a new opportunity for musicians and their fans. In April, the startup closed a $4 million seed round led by Upfront Ventures.
Almost everyone loves to travel — and it’s pretty clear most travelers aren’t getting everything they need from Yelp and TripAdvisor. That’s where Localeur comes in, providing fresh, insightful and authentic recommendations from its network of contributors. After raising $3 million in early 2017 and, later, an additional $500,000 with contributions from all of Texas’ major angel networks, Localeur has launched a premium magazine to highlight its adventurous writers’ work. And it continues to grow its partnership with JetBlue.
Austin has several successful shipping and delivery logistics software startups. And Convey has quickly emerged as one of the fastest-growing players in the market. In 2017, it closed an $8.25 million Series B led by Techstars and planned to hire about 20 more people, roughly doubling its headcount. And, it inked a deal with Ingram Micro Inc.
Tethr analyzes phone conversations to find insights, which can help with sales and customer engagement. After winning new customers, such as Alabama Power, Tethr in October reported a $15 million Series A round led by Grotech Ventures and MissionOG to help expand its AI-based solutions for phone calls.