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Wednesday, December 20, 2017







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Tax Things First

Brent: Good afternoon. Congress has passed a historic new tax plan, and President Trump plans to sign it. For tech startups that aren’t bringing in taxable profits (which is most of them), there’s not much to get excited about. In fact, the headline for startups is probably that a proposal to tax stock options that tech startups often used in lieu of a bigger salary to attract talent. 

Meanwhile, time will tell if big tech companies, like Apple, bring overseas money back to the U.S. — and whether big cuts to corporate income tax rates will translate into more innovation and jobs, or just boost paychecks for executives. An optimist would suggest a little more money in the hands of business and individuals might help rise all boats. But we’ve seen big tax cuts in the past that failed on the promises made to the majority of Americans. 

Now, let’s kick a Beat…

The Big One

A breakdown on the day’s biggest Inno story.

Innovations in Fossil Fuels 

Coal-fired power plants aren’t exactly the first place one might look to find deployments of cutting edge technology. But it’d be a mistake to think these massive utilities aren’t pushing the envelope to make the most of these fossil fuels before they run out or are entirely replaced by renewables.

Case-in-point: SparkCognition, an Austin AI startup, today announced it has secured a $706K Department of Energy contract to use AI to predict maintenance issues and improve coal plan efficiency. The project is right in SparkCognition’s wheelhouse.

Founded by Amir Husain in 2013, SparkCognition uses machine learning to analyze and predict security breaches and system failures. Many of its customers are in industries with massive cybersecurity needs, including aerospace, defense, telecommunications and energy. And it follows the startup’s $32.5M Series B round in June, which was led by Verizon Ventures and The Boeing Company’s Boeing HorizonX.

While coal plants are a major contributor of green houses gases, energy officials and utility companies have been using AI for several years to help plants be more efficient. NeuCo Inc., for example, uses AI to help plants be more efficient — and the company was acquired last year by GE Power.

Solar and wind may be the future. But, for now, we still need coal-powered plants to ensure the lights come on. And, as long as we do, innovations that help limit the growing cost of power and trim CO2 emissions will be key to our energy ecosystem.

Making Moves

Inside the people, companies and organizations making moves today.

Magnitude Software Makes Another Acquisition

Magnitude Software, an Austin business information management company, announced Wednesday that it is acquiring Innowera, an Irving, Texas-based business software solutions startup. The companies didn’t provide financial details of the deal.

The Innowera acquisition is Magnitude’s second buyout this quarter, and it’s part of broader strategy of acquiring other startups to add to its own innovations. The acquisitions are funded by a $100 million investment from private equity firm Audax Group and Magnitude CEO Chris Ney, who was previously founder and president of Silverback Enterprise Group.

>>> Read more about the deal here.

Bitcoin Promoter Slapped with Cease and Desist Order

Careful when investing in bitcoin via Craigslist. The Texas Securities Commissioner says USI-Tech Limited, an overseas firm that is promising low-risk, triple-digit returns from investments tied to bitcoin mining, may be trying to take advantage of Texans. The Commissioner issued a cease and desist order to stop the Dubai-based company and its U.S.-based sales agents from soliciting more investments via Craigslist, YouTube and websites.

From the Commissioner’s news release: “… USI-Tech is telling potential investors they can make more money by convincing other individuals to invest in the company’s bitcoin platform. Investors can earn ‘up to 35% commissions’ through its ‘unique referral marketing plan.'”

Spectrum Launches Speedier Internet Service

Everyone wants faster Internet. And Spectrum is hoping to appeal to them with its new high-speed service that promises one gigabit-per-second internet speeds. The company launched the $104.99-per-month service in seven markets, including Austin, San Antonio, Charlotte, Kansas City, New York, Raleigh-Durham and Honolulu. The company is also boosting its minimum speed for its lower-priced plans.

Google Launches #TheHuntForFIber Campaign

A while back, I wrote about how Google had hired local artists to paint murals in several places around Austin as part of an effort to give back to the community and draw a little attention to its Google Fiber internet service. Well, now you can snap a selfie in front of those murals for a chance to win some Google stuff. We don’t know what the prizes are, but here’s how you can get them: Post a photo or photos of you at all of the new Google Fiber murals with the hashtag #TheHuntForFiber. Those are at 1100 S. Lamar, 809 E 6th and 201 Colorado St.
3. When you’ve posted, fill out a form at this link:

Amal Clooney is Coming to Austin Next Year

Amal Clooney, an international human rights lawyer and equality advocate, has been announced as the keynote speaker at Globoforce‘s WorkHuman 2018 conference April 2-5, 2018, at the Austin Convention Center. Clooney is perhaps best-known for working with WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange. She plans to talk about giving a voice to those who don’t have one and how to advocate for neglected and exploited groups.

25 Members Announced for Political Accelerator

You might recall the Center for Austin’s Future launching its ATXelerator in October to help aspiring politicians advance their careers. Well, now the not-for-profit organization has announced its first class of 25 people with a variety of backgrounds. Here are a few with close ties to the startup scene: Leigh Salinas, CPA with Amplify Snack BrandsKristen Carson, entrepreneur and CEO of Simply International and InnCahootsZenette Dorsey, strategic product consultant for Procore Technologies; Angela De Hoyos Hart, innovation project manager for General MotorsHerb Watkins, engineering manager with athenahealth; and Nick Nichols, program and operations manager with Apptronik.




In The Know

The Inno stories you need to read today.

After 6 years and $1.9 billion, secretive startup Magic Leap unveils its smart glasses for first time (Business Insider)
– Coinbase halts Bitcoin Cash transactions amidst accusations of insider trading (The Verge)
Where VC’s Will Invest in 2018: Blockchain, AI, Voice, Pets (Wired)
Apple reduces speed of iPhones as batteries wear out, report suggests (The Guardian)

In The Community

The events and happenings to know about tonight and this week.

Coming Up

Not a whole lot going on as Christmas nears.

Keeping Austin Weird & Wired

The fun stuff

Remember When You Got Movies as Christmas Presents?

If I were to, say, buy you the entire DVD collection of “Planet Earth” for Christmas, you might fake smile and thank me. But, deep inside, you’d probably wonder if I had been sleeping for several years while Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and a truckload of other streaming services pushed the discs out of style for many viewers.

Fear not my movie friends. As you may know, I Luv Video, an Austin treasure, has been renting out DVDs and VHS format movies for a few thousand years. Now, Alamo Drafthouse is getting in on the retro vibe. The Triangle Business Journal reports Alamo, which is based in Austin, will open a VHS, DVD and Blu-ray rental store at its theater in Raleigh. It’s called Video Vortex, and it will be positioned in the lobby of the theater — and they’ll also rent you a VCR and cables in case you’ve already thrown your’s to the curb.

The store’s managers told the Journal they think it will show millennials how families used to enjoy videos together and, maybe just maybe, it will create enough nostalgia to bring it back into style. I mean, hey, it’s working with vinyl.

So, if you’re longing for some lines through the screen instead of the glitches of the WiFi, the future is bright. Just remember to be kind and rewind.

Featured Jobs

Featured startup and tech jobs on Austin Inno’s new Careers Directory.







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Brent Wistrom












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