An app that translates text within photos, an online mental health service and a teched-out motorcycle helmet all claimed a spot among the nation’s hottest new technologies on Sunday, each earning top honors at the premier startup competition at the South by Southwest convention in Austin.
Narrowed down from 48 on Saturday, 18 entrepreneurs pitched their startups to a panel of judges during the final round of the SXSW Accelerator on Sunday, vying for the grand prize in six different areas of technology. The winners each received $4,000, an invitation to next year’s convention, and most importantly, a prestigious and historically lucrative title in the world of technology startups.
“It’s fantastic for us, and what’s most important is the exposure that comes with it,” Connor Dickie, whose Canadian company won in the competition’s innovative world category, said in an interview following the event. “It shows people what we’re doing and where biotech is heading.”
Dickie’s company, Synbiota, offers an online, crowdsourced platform where scientists can share information and streamline the research and development stages in the production of new foods, fuels and medicines. Some of the funding the company received Sunday will go toward a “hackathon” the company plans to host in Ontario bringing together Internet wizards and biotech scientists.
In the wearable technology category, Skully Helmets of San Francisco won for its motorcycle helmet that displays information like driving directions inside the visor and features a rear-view camera that allows riders to see directly behind them without turning their head.
Another San Francisco company, ThriveOn, came out on top in the health category for an app that provides an online, personalized program meant to improve mental health. And Israeli company Samba.me landed the grand prize in social technology for a video messaging app that captures video of recipients watching the original video and adds their “reaction” footage to the original.
Irish startup Trustev won in the big data category for online identity verification software intended to help merchants combat e-commerce fraud. And lastly, in the the entertainment and content contest, Rhode Island-based Waygo came out on top for its mobile app that lets users scroll over text in, say, Chinese or Japanese characters and see in real-time the translation in English.
“The $4,000 is just icing on the cake,” Ryan Rogowski, one of the founders of Waygo, said in an interview, noting that the company will likely use some of that capital to explore new marketing tactics and distribution channels. “Meeting these other teams and introducing ourselves to new potential investors, that’s the real benefit” he added.
SXSW Accelerator boasts an impressive lists of pasts participants, many of whom were first introduced to the world at South by Southwest. Siri, which was later acquired by Apple for its now-famous voice-to-text technology, Bump, which was later acquired by Google for its touch-to-share technology, and social media company Klout all passed through the SXSW Accelerator in Austin.
In fact, since the competition debuted six years ago, the 208 finalists have collectively raised more than $580 million in funding.
“Here, it’s all about developing relationships and making new ones,” Rogowski said.
Thanks for following our ongoing coverage of startups, entrepreneurs and technology at South by Southwest 2014. For the latest updates from Austin, click here.