SXSWECO Session: Startups And Corporations: Bringing Clean Technology To Market

Cleantech Group’s Greg Neichin moderating

Cleantech Group‘s Greg Neichin opened up this morning’s panel “Startups and Corporations: Bringing Clean Technology to Market” with an important observation.  The cleantech market, and certainly the broader energy energy space is a bit different when it comes to getting big companies in the same room with startups.

“For the most part, they tend to get along,” he told a packed session.

The session assembled a good mix of panelists, from a startup and venture capital firm to sustainability executives from Nike and Intel.

Nike’s Dan Cherian described its approach to working with startups, quickly dispelling the notion that its startup relationships are purely investment-oriented.

“We don’t just do investments, we’re involved in things like licensing, joint development agreements and strategic alliances, ” Cherian explained. “Not all of our innovation happens inside the company, we think of it as strategic partnering and investing,” he added.  As Cherian summarized Nike’s view, it was clear the company sees sustainability as as a growth opportunity, with Cherian saying Nike is “heavily invested” in  helping the company grow through sustainable business.

Intel’s Lorie Wigle and Rockport Capital’s Dhiraj Malkani

Intel’s Lorie Wigle, the company’s GM of Eco-Tech, said much of its startup work is focused on energy efficiency. Specifically, her team looks at the application of technology  and how to grow revenue. Wigle mentioned a joint project with KLG Systal that tackled water management. Through KLG and other partners, Intel was able to see their technology implemented in different ways, underscoring the importance of tightening up your partner network before approaching larger corporations.

On that note, Streetline‘s CEO Zia Yusuf brought some street-level (not intended)  levity to the big company pitch discussion.

“Many startups make the  mistake of thinking ‘we got the meeting’ and the ”number of meetings’ are a good metric for progress,” said Yusuf.  His assertion was those elements have nothing to do with success . “It gets down to can the corporation sell more of their product because of what you do.”

Nike’s Cherian concurred, urging young companies to make their objectives very clear. “If your objectives are clear, we (Nike) have the right people in place for you to interface with”, he explained. He says Nike has three or four areas set up  within the company to address various segments of innovation.

“Even if you talk to the business development group or venture unit, you have to realize they might not have the decision-making capability, ” he said. “When we get a message from a company, we apply that correspondence to whichever filter is the best fit.” Cherian added one other tidbit for the startup crowd: get a recommendation. He said even the slightest nod from a known partner or third-party can help startups in the early cycles with various corporate groups.

Another key discussion was the role large corporations can play in developing industry standards.

Streetline’s Yusuf mentioned their partnership with IBM, where they’ve integrated Big Blue’s Cognos platform. He stressed how important it was to understand the dynamics of the marketplace and who’s pushing open technology.

“Startups should know who leads the market and what products are innovating, ” said Yusuf.  “IBM would love to sell us a bunch of their products, but we know which pieces of their platform help us solve our customers’ problems.”

Intel’s Wigle mentioned the company’s involvement in the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel and how much intelligence it’s captured from the ecosystem as technology is commercialized.  Because Intel has some much infrastructure that startups need, the company established its own incubation program, of sorts.  Technology Days brings together startups in Intel’s portfolio and allows them to make their pitch. Not only can Intel share its R&D practices and standards work, but young companies get a purview of what’s coming down the technology pipe.

The panel bridged some of the standards discussion with a few examples of where data and technology are currently coming together for disruption. All of them agreed the “internet of things” was shaking things up the most around cleantech innovation. With smart sensors, advanced levels of automation, and the move to open data, companies like Fitbit and Nest were cited as two companies capitalizing on the standards push.

If startups should come away with anything, it’s take the time to get your ship in order before approaching the big guys. If you’re focused, have the right partners, and understand protocol, they’re listening.

SXSWECO Session: Startups And Corporations: Bringing Clean Technology To Market

This is not a smart-phone and I don’t care

(c) BroadBrush Ventures LLC 2011mobileTech Tuesday, by Steve Guengerich

I attended Dell World 2011 last week and it was pretty remarkable on a number of levels. On one level, I reflected on Dell’s maturation as an enterprise.

While the majority of what we write about in are new hardware and software ideas being brought to market, it’s easy to forget a couple of things. One, that Dell itself – presently 41st on the Fortune 500 list of largest companies – was once an Austin startup, way back in 1984. Two, that the majority of startups would like nothing better than (a) to be acquired by a big company like Dell or (b) to become a big company like Dell.

On another level, it was interesting to observe the evolution of Dell’s position. For those unfamiliar with the classic description of company position by Geoff Moore in Crossing the Chasm, note that position is a noun, not a verb. A position is something a company has, not something it does.

So, it was very interesting to see the lengths that Dell speakers and workers on the exhibit floor went to reinforce the merging position of Dell as the “new HP” (my words).

Gone are the days of Dell consumer devices dominating the spotlight – the MP3 players, bargain-priced plasma TVs, and Dell Streaks of the world. Sure, they are still there, but now mainly referred to as “end points” or “nodes.” (By the way, did I forget to say this was an IT-centric crowd?)

In their place are two big messages, at least that I took away from Dell World 2011:

First message: that Dell is emerging as the pre-eminent end-to-end computing solutions company on the planet – more than IBM, more than Cisco, and definitely more than anything you will ever see from Apple!

One of the many examples of this IT-centric, end-to-end, “big iron” preeminence was the demonstration modular data center that Dell showed on the exhibit floor.

Some facts about the modular data center (shown in the photo above): contains 1,920 servers, 138 terabytes of RAM, multiple petabytes of storage, and is 100% free air cooled. Stick that in your iPhone 4S pipe and smoke it!

Second message: that when it comes to “end points,” Dell loves PCs. No, you don’t understand: I mean Dell LOOVVVVEEESSSSSS PCs!

Over and over you heard this phrase – “We love PCs” – during the two days of guest keynote and Dell corporate speakers. Michael said it. Steve Ballmer of Microsoft said it. Paul Ottelini of Intel said it, although he also liked referring to Intel’s reference platform of the future, which Intel calls “the Ultrabook.”

In fact, Intel believes there is still so much room remaining for next generation PCs, that it has opened a $300 million fund to spur innovation with the “suppliers to the suppliers” of ultrabook devices. In other words, the fund isn’t meant for the Dells or even the next hot tablet start-up. Instead, it’s for the companies creating the power supplies, graphics controllers, and wireless adapters for those future devices.

The beauty of these kinds of investments, for those of us focused on the mobile and app world, like I am at Appconomy, is that such innovations will only serve to benefit the larger industry as a whole.

And, that’s a big reason why I enjoyed being at Dell World, seeing the energy and enthusiasm up close of companies like Intel, Microsoft, and especially Dell, working hard every day to stay on top of the tech mountain.

If you were at Dell World 2011 or attended any of the events & activities, let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

This is not a smart-phone and I don’t care

Austin Tech Happy Hour Next Thursday the 8th

We’re excited to be part of Austin Startup Week with an awesome social event on Thursday, September 8th from 6pm – 8pm at Molotov Lounge. It’s a great opportunity to bring together the entrepreneurs, marketers, angel investors, UX experts, designers, developers, venture capitalists, and big data enthusiasts from around Austin (and perhaps beyond).


IBM Logo

You’ve heard the hype, now it’s time to get practical. IBM offers strategies for maximizing cloud economies of scale.  From deployment considerations  to managed services, from security to hybrid application models, from image management to provisioning, IBM can help you walk through the plan/build/deliver steps of leveraging cloud to drive IT efficiencies across your enterprise data centers.  Join us for informal discussion about which workloads are best suited for hosted cloud environments, what you should look for in a cloud services provider and how cloud can enable greater business agility and even business transformation.  View demos and learn about case studies that share lessons learned from customers leveraging cloud to dramatically improve their IT utilization and to quickly bring new capabilities to lines of business thru hybrid clouds. Learn about Application Development in the Cloud,  Security in the Cloud, and Social Business in the Cloud. If you’ve not already started exploring cloud, now is the time.

Yippity Logo

Sell your phone, save the planet! Yippity is the cute robot app that lives on your phone and monitors its value. Created by VertiGO Solution’s corporate asset recovery program, Yippity is the newest and smartest consumer recycling app to hit your planet. Sell your phone fast with Yippity! VertiGO Solutions is a Washington, DC-based, woman-owned mobility systems integrator and communications consulting firm active in the Federal, Military, Education, Health and Corporate space. VertiGO has been on the cutting edge of Mobility technology and brings over 30 years of experience in the industry. VertiGO provides a holistic, end-to-end Enterprise-Grade Mobility offering with a complimentary line of business services in electronic recycling.

Austin Tech Happy Hour Next Thursday the 8th

Austin Tech Happy Hour Tonight!

Pre-registration has ended, but you can still walk up and pay $10 cash at the door. Everything is cool at tech happy hour tonight; the a/c, the drinks, and of course the people.

When: Thursday August 4, 2011 from 6pm – 8pm
Where: Molotov Lounge, 719 W Sixth Street

Sponsors is fan-wear for women, kids and babies.  Fun, fashionable 2 color combination striped T’s to let the rest of us fans show our colors, support a team, a school, a cause. The company was started over a year ago when ATX local, Laura Beck, left an 18 year PR agency career behind to do what so many clients she worked with over the years have done: take a risk, create a business around a dream, and become an entrpreneur.

IBM. You’ve heard the hype, now it’s time to get practical. IBM offers strategies for maximizing cloud economies of scale.  From deployment considerations  to managed services, from security to hybrid application models, from image management to provisioning, IBM can help you walk through the plan/build/deliver steps of leveraging cloud to drive IT efficiencies across your enterprise data centers. Join us for informal discussion about which workloads are best suited for hosted cloud environments, what you should look for in a cloud services provider and how cloud can enable greater business agility and even business transformation.  View demos and learn about case studies that share lessons learned from customers leveraging cloud to dramatically improve their IT utilization and to quickly bring new capabilities to lines of business thru hybrid clouds. Learn about Application Development in the Cloud,  Security in the Cloud, and Social Business in the Cloud. If you’ve not already started exploring cloud, now is the time.

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Austin Tech Happy Hour Tonight!

Without Chips, Mobile Is Nothing

mobileTech Tuesday, by Steve Guengerich

As I was on my way to pick up my Monday morning coffee at 6am, I had an audio double-take when I heard this exchange on the morning news report between the KUT anchor and a reporter from the Austin Business Journal about chipmaker Altera Corp’s announced intentions to move some R&D operations to Austin.

KUT anchor: “Why did they choose Austin for this?”

ABJ reporter: “Oh, because there is a Tech sector sort of emerging here in Austin – a lot of its due to smart phones and other cell phone technology…”

It was that “Tech sector sort of emerging here” comment that triggered my double-take.

I know most readers are pretty informed tech followers, so this may not be news to many of you, but I think it would fair to say that the tech sector in Austin is beyond the “emerging” stage.

In fact, semiconductor companies like Altera, far from being latecomers to our scene, were actually among some of the first big employers to plant their flags in central Texas. We didn’t get one of our many nicknames – Silicon Hills – by accident.

Back in the 1980s, Austin won a couple of national bake-offs to bring the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (aka, MCC) and Sematech to anchor the region’s federal and industry R&D funding in semiconductors.

Through the years, we’ve accumulated a number of big names: Motorola, IBM, AMD, Freescale, Spansion, and Samsung. Not surprisingly, we’ve also attracted major presences from the world’s largest suppliers of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, with Applied Materials and Tokyo Electron. This doesn’t count the presence from Intel, ARM, and others, with substantial teams of chip designers in Austin.

But while much of my writing for AustinStartup has to do with apps and the services side of our mobile scene, what’s really exciting is the next wave start-up activity we see from the eco-system of semiconductors for mobile.

Because, for sure, it’s coming. An indisputable sign, announced just last week, was news of Apple‘s becoming the world’s largest buyer of chips for computers and phones, driven by the success of the iPhone and iPad, according to research firm IHS iSuppli.

And, no surprise for those in the know, Austin has an iron “in that fire” with the presence of Cirrus Logic, a firm that’s riding the mobile wave so well that its stock is on the “Buy” list for many, due to the increased confidence that the company’s products are designed into Apple’s upcoming CDMA iPhone, iPad 2, iPhone 5, and iPod Touch.

From a start-up perspective, you could probably point to the modern-day roots of the mobile phone revolution inspiring semiconductor innovation in the Austin area with the launch of Silicon Labs.

A big bet by Austin Ventures and others, that has paid off handsomely, it kick-started a wave of mobile-influenced chip innovation that continues to this day, with AV portfolio companies includingBlack Sand Technologies, Innovative Silicon, Nascentric, and VeriSilicon.

But, as amazing and dependable as Moore’s Law has been, we’re on the verge of a whole new wave of chip development that could benefit our region.

From the nearer-term packaging innovation of companies like Calxeda (chronicled just today by GigaOM’s Stacey Higginbotham) to the longer-term quasi-science-fiction-like R&D research like an IBM team’s recent announcement that they were able to produce films (think integrated circuits) of graphene material just a single atom thick, I think it’s safe to say that Austin’s tech sector is moving the “emerging” stage and is on its way to a “how big can we get it?” stage.

As always, questions, comments, and opinions (both opposed or in favor) are welcome! 

What do *you* think Austin should be doing to encourage and accelerate innovation in the semiconductor ecosystem, especially as it relates to products and services directly supporting growth in mobile tech?

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Without Chips, Mobile Is Nothing

Speaking at IBM SmartCamp

SmartCamp is an exclusive event aimed at identifying early stage entrepreneurs who are developing business ventures that aligned with the IBM Smarter Planet vision. This mentoring and networking events put entrepreneurs in touch with investment firms, serial entrepreneurs, academics, marketing, communications, and technology experts that can help accelerate the solutions of startup companies to market.

I’ll be speaking about Social Business to the budding entrepreneurs tomorrow, just in case you happen to be there. If you think about it, starting a new company is a great way to be socially calibrated from the start. It’s a chance to avoid information silos like e-mail, and to throw away your org chart now!

Other speakers at the event include:

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Speaking at IBM SmartCamp

IBM Acquires Coremetrics

Founded in Austin in 1999, Coremetrics is known as one of the high-end providers of web analytics, competing with Omniture and Webtrends. Today it was announced that IBM is acquiring the company for an undisclosed sum. Over the years the company has attracted around $167M in venture funding from such organizations as Highland Capital Partners and Accel Partners. After Bazaarvoice CEO Brett Hurt left Coremetrics the company relocated its headquarters to the bay area, but it still maintains an engineering presence in Austin.

From the press release:

Today Coremetrics delivers web analytics capabilities to more than 2,100 global brands across a wide range of industries including retail, financial services, media and publishing, travel and hospitality and education.  Customers include Bank of America, Holiday Inn, PETCO, 1-800 Flowers, Office Depot, Victoria’s Secret, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Seton Hall University.

Coremetrics’ offerings enable more effective marketing campaigns that can provide real-time intelligence on what consumers are saying about products and services being offered to them, and allow clients to make fact-based, accurate decisions on marketing expenditures. As a result, marketing teams can gain deeper insight about their consumers and present personalized recommendations, promotions and other sales incentives across a variety of channels where the consumers interact with their brand. These channels span traditional outlets such as storefronts and catalogs and newer outlets including all forms of eCommerce and social media.

Coremetrics’ offerings are a new addition to IBM’s business analytics portfolio. By acquiring Coremetrics, IBM will be able to deliver powerful new business analytics solutions, with the web analytics capabilities clients need to help measure the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns and understand the shopping habits, likes and dislikes of their customers. In addition, Coremetrics software complements IBM’s existing software and services portfolio of offerings from WebSphere, information management and business analytics and optimization.  Upon closing, the company will become part of IBM’s application and integration middleware portfolio which provides the backbone of transaction processing on the Web and powers many of the world’s leading retail sites. Through Coremetrics, IBM is gaining the ability to help businesses empower their marketing professionals to automate and optimize their marketing processes to create the greatest possible return on their marketing expenditures.

“With this acquisition, we are extending our capabilities to give clients greater insight about customer behavior and sentiment about products and services, and give true foresight into their future buying patterns,” said Craig Hayman, general manager, IBM WebSphere. “Marketing departments can benefit from these capabilities very quickly because we are delivering this in a Software-as-a-Service model. The combination of IBM and Coremetrics will maximize marketing expenditures and also make the buying experience more convenient, personal and interactive for consumers.”

“Marketers increasingly need the ability to see across their organizations and the agility to make split-second decisions based on real-time data,” said Joe Davis, CEO, Coremetrics. “The combination of Coremetrics and IBM will deliver deeper business insights to address the real challenges and opportunities all companies face in an increasingly digital world.”

IBM Acquires Coremetrics

IBM Acquires Lombardi Software

IBM today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Lombardi, a privately held software company based in Austin, Texas. Financial terms were not disclosed (but you can speculate in the comments). Lombardi, a leading provider of Business Process Management (BPM) software and services, helps organizations automate and integrate business processes to increase efficiencies and reduce costs.

Organizations are struggling to find ways to simplify their business operations to better reach partners and clients, improve decision-making and increase their return on investment. The management of processes supporting business functions such as product planning, supply chain execution, insurance application and claims management, human resources, IT services and procurement is vital to the success of every business. Helping companies automate these processes to make them more consistent, predictable and cost-efficient is a major requirement for businesses today.

According to IDC, the market opportunity for BPM software will increase at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 15 percent over the next four years, from $1.7B in 2009 to $3.0B by 2013.

Lombardi’s department-level approach to delivering process management complements IBM’s existing strengths in enterprise-wide process management software and adds a new and compelling dimension for customers looking for an end-to-end, integrated solution that automates human tasks and workflows.

“Any discussion on business improvement inevitably leads to improving the processes that are at the heart of every company,” said Craig Hayman, general manager, IBM Application and Integration Middleware. “Recognizing this, IBM has strengthened its presence and investments in business process and integration software to meet these growing client demands. Lombardi fills out our company’s portfolio in this key area.”

One of the earliest supporters of WebSphere, Lombardi brings capabilities that complement the recent product upgrades and new product announcements in IBM’s WebSphere portfolio. These are designed to help clients establish a more dynamic business and achieve the agility they need to survive in today’s changing business environment. Through its collaborative, graphical approach to process application development based on a WebSphere infrastructure, Lombardi extends IBM’s customizable, role-based capabilities to empower business users to rapidly effect change in their businesses.

“IBM has been a long-standing partner in addressing the core business needs of customers across a wide range of industries,” said Rod Favaron, CEO, Lombardi. “Our shared vision has been to deliver technology that helps companies improve their effectiveness by better managing the processes that keep their businesses running. Becoming part of the IBM family will take this vision to a higher level and enable us to explore new opportunities together in product development, integration and go-to-market strategies.”

IBM Acquires Lombardi Software