Digital future highlights TechStar investment pitches

The future of digital commerce and Internet-related wealth creation paraded across a downtown stage Wednesday as about 175 investors from across the country heard presentations from 11 startup technology companies seeking seed investments.

About 450 people nearly filled the Empire Theatre for San Antonio’s first TechStars Cloud Demo Day, which featured entrepreneurs seeking to fill niche opportunities with products aimed at making electronic commerce easier and more secure.

TechStars is a Boulder, Colo.-based company that incubates, or “accelerates,” the development of startup companies in a program lasting several months in five cities. Other cities in TechStar’s network are New York, Seattle, Boston and Boulder.

Late last year, the 11 companies from cities like Chicago, Boston and Portland, Ore., were selected to incubate in San Antonio with the help of 75 mentors. The companies were among other technology companies that use Geekdom, a collaborative workspace operated in the Weston Centre downtown by San Antonio-based Rackspace Hosting.

Venture capital investors attending Wednesday’s event were from across the country, said Jason Seats, TechStars managing director in San Antonio. “All of the institutional money in Texas is here,” Seats said. More than 100 investors were from outside San Antonio, added Graham Weston, Rackspace chairman.

The company presentations to investors involved products meant to help companies analyze, store, share and secure data coming from their Internet sites and mobile telephone applications. Other companies offered products to help companies control their cloud-computing costs and to help the general public edit and share cell phone videos as well as to easily post videos online on YouTube.

It could be weeks or months before the companies find out if they hooked an investor from the event.

Rackspace has invested in some of the companies and does business with others, Weston said. “You are here at the beginning of something big. We want to have the same impact in San Antonio that Dell (Inc.) did in Austin,” Weston said.

The 11 companies that have operated in San Antonio the past four months now will return to their home cities. Over the next six to nine months, another group of startup technology companies will be recruited for the next TechStars program, Seats said.

George Karutz Jr. attended the TechStars Cloud Demo event as a mentor and investor. “I’m very impressed by the companies,” Karutz said. “I saw the companies early on when all they had was a concept.” TechStars “is a proven program,” Karutz said, in helping entrepreneurs develop discipline and add structure their companies.

Another investor, David Spencer, who owns an investment fund called Texas Intrepid Ventures, said, “We need to be thinking about creating an environment for these types of companies.” Spencer said technology companies like the 11 startups do not rely on traditional incentive programs from cities to grow. Quality of life in cities is more important. “San Antonio has a good quality of life,” Spencer said.

Spencer said he also is impressed by “the impact Rackspace millionaires are having in our community,” Spencer said. Some of the investors who attended the TechStars event are Rackspace investors and former executives, and the company helped bring TechStars to San Antonio.

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