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Chamber’s A-List highlights promising startups

By Gary Dinges - American-Statesman Staff

AeonClad Coatings. Gravitant. Kimbia. Localeur. NOOM. Terapio.

Odds are you haven’t heard of them yet, but those companies are among 19 Central Texas startups destined for greatness, according to a panel of experts assembled by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber’s 2013 Austin A-List features a diverse mix of businesses, everything from a company that created an app that child-proofs smartphones to a social network for fitness buffs to a firm focused on spine imaging.

The goal, chamber executives say, is to connect startups with investors who can help finance future growth. Companies featured on last year’s Austin A-List, including Deep Eddy Vodka and uShip, have received almost $58 million in funding, according to chamber figures.

“Austin is easily identified these days as one of the country’s greatest innovation hubs,” chamber president Mike Rollins told the American-Statesman. “We want to do our part to highlight some of the great innovations going on in our region.”

New this year, the chamber has teamed with South by Southwest Interactive on the Austin A-List project, helping get the word out to attendees around the globe. More than 30,000 people attended SXSW Interactive this year.

“We want to see more publicity for Austin and more investment here,” said Hugh Forrest, director of SXSW Interactive. “There are a lot of people here doing creative things.”

That creative culture is one selling point that helps attract so many startups to Austin instead of the East and West coasts, Forrest said. But it’s not the only reason.

“This city is a much cheaper place to do business than the Silicon Valley,” he said. “It’s more affordable, and the quality of life is another huge selling point.”

The Central Texas Angel Network is among the local investors working to attract and keep startups in the Austin area. In 2012, it invested more than $8 million – a record – in 28 companies.

Thirteen of the companies were first-time recipients, while the remaining 15 had previously received investments from the group.

“Angel investors continue to play a critical role in funding startups,” said Michele Skelding, part of the Central Texas Angel Network’s membership committee.

“The increased activity among angel investors in the Central Texas region is abundant evidence that angel investors are not only proven, but also a vital part of fostering and advancing the next generation of innovative companies in Austin.”

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