Picasolar Ties for First at SXSW Eco Startup Showcase
Douglas Hutchings, CEO of Picasolar, holds the Greentech first-place award at the SXSW Eco Startup Showcase
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Picasolar, a solar startup company affiliated with the University of Arkansas, finished in a first-place tie at the SXSW Eco Startup Showcase, a fast-paced pitch competition featuring top emerging firms from around the world.
The third annual Startup Showcase spotlighted innovative early-stage companies in the areas of “Greentech,” “Cleanweb” and “Social Impact.” Picasolar tied for the win in the Greentech category with Pax Pure of San Rafael, Calif. Eight companies per category competed at the conference, which ended Oct. 8 in Austin, Texas, in front of a live audience and panel of judges made up of top investors.
Picasolar’s technology, a hydrogen super emitter invented by chief technology officer Seth Shumate — a doctoral student in the microelectronics-photonics graduate program at the University of Arkansas — could improve the efficiency of solar cells by 15 percent. It is a key innovation in the fastest-growing segment of the fastest-growing energy source in the world.Picasolar was only Arkansas company in the Startup Showcase, which featured 32 companies. Each company delivered a four-minute pitch, followed by four minutes of questions and answers with a panel of judges. The judges included representatives from Target, Shell Technology Ventures, the Whole Planet Foundation, New Enterprise Associates and Sprint.The Greentech category included startups that offered a diverse range of products and services that fulfill a market demand while significantly reducing or eliminating environmental impact.
Although there was no cash prize, the “exposure was fantastic,” said Douglas Hutchings, Picasolar’s chief executive officer.
“The list of people who attend the Startup Showcase at SXSW Eco is pretty impressive and I think we made the state of Arkansas look good,” Hutchings said. “We had some great follow-up conversations with decision-makers across the energy value chain. The Startup Showcase provided a great platform for us to share our venture.”
Picasolar won more than $300,000 in cash while competing for the U of A at graduate business plan competitions in 2013, including $250,000 for winning the MIT NSTAR Clean Energy Prize. The team incorporated and is now located at the Genesis Technology Incubator at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park in Fayetteville.
SXSW Eco’s 2014 Startup Central programming was produced in conjunction with Austin Energy and the Austin Technology Incubator, part of the IC2 Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.
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