Many startup businesses are created by identifying a problem or pain point of their customers and coming up with a unique solution. They usually have a “That’s so cool!” reaction or a “Why didn’t I think of that?” introspection. Even though many consumers might love the product or service, getting proper financial backing can be a tricky task.

Raising capital can be one of the more difficult hurdles startups face when it comes to expansion and growth. In our U.S. headquarters city of Austin, TX there is a unique event that has raised $4.6 billion in funding and acquisitions during its lifetime.

The SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event is its tenth year of matching startups with investors. A total of 403 participants have gone through the event during the annual SXSW festival. Startups pitch their product or service to investors in front of a live audience, instantly getting feedback and investor connections.

As part our commitment to helping small and medium-sized businesses, WorldFirst was a 2018 sponsor of the SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event. The pitch days took place Saturday, March 10 and Sunday, March 11. Fifty companies pitched in ten different categories, such as transportation, payment and fintech, sports performance, security and privacy, and hyper-connected communities.

During its 10 years, the SXSW Accelerator program has produced some well-known names. Siri, the voice-command technology, was originally a startup that went through the program, raised $24 million and was valued at $200 million before being bought by Apple. Online lending platform Kabbage has raised the most money of all of the startups, totaling $491 million in venture capital. Meal replacement shake Soylent and social media agency Spredfast are also some of the more successful companies to come out of the program, valued, respectively, at $381 million and $282 million pre-exit. The median capital raised by SXSW Accelerator participants has been $2.5 million.

WorldFirst representatives were on the ground at the event over the weekend, and there were a couple companies that stood out to our team this year.

Dan Patella, corporate sales manager, said his favorite startup was in the transportation category. Seattle-based Goin is a platform that introduces ridesharing to ADA and medical transit. The service aims to bring  greater wheelchair access and equality to communities, providing the transportation that everyone needs.

Cole Estrate, corporate account executive, said that Seattle-based DroneSeed stood out to him. The company provides precision forestry mapping to timber companies and nonprofits. DroneSeed currently uses drones to spray for invasive species and is building technology to do aerial planting. The company is also able to collect data on the land’s fertility and where crops and trees are growing best. DroneSeed took home the top prize in the Enterprise and Smart Data category.

The winners from this year’s event were announced Sunday night with winners in each category, as well as a Best in Show, Best Speed Pitch and Best Bootstrap Company (who has done the most with the least).

Austin-based ICON gained a plethora of news coverage from the event. The company is making 350-square-foot tiny homes with 3D printing technology and a concrete substrate. The homes, which could be used in third-world countries, cost roughly $4,000 to build. ICON partnered with Silicon Valley nonprofit News Story to unveil the first permitted, 3D-printed home in an Austin backyard during SXSW. The startup won the Social and Culture category.

New York-based Nanowear took home the Best in Show title along with winning the Health and Wearables category. Nanowear developed a patented textile technology to monitor medical conditions and chronic diseases in a non-obtrusive way. The data is captured through wearable cloth and transmitted wirelessly to healthcare providers.

The companies showcased at the SXSW pitch event are all solving problems through better processes or technology integration. This mirrors the WorldFirst mission of making international payments simple for  individuals, businesses and online sellers by combining best-in-class technology and award-winning customer service. Congratulations to all the participants and winners of this year’s SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event.