Despite the widespread impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, the broader San Antonio tech ecosystem made some gains in 2020.
From the skyrocketing sales of Xenex’s germ-zapping robots and 6Connex‘s virtual event platform to the aspirational building of Port San Antonio’s Innovation Center to be completed by 2022, we experienced some growth during unprecedented times. During the third quarter of 2020, San Antonio experienced the highest growth rate in tech jobs in the country at 21 percent.
We still have work to do, but take this as a vote for guarded optimism for a subset of all innovative activity in San Antonio — startups.
Despite its lack of relative density, San Antonio’s startup ecosystem shows signs of innovation across many different fields. You’ll find on the 2021 list more than the expected biomedical, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), and cybersecurity companies from years past.
We’ve included founders who are building companies leveraging advanced technologies in aerial vehicle automation, food technology, legal immigration case management, civic engagement on a global scale, regenerative agriculture, even a pandemic-induced pivot to tracking drive-thru traffic for businesses.
We don’t repeat company mentions from year to year, so you’re getting a look at an unranked alphabetical list of startups to watch for growth and potential for impact at scale. These new companies are leveraging innovation with promising early-stage traction and market-product fit to show for their efforts.
These startups are:
- Privately-owned companies
- Have revenue potential (if they are pre-revenue)
- Generate $5 million or less in revenue
- Employ 50 or fewer employees
- Have raised Series A or earlier funding rounds
- Have been in existence for five years or less
The 2021 San Antonio Startups to Watch
AVA Propulsion is a hardware and software technology company specializing in aerial vehicle automation that designs, develops, and builds large fixed-pitch multirotor and drone architectures to fly cargo and people.
Read: AVA Propulsion Builds Large-Scale Drones for Delivery
FastVisa is a SaaS platform designed for integrated immigration and visa case management. Paul Kang and Ethan Jeong founded their startup in March 2016 and participate in our ecosystem as one of the companies in the San Antonio-based RealCo accelerator program.
Read: RealCo Adds Startups FastVisa and Totem to Its Accelerator Program
In 2019, Yoni Medhin and Matt Metchly founded Grain4Grain in San Antonio. Their patent-pending food-tech innovation converts spent barley grain left over from beer brewing into low-carb flour in just 15 minutes.
Read: Food Startup Grain 4 Grain Wins $50,000 at Tech Fuel Pitch Competition
Irys is a San Antonio-based SaaS startup scaling its global mission and capabilities from its original incarnation as the municipally-focused Cityflag. The startup rebranded itself in mid-March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic triggered mass shutdowns. Irys went on to win a $1.15M Air Force contract and close a $1.2M seed round in 2020. After successfully working with municipal clients, Irys is now focused on expanding its civic engagement platform via its partnership with global development firm Arcadis.
Read: Irys and Dutch Design Firm Arcadis Partner on Global Community-Engagement Solutions
JustAir, Inc. launched its patented advanced face mask system that protects users against COVID-19 with a powered air-purifying respirator in a more portable version than what’s used in medical or industrial settings.
Read: JustAir Launches Portable Powered Face Mask To Protect Against COVID-19
Cyber startup Level Effect sold its network-aware endpoint detection and response technology to Huntress, a Maryland-based provider of managed detection and response to cyber threats.
Read: Level Effect Cyber Tool Acquired by Maryland-Based Company Huntress
Perytor Therapeutics is commercializing its discovery of a substance that combats inflammation and has the regenerative properties stem cells possess. They have created a new category of anti-inflammatory treatment for the market.
Read: Perytor Therapeutics, One of the ‘Most Fundable Startups,’ Develops New Kind of Anti-Inflammatory Biologic
Scraffic provides in-store traffic counting insights to businesses. During the 2020 pandemic, the startup pivoted to add a new technology platform that measures traffic in a business location’s drive-thru lanes.
Read: Retail Data Startup Scraffic Adds Drive-Thru Customer Tracking for Retailers
The San Antonio-based biotech startup Vitanova Biomedical is developing a new way to treat cancer called photodynamic therapy that causes no side effects and can kill many cancers.
Read: Vitanova Biomedical Develops Light-Activated Cancer Therapy Pioneered by UTSA Researcher
Lew Moorman and Ed Byrne, co-founders of Scaleworks, launched Soilworks Natural Capital in June 2020 to acquire, invest in, launch, and incubate companies that can accelerate the adoption of regenerative farming practices. Watch for Soilworks to launch and incubate more companies focused on revolutionizing the way we produce food. For 2021, we’re watching Wholesome Meats, a local business launched last September to sell create carbon-negative grass-fed beef from ranchers using regenerative grazing. (Note: We’re also following the newly launched Grazing Land, a SaaS application for pasture management).
Read: Soilworks Grows Regenerative Agriculture Companies Wholesome Meats and Grazing Land
The featured image is of Yoni Medhin, co-founder of Grain 4 Grain. The rapidly growing food-tech startup won first place in Tech Bloc’s 2020 Tech Fuel Pitch Competition. Photo courtesy of Tech Bloc.