News Column

El Paso Startup Looking to Grow

Sept. 17, 2012

David Burge, El Paso Times, Texas

Candy Lab, a high-tech startup company with operations in El Paso and San Diego, is going to the prestigious Demo event in Silicon Valley this fall.

Demo Fall 2012 is a private event that puts promising high-tech startups in front of venture capitalists and high-tech industry leaders, said Andrew Couch, president and chief executive officer for Candy Lab.

"Think (television show) 'Shark Tank' but on a global scale," said Couch, a transplanted San Diegan now living in El Paso.

Couch and his company have tested their Cachetown app in El Paso and will formally launch it Oct. 1-3 at Demo in San Jose, Calif.

The app is a high-tech scavenger hunt game that can be used by businesses as a promotional tool, Couch said. For players, it's a fun game that can be played on their mobile phones.

While at Demo, Couch said, he is hoping to find $1.5 million in funding for his company and different partners to help his business grow. His plan is to locate his corporate headquarters in El Paso and begin to hire El Pasoans to work in its sales and technology departments, he said.

About 19,000 companies applied to launch at Demo this fall, Couch said. About 70 were accepted, and of those, 20 got full scholarships and 10 got partial scholarships, he added.

Candy Lab received a partial scholarship worth about $14,000 to participate this year. Couch's company will end up paying about $4,000 for its Demo entry fee.

"And we wouldn't be able to do this without it (the scholarship help)," Couch said.

Cachetown was used at Balloon Fest and Street Fest this year as a scavenger hunt and prize giveaway game by radio station KLAQ-FM (95.5) and its partners.

More recently, it was used by a partnership among the El Paso New Car Dealer Association, GECU and UTEP Athletics for a monthlong scavenger hunt. Three participants were then selected for a field goal kicking contest at halftime of the Oklahoma-UTEP football game and had a chance to win a new car.

The Cachetown app uses what is called augmented reality technology. Images are assigned to particular locations around a city using a Global Positioning System, and you can see those images through your phone. Similar technology has been used in Europe for several years but is new to the United States, Couch said.

John Luciano, president of the El Paso New Car Dealer Association, said that the technology and scavenger hunt game "got us in front of tens of thousands of people."

"It was an honor for our 27 dealer franchises to be part of the first use of this technology in the USA," Luciano wrote in a statement.

Couch's connection to El Paso came almost by accident. He met El Paso native Bea Lich at a New Year Eve's party last year in San Diego, while she was visiting. They fell in love, and he soon moved to El Paso.

But his decision to move his company to El Paso was purely a business decision, he said.

"El Paso has been so forward-thinking and has embraced me as a new entrepreneur and this new technology," Couch said. "That's the reason I was able to bring my business to El Paso."

Couch is a former Army sergeant who deployed to Kosovo as a peacekeeper and to Afghanistan where he saw combat duty.

Source: (c)2012 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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