While SXSW doesn’t officially start until Friday, I was excited to be able to jump on board with a new official event – the “startup crawl” – on Thursday night.
I jumped on a shuttle bus and joined other tech fans to shuffle from downtown startup to downtown startup. The array of technical creativity was impressive. I noticed a lot of very young faces in the crowd. After asking around, I realized that quite a few of the startup companies rely on college interns to help build their next new product. Austin, I am told, is a very young city.
Two companies stood out to me because of their creative approach to real-world need:
digby puts a kind of hot spot they call localpoint into a retail location, and then recognizes customer phones as they walk through the door. With their mobile app, customers can then receive personalized content and coupons based on what store they are in, or even where they are in the store. The company offers a development kit that allows small businesses to build their own apps, but also has built these types of apps for large retailers such as The Home Depot and Toys R Us.
They say they don’t keep a record who the actual customer is, just the ID of the phone. For small businesses, though, if the app recognizes loyal customers as they walk through the door, it would meet a need to provide personalized service to those best customers. Would be really creep if wal-mart did that though.
Within the HR tech space, I could see some use for this for job applications onsite.
I have to admit Bypass Lane was my favorite startup of the night. This company offers a mobile app that allows you to order a drink or food at a large event, such as a football game, and then get it delivered to you, or schedule it for pickup. The app was live at the bar where they hosted their startup stop last night, and I was able to download the app while at their location, and order a drink from the bar. I got a text when the drink was ready and went and picked it up.
Right now they have limited their app to just large venues such as the Ford Center. I asked if they would set it up for my coffee house. Instead of the laugh I thought I would get, the developer said pensively that they hope to push it out to small business somehow, but haven’t focused on that market yet. I would love to see them team up with an independent business organization, such as AMIBA, who could offer it to their members.
Speaking of small business, I’ve read a few articles in the national media about SXSW and they seem to focus on giants such as google and Microsoft offering their innovations. That’s not what SXSW is about. SXSW is about independent business, innovators and startups. They invite the big guys too, just because it’s fair, but they get the same amount of consideration by attendees as the above startup companies I mentioned.
These conference is about recognizing that innovation and talent can come from someone’s PC in the basement as much as the billion dollar lab at a software giant. I’m very excited to learn from those talents today.