SXSW remains the place for new consumer facing startups to launch, or for those that already exist, to debut new features and generally raise awareness for the app, service, or technology platform they provide.
We've been conditioned to expect a breakout runaway hit, one with the potential to disrupt businesses or create entirely new categories, a la Foursquare, Instagram, even Highlight, which was declared last year's "winner" before SXSW actually began.
Over the last week, I met with more entrepreneurs and investors than I can count, and in lieu of any new category creators, there were several startups I felt are putting innovative spins on existing, nascent categories, four of which are gaining traction after a strong, if quiet, showing at SXSW.
Takes is a very sleek app that aims to enable the creation of a new hybrid media, part image, part video, not unlike the animated gifs and Vines before it. Users snap photos, and in doing so, also capture very short videos. Those micro videos are then strung together into a fluid montage that can then be set to music. As an iOS only (at least for now) app, it's the kind of thing that will make Android users jealous.
Tools like this, which enable the creation of social microcontent, can be quite powerful for marketers looking to tap into the trend set by Oreo during the Super Bowl. Case in point, I asked McDonald's Director of Digital and Social Media, Sosti Ropaitis, what he was most excited about coming out of SXSW, and though completely unrelated to my hunt for startups, his answer explains why apps like this are so important for marketers.
"This opens up an entire world of opportunities for marketers to deliver fun, relevant, highly visual and meaningful content in a way that feels more natural to users," he said. "The basics of storytelling are being amplified as we now have the opportunity to interact in multiple dimensions where context is becoming increasingly more important."
Then there's Clinch, which launched quietly in the summer (saving the major reveal just last week), which puts a more social, collaborative spin on the mobile photo and video. The app will tap into a user's location data to find other people's videos from nearby that capture the same event in order to create a mash-up which consequently provides more detail and perspective than the video from any one source could do on its own. Clinch's site gives the example of a concert, where one user's video can be combined with those of other attendees, event sponsors, exclusive backstage content, and press coverage. By employing a combination of photo editing, location- data mining, augmented reality, and social technologies, the app holds a lot of potential for big public entertainment events, not just at concerts, but also for sports and even major political gatherings.
Here's a video made with Clinch:
Meanwhile, last year's big trend was ambient aware social discovery tools like Highlight, Glancee, and Sonar, that tapped your GPS data to tell you who's nearby and what's going on, that you should check out. Taking a slightly different route are two startups putting the emphasis on social curation and recommendations, rather than proximity, to facilitate the discovery process.
Raved, a local, social discovery tool – and finalist in Ad Age's big Food Network Brand Hack – has been methodically adding new features and tweaking the user experience, and I caught up with the team, who were on the ground at SXSW letting people know about the updates. Raved, as the name implies, is all about people's favorite places, ones they rave about, as indicators of where their friends and other users should go. One of the more notable new features is the addition of local experts – like local chefs and food bloggers – that people can follow and whose 'raves' can be more informative and influential in helping other users find the best places to go. This echoes the dual aspects the Twitter experience, in that there are a small portion of 'active users' creating content, and many more passive users following those creators.
Previously a music and concert ticket service based in Australia, Posse just moved to the US and relaunched as a web and mobile social discovery service. Like Raved, Posse solicits its users to recommend various venues – from shops and restaurants to service businesses – but instead endorsing as you go, Posse users build 'playlists' of their favorite spots, taking a cue from its musical roots. Another spin is that certain elements of Posse were designed primarily for women. Why? Before relaunching, founder Rebekah Campbell did some research on Foursquare, finding that it's usage skewed male (about 70% of the 100 users polled), and that the mechanics of 'checking-in' resonate more with guys than girls. To fill the void she sees left by Foursquare in the female market, Ms. Campbell built a different sort of game mechanic and competitive features into Posse that she hopes will resonate more with female users, such as the ability to earn points and rewards, which are tied to the proactive creation of virtual streets of favorite places that reflect users' tastes and status – as opposed to the perhaps more male-oriented behavior marking one's territory with check-ins.
What do you think of the spins these startups are putting on existing spaces? Did I miss any interesting startups at SXSW? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.
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