Ad Age Picks First Three Startups to Hack Budweiser

Next Play Sports, Wendr, Meeps Will Compete in Brand Hack 2012

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There's two weeks left until Ad Age Digital 2012, where six promising startups will fast-pitch Anheuser Busch-InBev execs for the chance to work on one of two iconic brands: Budweiser and Bud Light.

Bud's looking for platforms and technologies that will drive the brand's connections with consumers in several key areas: sports and entertainment, point-of -sale, and social TV and other tech-driven ideas for the beer category.

Here's a look at the first three startups in the running:

Next Play Sports
This startup hits on two of AB-InBev's chief interests: Bringing fans deeper into the sports they love and building a robust dual-screen experience. Next Play Sports develops second-screen applications that enrich the sports TV experience by letting fans predict the next play during commercial breaks. App users compete against friends, whether or not they're in the same room, and earn prizes for being a top play-caller. Its gaming platform is built on proprietary sports-data algorithms and uses push notifications and syndication technology to bring in-app activity to TV broadcasts. The San Francisco-based startup is a graduate of the Founder Institute incubator program.

Foursquare popularized a world of location-based services, and a new generation of location-aware apps were the rage at the South by Southwest Interactive confab in Austin, Texas. Enter Wendr (tagline: "Find Your Night"), a social-planning app that aims to make it easy to find out what your friends are doing and to access events and activities. To help facilitate the planning process, users are prompted to set their status to "Going Out," "Staying In" or "Open to Suggestions." Interestingly, all plans are wiped off the system after 24 hours, which keeps everything focused on the present or immediate future, and eliminates the data trail.

I covered Meeps as an under-the radar startup to watch, prior to SXSW, after which it was recognized by Apple and highlighted in the app store. Meeps is a social platform designed to solve the problem of discovering new people, places and things. Meeps lets you find real people who share real interests, in real time. With plans around both in-app purchase and branded conversations and topics, it will be interesting to see what they can do for Anheuser Busch-InBev.

Stay tuned: We'll be announcing three more startups next week. And if you haven't yet, be sure to snag your tickets to the Ad Age Digital Conference, April 17 and 18 in New York. The conference has sold out the past two years, and tickets are going fast, so don't wait.

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