Five Startups From SXSW to Partner With in 2014

Push Messages to Nearby Phones Without Expensive Beacons

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With hundreds of startups plying their wares, sometimes it's hard to wade through the noise at SXSW. And as marketers, we need to assess not only which companies are going to succeed, but which are ready for potential partnerships and brand activations. Often startups are too young to have a functional and viable offering for brands and agencies, but when their product (and sometimes team) matures enough, there's a lot to be gained from working with them. After sitting through dozens of meetings and pitches at the most recent SXSW in Austin, I've hit on five startups that marketers should be sure show up on their radar.

Sonic Notify: The best way to explain Sonic Notify's offering is that it's like an audio-based QR code that doesn't require any scanning. Their technology sends audio signals (inaudible to you and me) from a beacon to phones in proximity to trigger a mobile experience. The simplest execution would be pushing a coupon to a user's phone when they walk into the store, but they're doing some awesome stuff around shared experience at events as well. The best part for marketers? The potential for their product is limited only by your own creativity.

Gravy: Gravy helps users find local events they'd be interested in. It's part social, part search. The data set they've been able to compile over the past 18 months is truly impressive. They've also developed a hosted white-label version of their product that can provide a fast and easy extension for brands that want to tap into or position themselves around hyperlocal events. The kicker? Gravy can help track conversion from exposure to physical attendance of the event.

Splash: When was the last time people commented on how awesome the website was for your event? If you're like most of us, the answer is probably "never." Splash offers a simple, elegant solution to event promotion and showcasing. Anyone can easily build a beautiful, best-in-class, mobile-optimized site, as well as customize email invitations and pull in social user-generated content galleries.

Percolate: Percolate isn't new. In fact, Ad Age put them on their 10 Startups to Watch list back in 2011. But as someone who knew them in 2011, I can assure you they were very different back then. Now they offer one of the most robust content development, editing, and publishing suites on the market to help improve the quality, efficiency and efficacy of social content. Plus, they're evolving faster than anyone else and now include monitoring and analytics in their suite. Don't wait to see where they are next year; check them out now.

Rebel Mouse: Microsites aren't as sexy as they used to be. Rebel Mouse helps solve that. Their turnkey offering helps brands build microsites that pull in topical, timely user-generated content. I won't spoil the surprise, but the engagement and conversation rates they get on their sites for brands like GE, United Airlines, and Sprite would make any marketer drool. And with the hire of a chief revenue officer, they're looking to launch to help scale their partnership and native advertising offering.

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