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SXSW: Top 10 Start-ups to Emerge From SXSW

Top 10 start-ups to emerge from SXSW

By Oliver Milman
Friday, 18 March 2011

If you’re keen to find out the next start-up to emerge from nowhere to threaten global domination, the South by Southwest festival is a good place to start.


The interactive festival at the Austin, Texas showpiece has acted as the public debut for several now-ubiquitous businesses. Obscure micro blogging site Twitter rocked up to the 2007 event and unknown location-based app Foursquare made an appearance in 2009.


This year’s SXSW showcased a clutch of start-ups aiming to build upon the social success of the likes of Twitter and Facebook and, potentially, take it to the next level. Gaming and, perhaps surprisingly, group messaging were reoccurring themes at the 2011 shindig, which concluded on Sunday.


Elias Bizannes, founder of the Startup Bus project that rolled into Austin with 38 teams of tech entrepreneurs, says: “I have noticed that group messaging is the new hot trend in technology, which has come out of nowhere.”


So, which 2011 SXSW start-ups are we likely to be hearing more of in the future? Gazing into our crystal ball, we unveil 10 of the leading contenders.


1. Scvngr


Taking its lead from Foursquare, Scvngr is an app that requires users to complete challenges when they check into a location.


The challenges, usually in the form of a riddle or question,  are presented by the businesses to users who check into their locations. Correct answers provide users with points, with product discounts or giveaways handed out as rewards.


The business was founded late last year by 22-year-old Seth Priebatsch, who has given himself the quintessentially tech job title of ‘chief ninja’.


2. Hashable


There are several apps that attempt to do away with physical business cards, but Hashable staked its claim at SXSW to be the leader of the pack.


Launched in October last year, Hashable is based on the hash tags used in Twitter. When a user of the service meets a new contact, the email address of the Twitter username of that person is stored with a hash tag as a reminder of where the meeting took place – such as #mydadshouse, #cheersbar or #SXSW.


Michael Yavonditte, Hashable CEO, claims the service is adding nearly 1,000 new users a day.



3. Artsicle


A classic SXSW start-up, Artiscle was founded on March 4, on the eve of the festival. The site was inspired by the experience of co-founder Alexis Tryon, who attempted in vain to view a painting she wanted to buy in a New York gallery.


Artsicle works by charging subscribers $50 a month to rent a work from the site’s portfolio. If they love the picture, they pay the full price, otherwise they can swap the rental agreement for a new piece of art.


4. Chomp


Apple’s App Store features copious amounts of reviews, but they are often tainted by comments from self-serving developers.


Chomp, which launched in January this year, aims to overcome this by providing an independent search engine for apps. Users ‘heart’ or ‘unheart’ apps they use, with the results displayed in real time to give a picture of an app’s popularity.


Despite being barely three months old, Chomp has 300,000 users, along with a handy $2.5 million in venture funding.


5. Instagram


Have you ever wanted to take photos on your iPhone and immediately share them with friends via a Twitter-esque feed? If so, Instagram has answered your prayers.


The service allows people to get instant feedback on photos after they’ve posted them. Only five months old, the Californian company already has 2.5 million users.


Co-founder Michael Krieger says that the company was inspired by the introduction of instant cameras in the 1950s, which allowed people to immediately see and share their photos.

6. ViKi


Viewing habits are shifting away from scheduled TV to video on demand streamed online – a development that many broadcasters are struggling to grapple with.


If and when VOD moves into the accepted mainstream in Australia, services such as ViKi could flourish. The site houses more than one billion videos of TV and movie content, translated into around 150 different languages.


The founding team, all Harvard graduates, claim that the service will “bring down the language barriers” of online TV.


7. Beluga


Shortly prior to SXSW, the founders of Beluga, all ex-Google employees, agreed to be acquired by Facebook. As a vote of confidence, you don’t get much better, but Beluga still hopes to impress consumers in its own right.


Beluga works on the premise that people want more intimate social networking rather than the widespread broadcasts of a Facebook update. It provides a group communication app, which allows users to chat with small groups of people, rather than their entire network. Beluga’s logo is stunningly similar to Twitter’s Fail Whale, which is an inspired or insipid choice, depending on how you look at it.


8. Neighborgoods


Continuing in the theme of more intimate, personal uses of social media, Neighborgoods aims to connect people who live close to each other by encouraging them to share items.


Calling itself a way to reduce cost and time, Neighborgoods allows users to post things that they need or items that they are happy to lend to others. Therefore, not everyone on the same street needs a lawnmower.


9. Bump


With car ownership in Australia not set to diminish any time soon, a website and app such as Bump may catch on Down Under.


Bump has assigned every car in the US its own email address and voicemail box. You can email friends or contacts using the service, just by using their licence plate number.


This service is based on the idea that we spend an inordinate amount of our lives sitting in our cars. A fast-food chain in California is taking this to its natural conclusion by using Bump to scan number plates in order to assign orders to customers in drive-through restaurants.


10. TripMedi


The joint winner of the Startup Bus competition, TripMedi is a solution to a problem that it’s hard to believe hasn’t been solved by now.


Aimed at the burgeoning medical tourism market, TripMedi provides independent advice and information for those planning to make an overseas trip for health or cosmetic reasons.


The site hopes to curb the shonky practices of dodgy operators who take advantage of medical tourists.


Best of all, it was founded by an Aussie, Rolland Dillon, who headed a team that came up with the idea within a 48 hour period on the way to SXSW.


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