As Austin preps for the annual influx of geeks, tweeps and marketing chic known as South by Southwest Interactive, I’d like to offer our visitors something more than just the parties and panels associated with the event. Why not also try to meet up with a few startups that might not be on your radar, or who should be on your radar?
That’s why for the three years (2012, 2011 and 2010) I’ve prepped a list of the 10 startups you should meet at SXSW, focusing mostly the on startups that I think are going places, have awesome founders or have a great idea or technology underneath. Austin has deep roots in semiconductors and enterprise IT, but has some talented mobile entrepreneurs as well. So many of these startups will have a more enterprise or data-heavy flair; which should be just fine, since that’s what the venture capitalists are funding these days.
Without further ado, here are my picks in alphabetical order. Of course, feel free to share your own faves and comments below.
Aumanil: This team employs data scientists in the service of marketing. While that’s nothing new, the company’s service is one that’s becoming more prevalent — namely crunching customer data and interactions (in Aumanil’s case in online games) to determine who the most valuable customers are for your business and when and how to reach out to them so they keep spending.
Continuum Analytics: This big data startup has been around since 2011 but this year scored a $3 million grant from DARPA to combine scientific databases with those more common in the business world (a.k.a., multidimensional arrays and relational databases, respectively). The company is creating several open source projects for dealing with massive amounts of data in ways that don’t require higher level programming skills.
Icon.me Online business cards are this gray area of opportunity where some people see irritating contact mining schemes (a la Plaxo) and others see a chance to make connections into a form of self-expression (a la Moo). With Icon, CEO Kent Savage — an old hand at creating enterprise companies — is walking the link between personal expression and professionalism. It makes money selling upgraded features and will also try to interest corporations in buying its digital business cards.
Lynx Labs: There are two Kickstarter-famous companies on this list, and Lynx is known for the creation of a “camera” that takes measurements and models of objects and translates that picture into a rendering that a 3D printer can understand. So, if you like something, you snap it, the Lynx camera makes a rendering, and then you can ship it to a 3D printer. It’s the missing link for the age of personalized manufacturing — and a potential nightmare for intellectual property lawyers.
Javelin Semiconductor: It wouldn’t be a list form me without some chip startup on here, and Javelin has a compelling power amplifier chip that’s inside certain Samsung handsets. The company’s chip, made using traditional manufacturing processes, helps reduce battery consumption and the cost of silicon on the phones it’s on. And Samsung is a big win for a little chip firm.
RideScout: While the city of Austin preps for a legal showdown with ride-sharing company Sidecar, a local startup called RideScout (formerly known as GoingMyWay) has launched a similar app that hooks people up via their Facebook accounts with rides. But the real value in RideScout comes from its ability to integrate other transit information, from bus schedules to other ride-sharing services into its application. So instead of a random stranger, you can also choose to grab a cab or a bus.
SuperMechanical: This is the company behind Twine, a popular Kickstarter project that connects your physical gadgets to the internet. Yes, you can use Twine to get your washing machine to tweet, but this company has several other ideas for creating connected objects, so why not try to talk to them and see what else they are working on?
Taskbox: Email overload got you down? I know there are a bunch of apps out there trying to solve this problem, but for people who love to turn their inbox into a testing ground, check out Taskbox, the iOS app (they are looking for an Android developer) that tries to take email — a desktop-oriented app — and make it mobile friendly. The company’s goal is to eventually help take the many source of requests for people’s time and attention and turn it into a task list where your list items come from voicemails, texts or even Twitter. It sounds daunting, but so is managing your life across so many platforms.
Toopher: Requiring two pieces of information, such as a password as well as a fingerprint scan or a physical credit card and a PIN number, are all good examples of two-factor authentication, but translating that level of security to the virtual and mobile world can irritate users. Toopher adds security to mobile transactions using location as the second element in two-factor authentication, which may be irritating if you’re on a sudden trip in a foreign city, but in general makes for less friction with better security. The company raised $2 million last November from Alsop Louie and others.
TrustRadius: The stealthy startup pitches itself as Yelp for enterprises, and it has some local investors pretty excited. The idea is interesting, and the TrustRadius CEO Vinay Baghat started Convio, an Austin startup that made software for the nonprofit sector. In 2010 Convio went public and was later acquired in 2012.