For those planning to hit South by Southwest this year, I figured I’d share a few local area startups you should make it a point to meet while you’re down in lovely Austin, Texas. I polled some locals, as well as consulted my notes about cool startups, to pull together this list. Feel free to debate the merits of it in the comments or add your own suggestions. For those who didn’t get a chance to meet last year’s recommended startups, check out the 2010 crop of SXSW Austin startups and say hello to them, too. Some of the companies on this year’s list as well as some from last year’s and many others can be visited on Thursday, March 11 during the Austin Startup Crawl. And welcome to Austin.
- Mutual Mobile. This firm builds apps — and lots of them. The firm built Google’s Boutiques app (s goog) as well as iOS (s aapl) apps for NASA,
Dell (s dell)and StumbleUpon. It also worked with Gowalla to translate the location-based services’ app to BlackBerry (s rimm) devices and improve Gowalla’s Android app.
- Ravel. Big data nerds rejoice, because Zach Richardson, COO of Ravel wants to help you generate structured data from the web. It has also developed a version of Google’s Pregel built on the Hadoop stack called Golden Orb for large-scale graph processing tat it plans to open source at the end of March.
- FoodontheTable. This company offers a neat web-based service and a potentially lucrative niche in the ad market, by helping consumers plan meals then create shopping lists that correlate to deals in their local grocery stores. A basic version of the service is free, and one can upgrade for more complete meal planning and access to additional recipes and storage for $10 a month or $70 a year.
- WPEngine. Given that there are almost 18 million WordPress sites (see disclosure), and not all bloggers are thrilled to host those sites themselves, WPEngine, which is a host for WordPress blogs, is a pretty interesting play. The company launched last July, and says that because it only does WordPress hosting, it can allow site owners the ability to fully customize their configurations exactly as they would if they were hosting it themselves.
- HurricaneParty. This free iPhone app is one of those trying to combine your location, your friends and makes party recommendations based on who’s there and how close it is to your physical location. The software bears a resemblance to the GroupMe, Beluga, Yobongo phenomenon. The app launched last year.
- SharpSkirts. This startup aims to become a community for women entrepreneurs and provide classes, events and other resources to help women push other women to succeed at the startup game. Founder Carla Thompson was formerly at Guidewire Group, and many entrepreneurs may know her from her days helping organize the DEMO conference (disclosure, Thompson is a friend of mine).
- Macheen. There’s nothing social about this company, which means many in the dev-focused SXSW crowd may ignore it. But Macheen, which has created a sort of cloud-based mobile virtual network operator for retailers and device makers, has the potential to fill a very big need in the connected devices community. And the potential payoff there could be huge. I wrote about Macheen’s launch this week.
- MassRelevance. This startup offers Software-as-a-Service that helps big businesses manage and monitor their brand via social media, as well as engage with actual and potential customers in real-time. It launched in December with $2 million in funding from Austin Ventures and Mike Maples Jr.s’ Floodgate Capital.
- Socialware. Wondering if errant employee tweets may put your big business at risk? Socialware aims to help companies who have to worry about heavy compliance issues protect themselves while still enabling them to use social media. The company dubs itself “social middleware” and last month raised $3 million from Floodgate, G-51 Capital and Silverton Partners.
- Envaulted. Register a credit card with Envaulted and get 1 percent cash back on all the purchases you make. The company also tries to negotiate group discounts based on where its users are shopping, and may even have a plan for all the data its able to collect.
Disclosure: Automattic, maker of WordPress.com, is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.
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