Part 2 of the SXSW 2015 Accelerator Pitch-off not only featured startups from diverse industries, but also had a special guest MC, Sir Mix-A-Lot. During this session, four startups had two minutes to present before entering a ten-minute Q&A with the judges. Featured startups included:
CreoPop: An innovative 3D printing pen that enables anyone to literally print what they are thinking in real-time. Due to the company’s unique approach of UV laser and light sensitive resin, the “ink” comes out cool, making it safe for kids. Its inks can also be modified to glow in the dark, act as a magnet, become stretchy, and more fun tweaks.
GroundFloor: The first micro-lending community for real estate, similar to a LendingClub for real estate. Through the platform, lenders earn anywhere between 6% to 26% interest on projects. Over the past six months, GroundFloor has funded over $1 million worth of real estate transactions, signed up thousands of investors, and closed over $300,000 in loans.
Ledger Wallet: An external device (USB) that is used to secure Bitcoin transactions; it’s applying EMV chip technology to the ever growing Bitcoin world.
ProtonMail: An end-to-end encryption email service provider. Accounts are fully backwards compatible, so users can continue to send and receive emails from friends who aren’t using ProtonMail.
It’s SXSW Interactive time again, and the Lab will be in Austin covering the latest developments. The buzz is already beginning, though, with major companies looking to make an impact at an event typically associated with startups:
McDonald’s Hopes To Win Millennials Back
McDonald’s will be hosting a charging area, dubbed the “Fry-Fi Station”, as well as food truck, street performances, live music, and a lounge equipped with WiFi and TVs streaming coverage of the panels. The fast food company will also be hosting three pitch sessions to showcase the company’s commitment to digital innovation. However, McDonald’s has already attracted negative press by initially opting to not pay bands to perform.
Twitter Plans to Boost Brand Presence
Twitter has kept a pretty low profile at SXSW for the past few years, with a small pop up-space showcasing ad content and networking with potential partners. Glen Brown, head of content and partnerships, would not reveal any specifics about what the messaging service has up its sleeve for this year, but he did reveal plans to increase brand presence and share a new native video strategy.
New Transportation Options With LyftLine and “Magic Mode”
In addition to allowing multiple riders to share a car with LyftLine, the company is also unveiling a SXSW-dedicated promotion called “Magic Mode” that will allow attendees to request stylish rides including a 1963 Bentley, 1960’s era mini cooper, a Tesla Model S, and a Range Rover.
PayPal Supports Start Ups
PayPal is launching a new contest this year that will let startups pitch to shark tank’s Daymond John. The winner will receive one-on-one consultations and $30,000.
One of the most surprising announcements at MWC15 was the HTC Vive VR headset. While the exact technical specs and pricing are still a bit of a mystery, HTC’s rationale to partner with Valve is not. Today, we visited with Jeff Gattis, HTC’s executive marketing director, to get his take on the partnership. According to Gattis, it all comes down to credibility and community—specifically, the credibility Valve has earned in building their Steam VR platform and the community of over 110MM users. With a great VR standard, a solid network of content developers, and a massive global audience, The HTC Vive is well-positioned to be the first widely adopted VR headset.
One of our favorite activities at Mobile World has been scoping out the various country pavilions—it’s a start up EPCOT, and we love the ingenuity on display. While Germany, France, and host country Spain all had solid showings, Norway stole the show, particularly companies like:
Thinfilm: Print-based approach to electronics brings digital interactivity (through NFC) to physical objects.
Nordic Semiconducters: Chipsets that power proximity marketing solutions like BLE beacons from well-know providers like as Estimote, Kontakt.io and Roximity. Their nRF51 series chipset also powers products like smart lights, wireless keyboards, and the Adidas FIT SMART wristband tracker.
5G Connecting the Future
The promise of 5G—a new wireless network standard that is expected be implemented by 2020—is of course more bandwidth (faster speeds) and lower latency (gamers rejoice). A few of the reasons why we’re excited about 5G is because this new standard has the ability to power new experiences such streaming VR, self-driving cars, and a plethora of connected devices, which are expected to number upwards of 50B by 2020. Companies demoing 5G inspired experiences at MWC15 include Ericsson with Volvo and Telstra, Huawei & Japanese mobile service provider NTT Docomo, and Alerta & China Mobile.
Today IPG Media Lab attended Demo Day for the R/GA Accelerator powered by Techstars. The event featured 10 emerging “Internet of Things” startups that showcased their solutions in categories such as wearable technology, agriculture, home automation, and enterprise solutions. Here’s a look at the four most interesting pitches as voted by the Lab team:
LISNR (http://lisnr.com/): High-frequency smart tone system that activates second-screen mobile experiences.
Filament (http://www.getfilament.io/): “Sensor as a service” solution that enables manufacturers to turn existing machines and devices into a “connected” infrastructure.
Diagenetix (http://diagenetix.com/): DNA-based detection kits for the agricultural, water, and food safety markets.
Bitfinder (http://bitfinder.co/): Connected device that provides real-time analysis of air quality to help everyone understand the air they breathe.
Wednesday’s WeWork Demo Night was all about fashion tech. Judges from BuzzFeed Style, Woodies Clothing, College Fashionista and FirstMark Capital reviewed pitches, and picked ladies’ performance undergarment stars Dear Kate as the winner.
The popular vote disagreed, though, and chose Pradux, a solution that enables the purchase of products as worn on popular shows. Pradux is particularly interesting for its marketing implications, as it’s part of a suite of new technology and partnerships that could possibly crack open the long-dormant t-commerce space.
Also worth checking out: LookBooker, an Australia-via-Manhattan startup that’s a bit like Seamless for salons. They enable booking appointments at preferred hair and beauty shops. It’s a no-brainer, which is why the company has already achieved significant reach in Singapore.
Rounding out the night were some e-commerce plays that may have limited impact. Brayola is an Israeli bra aggregator site, dipping into a field (online bra perfection) currently owned by True&Co. Ace & Everett sells boutique socks, while Teddy Stratford is trying to argue that men’s shirts fit better with a zipper underneath. Another good evening at WeWork — though better-dressed than usual.
More and more people are buying Smart TVs — by some projections, there will be 66MM connected households in 2016 — and so the long-developing advanced TV space should finally achieve nationwide scale. Not surprisingly, then, they’re a major theme at CES 2015. With the trade show just around the corner, we are highlighting three of our favorite partners in the connected TV space. They’ll be exhibiting at CES, so stop by their booths and say hi.
BrightLine: Veterans of the ITV space, BrightLine is focused on building rich media experiences for TV. They’re helping brands enhance their content and advertising across linear and OTT (on-demand) platforms.
Samba TV: Samba uses ACR (automatic content recognition) to identify what TV viewers are watching. Their product suite ranges from real-time TV analytics to cross device retargeting. The latter is great for audiences that watch TV while using their phone (nearly 58%, according to a 2014 report from Ipsos).
Cognitive Networks: An example of a ACR provider focused on first-screen, Cognitive Networks also recognizes smart TV content, and displays interactive content directly under the broadcast. That interactive layer can be used to increase engagement with either programming or advertising. Cognitive Networks just netted a pretty healthy Series B, so be sure to congratulate them.
The evolution of the IoT has transformed the way people interact with physical objects in their everyday life, and how these objects interact with other devices like sensors, smartphones, and tablets. The Fall 2014 Internet of Things (IoT) Fair was a great way to experience products from both established and early stage companies. Each company demonstrated their solution, trade-show style, to roughly 500 enthusiastic IoTers. The companies spanned across several categories, but these stood out:
Basic6 gives users a cloud-based infrastructure for real-time monitoring, deployment, and management of IoT devices.
Kinsa uses a smartphone-enabled thermometer to monitor symptoms and track illness for users and their doctors.
Ottomate reduces a home’s electrical cost through its self-programming home automation system.
Octopart allows engineers and part buyers to easily access part information, design, manufacturing, and cost through its search engine.
Bluesmart gives travelers the ability to locate, lock, and weigh their suitcase directly from their smartphone.
As consumers get more comfortable using smart devices we expect more such platforms to enter the market.
On Tuesday night, IPG Lab attended as Product Hunt held its first-ever New York meetup at the AlleyNYC space near Times Square. Backed by Y Combinator, the platform enables the discovery of dozens of new startups every day, and has grown rapidly due to its tight community and addictive interface.
The meetup, which was packed with fans of the platform, allowed Product Hunt to highlight new features: founding member Erik Torenberg gave an AMA on the future of Product Hunt, and developers showcased tools that interact with the Product Hunt API, as well as their own projects. In addition, Cameron Hendrix displayed a Chrome extension called Internet Smoke Break to search through the database, and Trevor Owens presented QuickMVP, which enables startups to launch quickly and effectively.
I often compare my job at the IPG Media Lab to an A&R man scouting bands for a record company. The classic old-school A&R pitch is “I’m gonna make you a star kid,” but for me the pitch goes something like “I love your startup and I want to put you in front of Chrysler.” Or maybe it’s Tesco, Hyundai, or MillerCoors.
Just as hundreds of bands descend on SXSW in hopes of cutting through the noise, hundreds of startups now do the same for SXSW Interactive. Sure we saw plenty of technologies we could live without, but there were also a number of great companies pitching in the Accelerator competition or hidden in the corners of the expo hall. Here are six of our favorites from this year that we think brands and marketers need to know about.
1. PAR Works.
An augmented reality company that offers precision at the millimeter level, PAR Works has a self-service platform that allows you to tag any object, product, or building by uploading photos from different angles to create a 3D model. Users can then take a photo of that object to trigger an augmented reality overlay that can include video assets, additional information, links and more. For marketers this means consumers can take photos of a building to get a discount offer inside or take a photo of any product in store to learn more about it or get a special deal.
Why we like it: AR technology often does not live up to its promise, but PAR Works precision separates them from the pack. Enabling theoverlays through a photo is also compelling given the rise of image sharing.
An app that lets you scan and buy a gift in store and instantly send a notification to a giftee’s phone to redeem in any of the store’s locations. Users can also create a list of items they want, which friends can access and purchase regardless of whether they’re in-store. Jifiti’s ecosystem already includes retailers like Old Navy, Crate & Barrel, Barnes & Noble, Sephora, William Sonoma, and Brookstone.
Why we like it: Jifiti provides the thoughtfulness of a physical gift with the flexibility of a gift card as recipients can redeem another item of equal or lesser value. With mobile shopping on the rise, Jifiti’s stock will likely increase in the coming years.
In Inuit Mythology “Aumanil” (pronounced au-MAHN-EL) is the god that controls the movement of whales, and fittingly AuManil bills itself as “Whale Management for Online Games.” The startup helps you analyze and manage high spending gamers within your games, and also provides risk assessment to help re-engage players that may be on their way out the door. While the company is getting its start with gaming, look for it to conquer whales in other seas in the near future.
Why we like it: 1% of consumers are often responsible for over 50% of a company’s revenue. AuManil not only identifies these high value customers, they give you action steps to engage them.
Cord provides the music technology for Marvel’s Project Gamma, which was unveiled as SXSW as a new interactive way of experiencing music for comic books on tablets. By layering musical stems that are triggered by the pace of readers as they scroll through the comic, Cord synchronizes sound with action in a novel way. While Cord already handles sonic branding for a variety of large brands, this new technology has great implications for what’s possible with sound in tablet advertising.
Why we like it: Cord has figured out a way to make audio interactive in a complementary way that does not distract from the digital experience. Anyone interested in digital storytelling should take note.
SnapTrends lets you monitor social media discussions by micro geo-location across a variety of channels. For example you can view the social media buzz across multiple channels at a specific building or sports arena, and measure volume, mood, and sentiment. The Austin startup was born as a way for local government to monitor social media discussion in areas devastated by brushfires as power outages rendered social media the only way of communicating with people in harms way.
Why we like it: A very small percentage of social media is actually geo-tagged, but SnapTrends technology uses natural language processing to discern location whether or not location-services are enabled.
Higi makes quantified self in-store hardware as well acompanion app that measures basic health and wellness (a person’s “Higi Score” contains components like Body Mass Index, blood pressure, pulse, diet, and sleep). The company caters to what it calls the “Pre Quantified-Self” audience, and already has hardware units in CVS and Kmart in the Midwest. Surprisingly, Higi named hip-hop star Lupe Fiasco as its Creative Director, a clear indication that it’s angling for mainstream adoption.
Why we like it: But most exciting, it’s partnering with a variety of QS players and may eventually create a unified ecosystem that pulls data from a variety of existing QS devices. We’d love to see the day that Nike Fuelband and Fitbit users compete with each other.