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Startups Win at SXSW

In the past few years, South by Southwest has become increasingly famous for producing “winners.” These winners—Twitter (2007), Foursquare (2009) and GroupMe (2011)—can credit the festival for an early boost within the press and influencer crowd that eventually led to widespread mainstream adoption.

Both Ryan Lawler at GigaOm and Erin Griffith at PandoDaily have great pieces summarizing why we didn’t see one single winner emerge from this year’s conference (too much noise, too focused on the influencer market), but my takeaway from 2012 was that big brands are fully embracing new technology (and usually leveraging startups to do it).

The week started with the launch of AmEx’s Twitter Sync Campaign, which drove consumers to link their credit card to their Twitter account and tweet specific messages to gain savings at merchants like Virgin America, McDonald’s and FedEx. In the week the program ran, over 25,000 American Express users synced their credit cards, spending $6.9 million on offers with $1.3 million in savings.

During the conference, General Electric ran GE Garages with startup partners Tech Shop, Make, Quirky, and one of our portfolio companies, Inventables, which focused on empowering the future of making things—individuals building and producing their own products. GE Garages also included a partnership with Skillshare, who offered educational classes for interested participants—including one featuring Keith Ozar, who is Head of Marketing at our portfolio company Makerbot.

The biggest announcement of the week was the launch of the API for Nike’s FuelBand, enabling any developer to build on top of the NikeFuel platform. And while the first partnership is with mobile-social network Path, it’s even more exciting to see a traditional retail brand embrace open data for developers.

Even record labels, historically stodgy and resistant to the disruptive music technology space, have changed their tune, with all four major labels announcing licensing agreements with social music startup Turntable.fm.

Big brands are taking the power of technology seriously and paying attention to what startups are doing. And while even as recently as a few years ago, many companies would push back against software-driven innovation, many of these corporations are now bringing teams in-house to help drive the future of their business (see Home Depot’s acquisition of RedBeacon, the growth of Turner Media’s New Incubator Group, and the growth of Walmart Labs).

Technology won SXSW, which has us very excited.

Other big winners at this year’s festival included a few True companies, and we couldn’t be more proud

-Ginger.io won the SXSW Health Accelerator Program.

-TastemakerX hosted multiple launch parties, including one featuring fantastic music in a converted garage in Austin.

-Stich Labs won Best in Show at the TechCocktail Event.

-Kiip co-hosted one of the coolest parties of the festival, a decentralized dance party that moved around downtown Austin handing out boom boxes—an inexpensive and innovative way for smaller startups to get attention.

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