Apps Rocking the Buzz at SXSW 2011

Feb 4, 2011

We’re just over 30 days out from SXSW, the annual summer camp for nerds where programmers are rock stars, entrepreneurs do body shots and no one wakes up for a panel that happens before 10am. Already the buzz has begun over SXSW app startups and who will be the breakout stars. As a 6 time southby vet, app industry professional and loudmouth mobile blogger (holla at, I’m weighing in on what apps are getting chatter and what their chances are of making a splash at the Austin, Texas event in March. Check back at Appolicious for an updated list of those apps being buzzed about but not yet released and find more app crap at


I’m not sold on Path yet, but apparently others are because Google just tried to pick it up for $100 million and the app has already receive over $8 million in funding. The idea of an intimate photo diary of your life is a cool concept, but I guess I couldn’t necessarily wrap my head around the 50 people limit. Look, during SXSW it’s going to go one of two ways. Either Path will become a staple with people sharing their “what happens in austin stays in austin” falling asleep on the toilet at Stubbs photos, or it will fizzle because SXSW is full of a bunch of loud mouth nerds who share photos of their breakfast with the world and just won’t be sated with an audience of 50.


where the ladies at

Yes I know, this app currently only works in San Francisco, but they would be utter idiots if they didn’t have this working in Austin by the time SXSW arrives, heck the idea was BORN at SXSW. Plus, Where The Ladies At will be big because Path is big – the two share the same designer Danny Trinh. Oh, and then there’s the other founder who’s from a buzzy little company called Digg. Yeah, the Digg who throws new iPhones into the crowd at their SXSW parties. Even without these two factors, SXSW Interactive has a known sex disparity and frankly I don’t mind it because it’s in my favor. Come find me boys, I’m ready for you. The app doesn’t exactly use scientific methods (it scrapes the names of Foursquare users so Shannons and Pats are going to be confusing), but like there’s any science to love anyway?


Hurricane Party

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but people like to party at SXSW. And the parties aren’t always those printed up in neat little programs. In fact, at SXSW if you have three geeks in a room and a six pack, it’s a party. Hurricane Party capitalizes on these spontaneous get-togethers and helps you rope in other partiers. Ok, so to be fair, this is me being biased and choosing the home town team. But Hurricane Party isn’t just a bunch of local Austin townies throwing their hat in the ring. The startup graduated from Austin’s Capital Factory program this year (the incubator that will be judging this year’s startup bus competition) and then received funding to help the team grow the app and promote during SXSW. This app is already up, operational, striking deals with clubs and handing out free beers in Austin and I think their home turf advantage will be a big boon.

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Last year it was all about Gowalla, the year before it was all about Foursquare, I’m taking a long shot here and proclaiming this as an important breakout year for Scvngr. And I’m not just pulling this one out of my ass, first of all we have Scvngr “Chief Ninja” Seth Priebatsch as a keynote speaker, early in the week no less. This is going to push SXSW attendees to be engaging in the app so that they know what hard-nosed questions to nail him with when the keynote opens to the audience. Secondly, Scvngr is flush with capital and they have been hiring in Austin, so you can bet their game layer will be rocking by the time March arrives. And finally, despite the popularity of Foursquare and Gowalla, and despite Google’s past failures in the social space, MyTown (which has more than twice the users of Scvngr!) has proven that evidently the world is full of people who enjoy this gamed checkin system.



Thus far this app appears to be the buzziest of them all for SXSW. SXSW is an information overload, between blogs, Twitter, Facebook, text messages and more, you have a lot of sources pulling you different directions for events and parties. Add to that the fact that a lot of these parties are private, because the cool kid nerds like to shut out the plebes in their late night Driskill partying. Beluga lets that happen. You create pods of people and all share messages among one another, and what’s even better is they all back up online.



Lump this one as a direct Beluga group messaging competitor. This app lets you pull from your contacts and create text message groups, effectively forming chat rooms. What’s neat is that the app generates a phone number for the group and texting it is like hitting “reply all” to a chat. What’s also cool is that since it works with a phone number, it essentially works on all phones whether they are smart or not (not that this is any sort of competitive advantage at SXSW where I fully expect people to be walking around with iPhone 5s or some bizarre hologram Japan phone.) Groupme is cool, no doubt, and SXSW will put it to the test.

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Hashable Mobile

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t really get this app. In fact I thought it was a buzz-fed emperor’s new clothes sort of situation. But enough of you keep buzzing, and investors are throwing millions at it, so it must be worth my while. The app builds on Twitter by making recording connection, offering introductions and building networks easier. In a nutshell it seems to be for those power twitters who @reply their neighbor if they see him watering the lawn (oh wait, it’s based out of NY, ok…if you see your neighbor on the subway.) The app works like a personal social media CRM, but as social media CRMs are still catching on in the business sphere, I’m wondering how fast the pickup is going to be on this app outside tech circles. I sort of think Hashable’s trying a little to hard for SXSW success by putting a whole “SXSW” section into the app, but hey, go for it. Look, I’ll probably read back over this two years from now when Hashable is making some big IPO and feel like a jackass but this is how I see it.



So I’m throwing in this one just because everyone else keeps going on about it, but I’m not so sure. In a world where we love short text (text messages, group messages, tweets, emails) and deplore voice mails and calls, I’m just not sure what the real use case for this app is. In short, HeyTell lets you share voice messages and use push to talk like a walkie talkie. It’s basically like Beluga but for voice. The fans don’t lie, the app is already in the black and is really proving that the in-app purchase model is where it’s at. I’ll believe it when I see it, but I just don’t know if in the midst of crowds, DJs and live music that HeyTell is going to be the winner.



Tired of hearing about this app yet? Too bad! Just you wait, SXSW Interactive is going to totally be documented just like it’s set in 1972. This app doesn’t really need anymore help, it’s already been adopted at a rate that damn near alarming, but their new hash tag feature and SXSW promotion with Brisk Teas are sure to seal the deal on the app’s stardom.


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