There’s a seemingly never-ending sea of new apps to explore at SXSW. You find out about them from marketing tricks including pop-up demonstrations when people gather around, roving folks in bright shirts bribing people with free food and drink, kiosks with flashy animations, tons of flyers left lying around, posters taped to every blank spot on every pole in town, overhearing conversations, and of course, bumping into friends. There doesn’t seem to be a “breakout app” that has captured the conversation, but I’ve discovered a few that I’d like to mention:


LevelUp is (yet another) payment app — but with a twist: it’s really easy to install, configure and use. I was standing in line to buy an over-priced slice of pizza and a cup of $10 bad wine when I saw a poster inviting me to “LevelUp and save $5 on my next purchase”. So, as I stood in line, I downloaded the app. There were only 2 people in front of me, so the test was to see if could get the app downloaded and configured to buy my pizza in just a few minutes. The download went swiftly, the app asked me if it could “scan” my credit card and then requested that I confirm a few security details. I then connected it to Facebook for login, and I was ready to go. Right as I finished the configuration, it was my turn to order. LevelUp displays a QR code, which is scanned by a device connected to the market’s cash register (kinda like the Starbucks app). I scanned, and was ready to go in seconds. For using it, I got an instant $5 off my order, which resulted in free pizza for me (although I had to fork over a lot for bad wine). The app is available for iOS and Android right now.



Highlight is not a new app for SXSW, but is getting a lot of buzz here right now. Highlight senses the area you’re in and alerts you if your friends are nearby. The idea is to take social networking to a hyper-local level. The app is simple to configure: it will search your Facebook friends and ask you to choose the ones you want it to scan for. It will also search your phone’s contacts. Highlight is available on iOS and Android.



GonnaBe is an app that lets you make plans to hookup with friends. You can quickly create “events” and invite your friends to join you. Say you just grabbed a 4-seat table in a hot bar and you want to alert your friends who are nearby to join you, you no longer have to text them individually. Just create your plan, and then share it to your followers or social channels in seconds. Scan your feed to see the plans of the friends you follow or see the feed of the hgh helpful for low thyroid public plans around you if you’re feeling spontaneous. GonnaBe is available now for iOS and soon for Android.



The Twist app is a convenient way to let people know when you’re going to arrive at an event. Their thinking is that people are constantly late, and Twist will make life easier by eliminating the stress and headaches caused by uncertain wait times and travel delays. Twist monitors your calendar and email and will automatically let people know when you’re going to arrive based on your location. Twist can automatically send an update to the parties that are waiting on you to let them know when you’ll be there. So no more fumbling in the car, endangering your life (and others) trying to peck out a text explaining you’re stuck in traffic… while you’re in traffic! Twist is available for iOS.



Tired of those sites that promise to sell your gadget for you and earn you tons of dough? They’re great, but they sure do take a fat percentage. Well, here comes Vendly — a free marketplace for you and your friends to sell and buy anything from each other. No middleman, sort of. Vendly is easy to use, simply snap a picture with your phone, add a description, share it via email, Twitter or Facebook and then wait for your networks to see and buy! Vendly is available on iOS and Android.



Foodzy promises to turn getting healthy into a game! Foodzy is yet another “personal food journal” but one with a twist. Instead of just entering everything you eat from a never-ending list of ridiculous food databases, with Foodzy you turn what you eat into an activity stream with a real-time dashboard giving you a picture of how your “food day” went. You can also connect your gadgets like a FitBit to let Foodzy know how much you’ve exercised. Foodzy translates your calories into its own “Bits” point scale and awards you badges and extra points for engaging in healthier activities. It’s available on iOS and Android.



Kismet is another “social planning” app in what’s seemingly becoming a crowded field. Kismet promises to simplify your social life by connecting you to nearby friends and letting you make plans together. When you send out an invite to friends, they can RSVP (even without the app). Everyone you invite to the event you’re planning are placed into a closed “group” where you can message each other to work out the details. Kismet is available on iOS.



Yiftee lets you send small gifts (usually $20 or less) from your phone or the web for any reason: birthdays, thank-you’s, or get well wishes. Yiftee works with local businesses to fulfill the gifts. Giftees receive them on Facebook, email or text and stop by a local merchant to pick them up. Yiftee is available on iOS.


After the culture shock of Day 2,  I adapted fairly quickly and thrived on the following two days. Much like CES though, it’s easy to get information overload. I’m definitely suffering from Festival Fatigue, but in a good way.

I chose a couple key items on Saturday and managed to get into those sessions without a problem. I started with the Tim Berners-Lee talk. This is the guy who changed everything. For all practical purposes, he “invented” the Internet. Sometimes it’s great to hear a big thinker. When he says, “I haven’t yet accomplished world peace,” I believe he has that on his to-do list. He’s the kind of guy who can affect change. His key takeaways for us? Create a platform, device and OS independent. He advocates open web standards and open platforms. More importantly, he asked us to be part of the solution. Create things that will make a difference.

Admittedly, I sat through the Elon Musk keynote, but it was streamed into the conference room for my next session. Elon Musk is impressive, with PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX under his belt at the age of 41 …. at the same time, I sort of felt like I was watching a rich, white guy answer interview questions with not that much personality. Personal opinion only, of course.

My real goal was to sit through UX Designer and author Russ Unger’s session on the similarities between Jim Henson’s works and processes to modern day UX design. It was a creative session that I thoroughly enjoyed. Of course, at different points, the entire audience was singing Fraggle Rock and Rainbow Connection, and I think everyone in the room was born in the 1970s. But the session inspired some creativity in me and that’s why I’m here.

Sunday, we took a different tact and avoided sessions altogether. We went outside the session to what was happening outside the convention center. Samsung painted an empty building and turned it into their own pseudo-bar and restaurant, showcasing their latest tech. Rackspace an Salesforce both co-opted existing bars. Mashable has a tent that even includes Grumpy Cat as a special guest.

"beam" your drink and food choices to the kitchen at Samsung

And then there was the trade show. While not as large as CES, it was definitely reminiscent. iPhone cases and apps and web sites. Hosting companies, marketing tools, and tools for effective design. It’s all there. Can I say anything really blew me away? Not really. Over the next few days, I’ll blog about a couple of the apps and companies that seemed  a little more special.  But will you hear from those companies in a year? Not sure.

Not Quite Larger Than Life Trade Show

Tomorrow is Monday and I head back to San Francisco from the wonderfully weird Austin. SXSW has been a blast and I’m pretty sure, now knowing how to navigate it, I’ll be back again next year. Coming later this week – the best and worst marketing ploys of SXSWi 2013.

Every year, thousands descend upon Austin, Texas: music geeks, film geeks, and then the rest of us – tech and marketing geeks. After hearing stories of this event for years, I decided to embark upon my first SXSW Interactive.

My first day was a bit of a culture shock. I’ve attended in many conferences, usually focused on a particular niche, and I expected the same sort of dynamic.

Lesson #1: SXSWi is a beast unto itself.

I got lucky. Being an early riser, I made it to the first sessions, on digital marketing and mobile, quite early. Those sessions are held way across town. SXSW is huge – and therefore, it is quite spread out.

Lesson #2: Get there early.

Long Lines in the Rain

I hung out in the mobile marketing sessions from 9:30 until about 11. When I walked back outside, I was shocked. There was a line down the stairs and out the door to get into these sessions!

Lesson #3: Dress for wind and rain.

It was also pouring the rain. I waited in the rain and crowded onto a shuttle back to the convention center. For the rest of the afternoon,  I failed at attending sessions. There were lines wrapped around buildings – lines that continued long after the sessions had begun.

Lesson #4: Think outside of the session box.

So with 20,000+ people attending SXSWi, it’s a basic fact that I won’t get into all the sessions I’d like to see. My new strategy is to pick two, maybe three sessions, and strategically plan around those, understanding that I’m losing a part of my day to standing in line and making friends with those around me. But, it’s not all about the sessions at SXSWi. Companies and groups have set up tents everywhere, and there are exhibits and food crawls and start-up events. It’s time to think outside of the session box and explore everything else SXSW has to offer.

What I’m noticing is that everyone fits in and everyone is friendly and excited. The attendees are very international and everyone is willing  to discuss the latest tech and the craziest marketing ploys.

Today I’m better planned out and, and an hour early, I’m sitting here typing outside a  venue. I’m ready for all weather and have backup plans for everything.

SXSWi is an experience. It reminds me of CES, in that it is overwhelming and a bit of a behemoth. A lot of information, a lot of smart people, and a lot of crazy marketers trying to launch the next big thing.

It’s been windy and rainy in the Texas capitol, but there’s still 24,000 people huddled together for SXSWi. Day One of Interactive (for me) was about mobile marketing. Tim Reis, the head of advertising for Google, kicked it off:

Mobile marketing/advertising is now about weaving into the consumer’s device. It’s about having a conversation with the consumer. The device is used for dialogue, and marketers now have to do more than just throw banner ads out there. The real opportunity is to learn how people use their devices and interact with them to build a relationship with them.

Mobile is the signature device of the 21st century. It will also interact with the device of the 20th century: the TV. The second screen experience is where your primary focus should be for mobile advertising.

What is mobility and context? New patterns are emerging as consumers integrate multiple screens into their day. Context used to mean placing an ad next to content. Now it means where the consumer is and what they’re doing, and what mood and mode they’re in. You need electronic cigarette usa to focus on how the consumer moves across multiple screens, and their ever-changing context is.

Consumers weave seamlessly through context, doing what they do at any given moment. Devices are blurry — phones are getting larger and acting like tablets, tablets are getting smaller. The device itself is no longer important. Context is what it’s all about. We used to think about intent. Intent is a powerful signal. Combine intent and context, and you see the direction we’re going in.

Five years ago marketers thought of social, local and mobile as buckets. As new tech emerges, we tend to box them into buckets we can understand. Consumers don’t see these buckets, however.

Contextual opportunities are the essence of mobile. Consumers take their digital life with them.

Friction is also key. Eliminating friction in the process empowers your connection to your consumer (stop asking someone for their city and state when you’re also asking them for their zip code). On a phone, that friction is big. Bigger than on a laptop. Think through the friction points. Erase friction.

Ikea announced today that they will partner with Marriott to create a new budget “hotel brand” based on their prefabricated furniture model. The hotels won’t include Ikea furniture, but instead will be built based on new construction methods that stress lower-cost materials. Prefabricated hotel rooms will be built in a central location and placed wherever needs arise. This is a similar model to what some retailers are doing with popup stores in areas that swarm with large groups of people for specific events. Kind of like what Apple did at SXSW during its iPad launch the electronic cigarettes — quickly create a popup store to sell items where people are gathered, and then take the store down after the event is over.

Popup hotels could be quickly assembled in areas where events bring large amounts of people together. Even here in Austin right now, it’s virtually impossible to get a hotel room, and if you do, it’s easily $400 a night. Popup hotels could offer some relief to the need for rooms, and will attract a younger, more budget-conscious traveler.

Ikea and Marriott will launch their first popup hotel in Milan this year.