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Bay Area Startups Have Strong Presence at SXSW

SXSW 2012

Photo courtesy of SXSW/Facebook

It’s that time of year again when South by Southwest buzzes all over the airwaves and web waves to everyone’s delight (or possibly chagrin). The nine-day event kicked off today with the Interactive portion and, as expected, the Bay Area has a more than healthy presence here in Austin. But a three hour-line for badge pick-up? How high tech is that?

A few entrepreneurs took the opportunity to attack the helpless in line, like Bay Area-based Kismet. Their evangelists promised free drinks and new friends. The app promises to inform you of who you should meet and why, to which the impatient line-waiters rebuked, “How are you different from Highlight?” Tough crowd. And well-informed, I might add. Kismet claimed “because we’re better.” Time (and users) will tell. 

Later on at the Startup Spotlight, I had the opportunity to chat with a bunch of new kids on the block (and some of them are just that, kids). I like the concept of SF-based RAVN, which taps into the social/local/mobile trend by helping users find and share the “coolest” events in 50 cities. It’s functionality improves the more you use it since it bases suggestions on your past preferences. RAVN has some competition on the horizon with the pending launch of another SF-based startup Sosh

Nixster’s sugary branding will certainily lure in the college club kids. Launching today, the Chilean guys behind Sunnyvale-based Nixster aim to “improve the nightlife experience.” They feature nightclubs in eight cities (including Las Vegas, Miami, SF, and NYC) and eventually plan to include bars. Nixster matches your likes with the likes of others, and every time you check-in at a club, you receive credits, which you can redeems for tangible items like entry tickets or drinks. Their next update promises user reviews of parties and your very own “dance floor” that acts like a Facebook wall. Think of it as a Foursquare for nightlife. 

Two other startups really impressed me – the first is Talentwire, which brings the archaic resume into the 21st century. Launched one week ago, the Santa Barbara-based platform is a big improvement upon LinkedIn - companies reach out to job seekers and vice versa through more visual means. Do, Trend, and Mentor tabs allow a user to show what exactly they might be working on. Did you develop a new product? Post a photo, then others can comment or “endorse” your work. Instead of talking the talk, you can actually show potential employers that you can walk the walk. The site also features online mentoring with top companies (including Facebook), where users can post questions for experienced professionals to answer. Pretty cool.

And finally, Seattle-based Personify.it is getting people to do good things and connect to people in the world who want to do the same, on both a local and global level. As an “organizer,” a user can either join a cause or create a cause,and then delegate roles and list needed items. Personify.it will also send you a receipt for your “financial goodness” at the end of the year. If you committed to volunteering for 20 hours, they’ll let you know you’ve only completed 10. Yes, it’s a guilt trip. The simple site encourages less web browsing and more time out in the world actually doing something. Nigerian-born founder Chuks Onwuneme formerly built devices at Nokia and wants to use technology to make the world a better place; his passion is contagious and overtly evident. 

And with that, day one has concluded. Excuse me, but I could really use a drink.

@marypolizzotti