SXSW Startups on a Bus: Chicago

Continuing part four from the SXSW’s Buspreneurs, now from Chicago.

38 teams on a bus from around the country hacking away and pitching their startups. Fifteen finalists, weeded down to two winners. Mashable neglected to even list the companies, let alone what they all did.

I went one further and listed the companies, whether they won and a PR suggestion, yours free for liking…reading my blog. Suggestions are for digital or PR strategists how they could use the apps for a client.


Concept: Another geolocation social networking introduction. You keep a topic and interest area on file and when someone similar is in your area you get a text.
PR Application: This is the third geolocation social network start-up bus app I’ve seen, and tonight Brian Solis was tweeting about Color, a photo geolocation social network. I’m going to say Color has the best potential for PR, but it’s so obvious we’ll talk about ChatSpark. You’d have to either have disruptive ambassadors (Redpeg did this successfully non-digitally with Rosetta Stone) tweeting, or you’d bots set up to talk to people. In the end it’s like SCVNGR, but for people…huh, that would be a cool app.

Concept: Random scrolls through jokes which you can choose to post to twitter.
PR Application: Could replace bot twitter feeds and help companies, particularly small businesses create tweets if the content is expanded. Right now it cycles through jokes, but ideally an app which you could plug content into and would automatically “craft you tweets” would be amazing for a certain newly ordained Community Manager who seriously hates writing tweets for anyone else. (My own Twitter is mix of self-promotion, digital links, chit-chatting and poking fun at the Edelman people I kind of adore.)

Disclaimer: I’m not FOR auto-generating content, or even auto-responses to tweets, but I can see the value add when you’re starting to get to a larger scale. An app like this is for boring people who can’t think of content…but for a business, if you’re not passionate about the subject or have other responsibilities, I can see the potential value in a auto-generated content. We’ll call it “Web 4:P”.

Concept: A clean aggregator for your social networks. Just sign-up and you can with one click follow another member on all their networks.
PR Application: They already put their PR idea in here, having accounts for brands, promoted profiles, analytics and customized widgets and apps. The question than becomes are your apps, like in Facebook, providing one of
the fulfillments I identified, such an Entertainment, Affirmation or Material reward. I’d have to see this laid out, but this is my favorite idea for a startup so far. I think a cool alternative PR concept would be using it to follow your audience and find new people, rather than paying for them to find you.

Rabbit QR
Concept: Uses a QR barcode to send payments back and forth.
PR Application: Brilliant, and fits with the news. (Chicago is officially the best of this series!) Starbucks came out a “winner” today with 3 million users paying by mobile app. You load money on your Starbucks card then use the QR codes at registers. This would be cool for coupons, like GroupOn, to redeem points in games, for SCVNGR hunts like Neiman Marcus is doing, for other retailers like Starbucks…(I’m going to cry now I miss working in digital so bad.) This app is my new “winner”.

Shot Put
Concept: Users text in their email address to register. They text in a hashtag to be put on a mailing list for newsletters.
PR Application: Really simple, and doable idea for right now. Smartphones are (last I checked Neilson) still less than half the market, which means you can reach a wide demographic this way. Email is also considered the “private network”. It’s actually the best way to reach GenY, whose home addresses change more than their email. This would be a great way to keep a steady subscriber base, deliver news content and run contests. It’s a temporary solution though, and will be obsolete within maybe five years given current projections on smartphones, and definitely in ten given the move to curated content portals.

To bad we can’t fast forward. 🙂

New York teams here.
San Francisco teams here.
Silicon Valley teams here.
Miami teams here.
Cleveland teams here.


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