SXSW Startups on a Bus: Cleveland

The last part in the series on Buspreneurs…who-oh-oh-oh Ohio!

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.

(I don’t know what happened in Cleveland, but they are missing videos on their websites. As you know, Wisconsin has NO shortage of cameras…)


Boozing Pandas
(Couldn’t find a website or even a Twitter handle.)
Concept: NFC – Near field communication. (For more on this see iPhone 5 Article.) This app takes the paying by phone a step further by letting you order by phone.
PR Application: I used a similar idea as a waitress at Vapiano’s where we had apps on devices we carried around which allowed us to order drinks at the table and swipe a card to pay. This takes out the middle man, (or cocktail girl), saving the customer the obligatory tip and restaurant the wage. Promotions wise restaurants can use the app to promote their “specials”, (which are often things they’ve ordered too much of, or the specialty of a “guest” bartender or chef they’re “testing”). It also means courtesy like hotels have where you can actually order the drinks or appetizers before you get there. Bottle service is made easier, and I could even foresee a bill splitting system.

Bonus: Living Social in DC just raised $400 million for their GroupOn competing app. By making the payments all through mobile, you make redeeming coupons and promotions specials easier. I have heard of specific issues with redeeming check-in specials with uninformed clerks, but with mobile paying, there’s no worrying about whether your little electronic “coupon” went through.

Help Near Me
Concept: Lets you start nonprofit mobile sites and adds geolocation so others who need you can find you.
PR Application: I think this brilliantly solves a problem a lot of nonprofits have in awareness. The problem is the people you’re trying to help and the people who want to help you don’t know your organization exists or clearly what your mission is, or what services you offer. In DC, where there’s a nonprofit a “stone’s throw wherever you go”, knowing exactly what’s located where is extremely helpful, but more importantly knowing the mission. I see this pairing with sites like Jumo or KickStart. Jumo is a social network for causes started by former Facebook employees. KickStart is a fundraising allowing individuals to fund micro-causes. I think could be the link between the audience on Jumo, the organizations on KickStart, and the general public in the real world. I would see potential problems with regulation and scams though. Nonprofit legalities definitely not something they taught me in my Business Law class.

Website: Cleveland #Fail. No site listed or Googlable.
Concept: You use the app to “Like” things around you.
PR Application: I couldn’t find a video or website or anything on this app…which boys-be-warned, cyber stalking is one of my top talents. So we’re going to imagine this app is probably cooler than it is and uses NFC and QR barcodes to let you “like” everything. We’ll even magically integrate it with the social photo graphs being built by Color and Bubbli. (Who’s site is wickety weird now, I think because their being very secretive…but read about them at TED.) What else? Let’s make our magic app have instant ordering if you “like” something. In fact forget QR, let’s give RFID like Walmart uses to track, and everything will have them. Like my shoes? Order them now. Like my boyfriend? a look-a-like. Like my latte? Have Starbucks start making it as you approach a 25 foot radius…(Why not right?)

Concept: Another social GLS app meant to break down the “stranger” barrier by letting you know what the people around you like and connecting you.
PR Application: Longest 4 minutes of my life…The app’s liking capes I would imagine they intend to build and market out as Facebook did with likes when they converted our “interests” in static text into hyperlinks tying us to profile-apps. I rejected this conversion, which allowed any brands such as Coke you had for some reason listed as a “interest” to access your profile as apps you “Like” do today. I will say this would have been useful at the Social Learning Summit at my university over the weekend and using Twitter to find people to talk to instead of the awkward shuffle&insert introduction method. Obviously the targeting here for brands is with direct promotion and data harvesting.

Mom and Pop Co-ops
Concept: AWESOME. GroupOn for small businesses in bulk buying. Like a Sam’s Club where you buy in bulk. Prices are driven down by bulk orders.
PR Application: No wonder they were a finalist. Their website is simple and elegant, their concept is bright, their market I imagine is nearly endless and untapped. (I believe 90% of workers in the US are employed by small businesses.) I’m not too familiar with B2B outside of my textbooks, but accounting you’d be shocked how much of the price added is from labor, shipping, advertising, storage and discounting inventory. Bulk buying through co-ops allows small retailers to keep inventory low. I see potential for specialty businesses like organic, specialty goods dealers, artisans all to benefit. Businesses offer incentives in bulk because it keeps their prices down and it prompts retailers to purchase more. Group discounts also increases awareness since there’s an incentive to recruit co-operative similar line businesses/consumers.

Warning: This could have negative incentives for retailers to purchase different products through some small-business type espionage on what other stores are stocking and approximate selling based on orders. We come to the essential question: When does transparency beneficial, and when does it just leave us naked?

Concept: To filter out location check-ins from people too far away.
PR Application: These two guys are geeky enough to actually build something cool. The key here is if the technology is unique, which I don’t know that it is. If they are essentially honing in GLS so people no longer can check-into the restaurant a mile away, fabulous, or perfect apps like SCVNGR so you are no longer getting Georgetown Cupcake specials while at their Bethesda location, triple fabulous. If however, they are merely adding a feature to random apps like Foursquare already has (Nearby, People near you), it’s not new. Key here is technology. Or if we go back to our magic app, it could be something added to other non-checkin services, like letting you know the ice cream truck is coming by or your passing that cupcake shop you had on your To-Do list but always forget to stop at, or your drycleaners! Or your wife’s favorite flower store. “Why don’t you get her something?” says your Chrysler as it reminds you it’s your anniversary via your Facebook “day of wedding” date.

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

Disclaimer: I apologize for the unprofessional tone in this post. A) I’ve been writing HTML in so I’m cranky. B) This was the last startup post I had to crank out. (sorry Cleveland) C) Ohio apparently has trouble working Youtube videos, aka many were non existent.)


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