Why my startup is trying to break out at SXSW

By Morris Panner, contributing writer


Morris Panner is the CEO of group text messaging service GroupFlier.

My kids are bigger fans of the bands Bright Eyes, B.o.B and Queens of the Stoneage than I am, but this Friday, I am on my way to Austin to South By Southwest -- mega music festival and, increasingly, the year's key show for Internet entrepreneurs.

For one magical week in March, Austin steals Silicon Valley's mojo and rules the technology universe.

"SouthBy" or "SXSW" began in 1987 as a music gathering, then added film and other media in 1994. "Other media" gradually morphed into SXSW Interactive -- a festival of youth culture, barbecue and massive amounts beer drinking. It became the launch pad for a series of famous technology companies, including Twitter.

So, what does a 48-year-old entrepreneur hope to get out of this 10-day partyathon?

Like thousands of tech founders heading to SXSW, I hope to propel my company into the limelight in front of almost 40,000 paid attendees and convince ever-reluctant VCs to invest.

We need to get branded an "it" company and walk out of the show with the social networks buzzing about us.

This year, my category is supposed to be the "hot" sector -- group texting, which lets people turn text messaging on their phone into a virtual chat room. Everyone has their PR plans revved up. One of our rivals is giving away grilled cheese sandwiches, another is offering free rides from the airport and a third is donating $1 to charity for every sign up.

Our strategy is to partner with SXSW's brand-new StyleX segment -- a fashion show marrying fashion and technology. Run by a suitably hip twentysomething entrepreneur, Joah Spearman, StyleX is our chance to get on the map as fashion models, musicians (who are going to double as models) and designers use our application.

We're also giving out 500 Frisbees (they cost us $0.67 a piece) at the 2,400 person Tech Cocktail party Sunday night.

Will any of this work? We have a series of meetings lined up with venture capitalists. In fact, VCs post "office hours," at which entrepreneurs can pitch ideas. We've spent the past three weeks meeting with investors, too. We are doing well, but they all want to see whether we can generate that elusive "buzz."

Our new metrics include social media measures like tweets, re-tweets, Facebook posts and likes. Five years ago, no one knew what any of this was.

While most of you won't launch your next product at a rock concert, don't be surprised if you find yourself trying to master some of these new tricks of the marketing trade. Popular culture and even art are merging with advertising. If Woodstock happened today, it would be a consumer electronics show.

Wish me luck. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,067.68 -30.77 -0.18%
Nasdaq 4,589.73 9.46 0.21%
S&P 500 2,002.96 -0.41 -0.02%
Treasuries 2.40 0.06 2.35%
Data as of 10:01am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Apple Inc 103.02 0.52 0.50%
Bank of America Corp... 16.09 0.00 0.00%
Staples Inc 12.25 0.57 4.88%
Yahoo! Inc 38.89 0.38 0.99%
Facebook Inc 75.19 0.37 0.49%
Data as of 9:46am ET

Sections

Online flower peddler is buying fruit gift basket retailers for $142.5 million. More

Gas prices are falling to nearly $3 a gallon in some parts of South Carolina, and that will soon be common in much of the country. More

Microsoft is expected to begin showing off Windows 9's features later this month. Here are the expected changes you should be thrilled about. More

The Coolest Cooler is the most successful Kickstarter campaign in the site's history, raising $13.3 million from over 62,000 backers. More

A scam where fraudsters impersonate IRS agents has now stolen $5 million from taxpayers, and this woman - who lost her entire life savings -- is just one of its victims. More

Approved - bella
lsegall.scowley
Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.