SXSW Hopefuls: 3 Young Startups on Their Strategies for Getting Discovered

Few startups would balk at the opportunity to make a big splash at SXSW Interactive. We check in with three startups that hope to do just that.

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By Kara Ohngren Prior


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As a startup founder, getting noticed can be one of the toughest tasks you'll face.

Though there are many avenues in which to get discovered, unveiling your business at the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas might just be your quickest route. Kicking off today, the country's premier startup event, which will run through next Tuesday, brings together entrepreneurs, investors and cutting-edge digital tastemakers from around the country. Talk about a networking goldmine.

We caught up with founders from three young startups who are headed to SXSW to chat about their festival game plan.

SXSW Hopefuls: 3 Young Startups on Their Strategies for Getting Discovered
Hukkster co-founders Erica Bell (left) and Katie Finnegan

1. Hukkster
HQ: New York City
Co-founders: Erica Bell, 28, and Katie Finnegan, 29

A personal shopping concierge service that tracks specific products across users' favorite stores online and lets them know when they go on sale. In 2012, the young founders raised $1 million in seed funding led by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (of The Social Network fame).

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Bell: The startup and tech community will gather in one place to share ideas, launch new products and celebrate innovation. As first time entrepreneurs, we always jump at any chance to network. This is a great setting for any new technology to gain exposure across the entire industry, so we're hoping Hukkster will make a splash.

We're always looking to gain advice from smart people in the space, so we're looking at SXSW as a great networking opportunity. It's important to build a large network as we rely on our contacts in the tech industry often to gain perspective, best practices and vendor referrals. We have built a great network here in New York City but look forward to expanding that base.

What's your game plan?
Since we transitioned from retail to the tech world a year ago, we are still carving out a name for ourselves in the space. Our goal is to gain recognition for Hukkster as a disruptive force in ecommerce. We are also excited to release our iPhone and iPad app this week, so SXSW will be a big unveil for us.

SXSW Hopefuls: 3 Young Startups on Their Strategies for Getting Discovered
No Chains founder Rich Winley

2. No Chains
HQ: Greenville, S.C.
Founder: Rich Winley, 30

An app that helps out-of-towners discover the best underground local restaurants and bars based on user reviews.

I think investors and startups are just more open at SXSW. They're there to have a good time, meet new people and play with new products. Any time you put that many people in the same place, it's an opportunity to make something happen. If we can have a good conversation and get our product in the hands of the right people, we have a great chance of doing something big later on. We're hoping to get some early traction in Austin.

What's your game plan?
My background is in sales training, networking and public speaking, so I feel comfortable in these types of situations. We've made a list of who we want to meet -- it's a mix of investors and fellow startup entrepreneurs.

With us being a food-based business, we've invited a few key people out to lunch and dinner. We're going to SXSW to build relationships and find the right partners and investors. But, if nothing else, we're committed to eating some amazing food while in Austin.

SXSW Hopefuls: 3 Young Startups on Their Strategies for Getting Discovered
UMeTime co-founders Tim Rothwell (right) and Brett Berman

3. UMeTime
HQ: Austin, Texas
Co-founders: Tim Rothwell, 23, and Brett Berman, 23

A free mobile app that allows customers to receive fresh, real-time deals and promotions from merchants they like right in their neighborhood. They've secured about $750,000 in seed funding to date.

Rothwell: Austin is a great city to launch and grow a business. It's probably one of the best cities in the country to start a company. For a young startup like ours, SXSW is the perfect place to meet the right people and form strategic relationships.

After one and a half years of building UMeTime, it feels great to be fully launched. We're thrilled to have a product in the market during SXSW. We want the UMeTime technology to do the talking. Some downtown Austin hotels will even be using our platform to create real-time specials for their bars and restaurants, and to promote a special live music act a couple hours before they go live. The hope is that our UMeTime app will be a great tool for SXSW attendees to navigate the crowds and grab a quick bite to eat or drink.

What's your game plan?
We've scheduled meetings and events ahead of time, but we realize that we most likely will not be able to stick to our set plans. Since the UMeTime office is right in Austin, we're turning it into a "Hydration Station" where SXSW-ers can charge up their phones, have a cup of coffee and learn more about UMeTime.

We're just three weeks into our launch, and the festival will be an incredible experience for the team. We look forward to building strategic relationships and having a good time here in Austin.

Are you headed to SXSW? Tell us about your strategy for the big event.

Kara Ohngren Prior

Kara Ohngren is a freelance writer and part-time editor at YoungEntrepreneur. Her work has appeared in publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, The New York Times, MSNBC, The Huffington Post and Business Insider.

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