At the Startup Village, hosted by Startup America, we spoke to a new generation of founders and startup teams who are chasing the dream. From a So-Cal duo making (and selling) electric skateboards with a twist, to a duo who are harnassing the power of social media to revolutionize voter engagement.
Entrepreneurship is not only a critical force in the economy – creating jobs, building new products and making a dollar out of 15 cents – invention and innovation are also core American values. For many, the American Dream started in Austin, Texas this week.
On the first day of our first trip to SXSW (yes, we admit it, we’re noobies), we saw the energy and determination first-hand — hosted, encouraged and incubated by the efforts of our Startup America partners.
Here is a sampling of just a few of the young companies we spoke to:
In the words of the company’s founder, Speek wants to make conference calling so “stupidly easy” that even a monkey (as seen on the homepage) could use it. And with Speek, how awesomely easy it is. All you need to do is reserve speek.com/your name, so speek.com/eva, or speek.com/legallyeasy, invite the people you want to call, and then boom. The call is made over the server, you get to speek to friends, colleagues or business partners and it won’t cost you a dime. What’s the catch? There isn’t one. Every business, new, growing or established, needs conference calling. For the time being, this cloud-based service looks like it might just be be the easiest answer.
In the age of cell phones and social media, this new company is working to re-invigorate and promote voter engagement. Votifi is a new social media based, political and current events polling and networking engine — a peer-to-peer recommendation engine for political discovery. A mouthful? Maybe. But it is actually simple to use, addictive (you can create a profile, take daily polls and connect with people who are interested in the same issues), and has the potential to go viral. While polls, by nature, have a limited choice of answers, this limitation is not unknown to the founders who actually see it as a way to spark debate.
Making it to the finals of the SXSW startup accelerator competition, it’s not just us who recognize votifi’s ingenuity and the empowerment is offers — both to voters who feel excluded from the current system, and for polling companies who now have a new way to reach those voters who no longer have landlines. Votifi might help re-democratize American politics by extending its reach right into the heart of an Internet trend.
We saw a ZBoard before we knew exactly what it was — the device was creating quite a stir on the floor of the Startup America lounge. There were people crowding around, jumping on, not so gracefully jumping off, and getting the pitch from two young dudes in cool t-shirts. The Zboard, as we later found out is a weight-sensing electric skateboard that works like a snowboard: lean forward to go, lean back to stop. Patentable? Certainly. Let’s just hope they get some good liability insurance too ! Running so far on sheer volume of pre-orders, this is a proper So-Cal company for So-Cal dudes, and so, the company hopes, dudes and dudettes all over the country.
Stay tuned for more SXSW awesomeness !
- Business Rx: Votifi (washingtonpost.com)
- Five Things to Take Away From This Year’s SXSW (businessweek.com)