SXSW startup quick look: What these four young companies are doing and where they’re going

Welcome to AustinAs you might imagine, more than a few app companies make their way to SXSW Interactive Week. It’s difficult to cut through the noise to find which startups are actually doing something that deserves mention. For every 10 apps that call themselves the “Instagram for dogs” or the “Airbnb for senior citizens,” there are one or two that are developing new technology and offering innovative ideas that could transform the mobile app scene. Here are a few standouts and details on their future plans. 


forecastThe Foursquare-based app continues to work on futurifying the check-in. Concerning the ambient social-location apps flooding this year’s SXSW, creator Rene Pinnell explains why everyone’s still so skeptical. “The beef about most present tense stuff is that it doesn’t create introductions,” he says. “Highlight is really interesting,” he tells me. “But it doesn’t solve a specific problem.”

“What big, hairy messes is Forecast solving is what we’re always thinking about.”

Pinnell says that Forecast will continue to focus on the future tense of the location platform and is evolving right along with its audience – an audience that he tells me uses Foursquare and likes checking-in. A few new features are in the mix, including an option to enable auto check-ins. That’s a pretty significant similarity with the ambient apps that run in the background, but there are a handful of differences. The feature is opt-in and automatically checks you in to a place according to the Forecast you made. You’ll then get a notification saying you’ve been checked-in.

Forecast also wants to tackle the “mess” that is calendaring. “Eventbrite, Facebook events, Google calendar – all this scheduling is trapped in these isolated silos,” says Pinell. Deep integration with major calendaring apps will suck this data into Forecast to create a fuller look at what you’ve been invited to do and what you want to do, which you can then create Forecasts for.

In the next year, we can expect an update that is best put in Pinnell’s own worse: “When you Forecast, awesome shit will happen.” He eluded to some of this when we last talked to him, and it’s basically a recommendation and rewards system being implemented into the application. For example: if you’ve Forecasted you’re going to a bar for happy hour, a local karaoke bar might pop up in recommendations along with a half off coupon.

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