My previous post on SXSW featured an interview with Watson‘s lead researcher Dr. David Ferrucci talking about Watson and startups where he said that one key to success is believing that an irresistible challenge that seems impossible, is possible and then driving that into the entire team. Well, the entrepreneurs who pitched at the finals of the SXSW Accelerator startup competition showed little doubt that they were out to succeed.
After starting with 24 teams that passionately presented their ideas to renowned expert judges in a fast-paced whirlwind of anxious innovation and critique over the past couple of days, the awards for best new startups in the categories of Innovative Web Technologies, News Related Technologies, Social Media and Social Networking, and Entertainment were announced last night. (for details of the competition, please review my tweetstream at the smarterplanet twitter feed, hashtag #sxswaccel)
The winners in each category were:
Innovative Web Technologies: Hipmunk.com – takes the ‘agony’ out of travel planning.
News Related Technologies: Storify.com – finds the signal in the noise of social chatter.
Social Media and Social Networking: POPVOX.com – bridges the gap between the public and Congress.
And a special award, the bootstrap award, went to NeighborGoods.net – supports residents in sharing resources and finding local services.
The event was dynamic and educational, and I am sure several of these startups will be moving forward quickly on turning their business and product development plans into reality thanks to this experience. I’m hoping to see some of them again (and many more) at the IBM SmartCamp global startup competition that revs up next month with competitions in Bangalore and Austin (followed almost monthly at venues around the world). If you’re an entrepreneur with a startup idea there is probably a SmartCamp competition happening near you.
Many of the entrants were showing products that clearly demonstrated the move towards a smarter planet as their solutions consisted of mobile apps that linked people or things together, backed up by analysis of tons of data that used to be impossible to comprehend without a Ph.D. And by doing this, their products provided more intelligence to the user - whether it be making travel plans, public advocacy, videoconferencing over your smartphone, sharing potentially redundant items across a neighborhood, or helping journalists, bloggers, and regular folks better cut through the noise and find the real stories buried in the social chatter.
A natural next step for these teams is to attend the Smarter Planet Tech Summit today at 11 am at the Austin Hilton, since it will cover several areas of smarter planet and will feature a live demonstration and presentation on IBM’s Watson computing system. I’ll be live tweeting the event from the smarterplanet twitter feed and will have a wrap-up post on the event tonight.
Thanks for reading and keep on thinking. More tonight from SXSW.