SXSW: Breaking Through the Noise of Austin's Big Tech Bacchanal | Adweek
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For Four Notable Startups, This Was SXSW

Partnerships, parties, panels

Which begs the question: Why doesn’t Google just do this? It’s already got AdSense. Fox points out that while Google runs ads down the side of a Web page, Mulu shopping units run right in the content flow.

“We get a 2 to 12 percent click-through rate—a large part of that is because it’s in the content, it matches the colors, and it’s exactly the items you are reading about, so it feels [like] it’s editorial,” she explains. “Users really don’t know it’s an ad.”

Mulu is expanding and will soon roll out across beauty, DIY and golf titles. Men’s magazines are also a hot prospect. During a SXSW panel, Fox revealed that a rep from Hearst grabbed her to talk about teaming up with Mulu on sites like Esquire.com. Also in the works is a consumer-facing shopping experience that will enable users to save items they encounter across different sites for possible purchase later.

Someone suddenly interrupts our conversation. “You have a meeting with the Vyclone guys now,” he informs us.

“We love those guys,” Fox gushes. “They look like delinquent Brits.”

Enter the delinquent brits—so delinquent that they’re drinking, of all things, Bud Lights (“We’re trying to last,” explains co-founder and CEO David King Lassman). Lassman is the tech guy while co-founder and CCO Joe Sumner is the music/consumer guy. (Sumner’s dad happens to be Sting, who he resembles more than a little, and Sumner himself is a musician.)

Vyclone was also his idea. At a performance a few years ago, his manager told him how hundreds of fans were shooting videos of the show and posting them to YouTube. The clips got a handful of views.

But what, Sumner wondered, if fans were able to edit bits of all those clips to create one expertly produced video synced to a single audio track?

Or, what if three or four family members each shot a birthday party with their phones, where big brother and dad captured junior blowing out the candles from different perspectives while Aunt Sally got mom’s tearful reaction, then crafted those moments into one slick video?

One has to see Vyclone in action to fully appreciate it. As Lassman demonstrates, the app “knows” when others close by are recording the same event, indicating that the user is one of two—or 200—people recording video. Once everyone has captured their images, they can piece together all the clips to create the finished product (or let the app do it for them), then share it with the world.

After a year developing the prototype, Lassman says, he and his partner realized they had underestimated Vyclone’s potential. “We said, hold on: This isn’t just music—this is really, really social video,” he relates. “And I can use my finger to edit any movie.” Lassman puts together a particularly jumpy clip for us. “I’ve made my MTV cut,” he says.

Launched last July, Vyclone certainly has momentum, attracting an impressive roster of investors including DreamWorks and Live Nation. Also, Apple named it one of the top apps of 2012.

“The beautiful thing is, you don’t have to be a filmmaker—you can rely on all those other people to capture the things you don’t,” says Sumner. “Even just two angles makes video so much more compelling.”

But did they “win” SXSW, like Twitter and Foursquare in years past? “I’ve been to South by Southwest so many times,” says Sumner. “I was a musician in my former life—I know what it is here, when there’s a lot of noise. There’s this myth that people or products broke out at South-by, but it’s usually not true. Usually in those cases, it was something that was building and building and building. We’re well aware of that.

“It’s kind of like everybody gets together here and jousts with their noise. For us, this is a really good test to see how much noise we can make.”

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