About Me

Philip Cortes Co-Founded Meeteor.com.

Dual MBA/MA from UPenn.

Avid Ideologist.

This blog is my long winded startup post-mortem. 




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SXSW Launch: You're Doing It Wrong

If you’re a fellow founder and launching your startup tomorrow at SXSW, with all due respect, you’re an idiot. 

Sure, if you’re Google and have 100k to spend on swag and an "on the ground" team it's a great place to brand yourself in front of influencers.  But in my short (2 year) period as the business founder of a startup, I can tell you there's pretty much no way to pull SXSW off as a small startup.  Here's my two cents:

1) Swag Sucks (mostly):  Awareness DOES NOT equal subscriptions.  You can spend $100k on building awareness of your brand and what your startup does, but those will not convert into subs.  The CAC on general SWAG marketing is pretty miserable. People want foursquare shirts today, because foursquare is a reputable brand.  Nobody wants a "HotorNotForCats.com" shirt because it's a brand with no associations.  We learned this the hard way at Meeteor, where we had 150 people wearing our T-Shirts on the same day on campus, and that generated about 1/10th the subs at 500x the price as our other strategies.   

2) Noise.  This is simple - you're competing with so many other startups (and massive companites) for share of mind, that it's almost impossible to get it.   

Proposed Solution:

1) Don't launch AT SXSW, launch BEFORE SXSW.

2)  Add value for the user in some way. You can do swag, but only do swag that actually helps your user, and preferrably is in some way tied to your brand. 

What We Did + Why It Worked

What we did at Meeteor is we saw a giant gap in the People Discovery space: Our competitors were mobile only, which meant that they couldn't deliver any value until everyone was on the ground at SXSW. We also realized that nobody was adding value to the crowd before the big event - so we customized our Meeteor algorithms and built a custom landing just for SXSW event goers. We pushed it out to the press (hopping onto the People Discovery bandwagon), and got some solid coverage. (PandoDaily, Mashable, Techcrunch).

Additionally, because we were addign value before anyone else was, it was really easy for us to make a name for our service, and people spread it organically.  It was solid effort all around - took us 18 days to go from product idea to launch, and in the process we got some good coverage in top tech blogs and signed up about 1,000 people. 

Last but not least - we now have one of the best rolodexes of people interested in our space (as they signed up and reached out), without having to spend a time on trekking to Austin!

Ideas For Startups:

If I were you, I'd think about what I could do to deliver value for the user, in a way that's tied to my brand.  So if I were Hipmunk or Tripping, for example, I would look up flights to Austin between March 7-9th (the beginning of the interactive festival). I would put reps at the baggage checkin lines 2 hours before every Austin flight, and hand out travel related swag. (Hipmunk Luggage Tags come to mind).  Wait, doesn't that contradict the point I made about swag earlier?  No, it doesn't. Luggage tags are directly tied to Hipmunk's core business, and deliver value to the user.  

Every time they pick up that suitcase, or unpack, or do anything travel related, they're reminded of the value Hipmunk delivered for them by giving them their awesome luggage tags on their way to Austin. 

Reader Comments (1)

Good points. Twitter after all didn't start at SXSW; they came in with a fantastic marketing strategy and a user base, however small. Whether you're national or an Austin startup with SXSW in your backyard you've gotta get yourself together. I mean, we all know when the conference is, you can certainly plan in advance...

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobyn

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