Tomorrow, Today -- Top 5 Ad Startups From SXSW

AUSTIN, TEXAS — SXSW is one of the premiere conferences for emerging companies to burst onto the scene. Twitter, Foursquare and Meerkat made their launches here.

It’s a hotbed of creativity with emerging musicians, artists and filmmakers converging with neuroscientists, engineers and business leaders. But as the conference has gained in popularity, the lines have gotten longer, the parties more extravagant. That's meant tomorrow’s emerging media and tech talent often gets buried in the noise.

My team scoured the startup village, the accelerator parties, the startup BBQs, the tech breakfasts, sea of VCs and startup founders that dominated Austin in order to curate these five ad startups:


Wattpad is capitalizing on the trend of “flash fiction” with Tap, their new “chat-style” app. The stories on Tap are designed to feel like you’re reading someone else’s chat conversations, presented in a text messaging-style format. With an active user base of over 50M, Wattpad is well-positioned to grow an audience around stories, told the way Millennials are used to communicating. A golden opportunity for entertainment and CPG brands alike to appeal to fans with engaging, bite-sized storytelling.




Increasing productivity by eliminating keyboard switching on your mobile device, ThingThing integrates key elements like calendar and social apps via icons that live across the top bar of your keyboard, making it easier to switch back and forth. Texting and messenger are central to our communications and consumer expectations of convenience at an all-time high.

ThingThing delivers a simple and efficient experience, giving first-mover brands the benefit of integration into this native environment much like they did with Snapchat Discover.


Storyo creates lasting memories by adding context to your photos — creating a montage that features text overlays and graphics to note what you were doing, where you were, and when each photo was taken to tell a richer story. Brands can help supplement with custom themes and graphics.

You can even invite friends to add their own photos and create a collaborative project. Once videos are finished, users can save them and share across their social channels. Brand integrations, social influencer collaborations are all made easier with this Lisbon-based startup.


StylePull is democratizing the fashion industry by creating a platform for emerging designers to show off their work alongside major players like Hudson, Lacoste and Rachel Allan. Designers list their looks. Buyers, agents and reps browse to discover looks they love and connect with those designers.

Designers also benefit from platform analytics that help define which looks are resonating — shaping future fashion trends. StylePull has become the platform of choice for global Fashion Weeks and is set to expand to a consumer-facing model allowing people to access unique looks from global designers. Another indication of direct-to-consumer proliferation.

Novel Effect

Novel Effect creates storytime magic by making the experiences interactive and immersive. Using voice recognition, the Novel Effect app adds theme music and sound effects in real-time as you read a children’s book aloud. The app is free to download and features books like Little Red Riding Hood by Jerry Pinkney and The Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine.

In the future, Novel Effect plans to debut visual stories that progress as your read and explore other platforms through which to engage families and children alike. Brands could provide free experiences for families as well as integrated stories.

SXSW is a sea of music, film and innovation. Among the tens of thousands of attendees and exhibitors, the platforms of tomorrow are waiting to be discovered. You just need to separate the wheat from the chaff.

This column was previously published in Media Daily News on March 15, 2017.

Next story loading loading..