Innovation, apps provide winning mix at SXSW's Tech Cocktail event

AUSTIN—Small startup companies trying to make a name for themselves is as much a part of South by Southwest Interactive as free-flowing liquour. I managed to combine both at Tech Cocktail, a casual networking event held at a bar on the main 6th Street hub of South by Southwest. And more than a few start-ups managed to stand out from the crowd.

The first to catch my eye was TreeSwing, mainly because of its cute branding and clever design. TreeSwing is a mutual fund app headed iOS device that aims to offer a friendly introduction to investment and money management. Its mascot is a squirrel because the app helps you “squirrel away” money and save it for a rainy day. Users can invest in increments as small as $1, and TreeSwing charges no transaction fees. Plus, the app will offer a sort of gamification to investing by sending suggestions based on your spending habits.

iLumi

Another cool thing at the showcase was iLumi, an intelligent LED light system controlled by an app. The system is an SDK, so users can program the light in whatever way they want. I saw a few different examples: You can link the iLumi to music, so the lighting will synchronize with whatever song is playing and will pulse or change colors with the beat; Set a proximity sensor, so that the light turns on when you (and your phone with the controller app) get within a certain range. Or you can set a functional lighting tone to help you wake up in the morning. One developer even programmed the light to change with the stock market.

TechHive’s multimedia editor Carlos Rodela was really impressed by Splenvid, a video compilation app that does the editing part for you. The app stores all of video clips you shoot on Splenvid’s cloud server, and then pieces everything together based on when and where the video was shot. It adds transitions between clips to show time lapse and location changes, adds music from your collection to indicate tone, and pulls in videos that your Splenvid friends have shot if you both filmed video at the same location. Once you see the video that Splenvid makes for you, you can go back and edit any part of it you want. Splenvid learns your preferences from you, so if you always exclude video clips from, say, Stage Bar on 6th in Austin, pretty soon it will know never to add those to your compilation.

None of these apps are currently available—this was a showcase for startups, after all. But we should hopefully see them launching soon: TreeSwing will hit the App Store in April, Splenvid is expected to launch in a public beta later this spring, and iLumi is available for preorder now.

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