SXSW 2012

March 12, 2012 by staff 

SXSW 2012, Paul Davison was the belle of the SXSWi ball this year. His Highlight app was, well, the highlight of the interactive festival.

Simply put, the iPhone app lets you know when you’re near someone with even the remotest social-media connection to you, and you get plenty of notifications to remind you. If the former babysitter of your second cousin is around, wait for the beep.

But Highlight plays into the serendipity of what makes social media so vexing to so many, and it spread like wildfire at SXSW. Battery issues aside, it has quickly helped redefine an emerging market of people discovery — just as Foursquare, the belle of SXSW in 2009, did for place discovery.

“This has elevated the social experience,” says Davison, a product of Stanford University. “You learn about new people you’re about to meet before you meet them.”

“It’s about life’s connections,” he says. “We’ve given the world a new sixth sense.”

Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley likes the concept, and has embraced it with Radar, which aims to do the same with places. But he thinks the whole concept of “online discovery” needs to be underpinned by a rationale of why a person or place should be important to an individual.

“You may have 15 people in common with you, but is there a theme or particular significance in their value to you,” says Crowley, who has no immediate plans to take Foursquare public. “(Highlight) is a good start, but the category is a work in progress.”

He says Foursquare has big plans this year to “fix” and add more features and build on its burgeoning staffs in New York and San Francisco, making an IPO a lower priority.

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