Highlight: The Startup Everyone Is Saying Will Win SXSW This Year


[credit provider=”Boonsri Dickinson, Business Insider”]

In 2009, Twitter was the breakout startup of Austin’s South by Southwest conference.In 2010, Facebook and Gowalla stole the show.  Last year, GroupMe and group texting were all the rage.

This year, everyone is buzzing about auto-checkins, app-induced networking, and people discovery.

Robert Scoble, Mashable and TechCrunch have declared Highlight, a new mobile app, the sure-fire winner this year.

Highlight was co-founded by Paul Davison, entrepreneur in residence of Benchmark Capital.  He just raised a seed round of financing from his firm, Benchmark; SV Angel, CrunchFund, Quora’s Charlie Cheever, Andy Bechtolsheim and Ariel Poler also invested in Highlight.

The mobile app wants to get rid of coincidental meetings.  It tracks user’s locations via GPS and alerts first and second-degree connections of their whereabouts.

Davison says people are staying logged into the app all day. People enjoy it most while travelling.

The app will be best served at a place like SXSW where famous founders or VCs are standing a few feet away at all times. The tech community is just small enough that everyone involved is only a degree or two away from each other anyway.

While the app might win SXSW, it’s hard to imagine it winning in the real world.  Investors and tech bloggers can squawk, but normals will never use it — at least not in its current state.

Scoble rightly points out that a bigger company could never get away with a feature as creepy as Highlight.

If Facebook tried to implement Highlight, users would scream.  It tells users exactly where strangers are at all times and provides information about them. 

Foursquare has also said it will never have an auto-checkin feature.  It feels users should control when and if they check-in.

There are a few other startups working in the people discovery space. Sonar, Glancee and Ban.jo are all similar apps that will make a run for it at SXSW.

Here’s a walk-through of the app if you want to try it without getting stalked.

Here’s what the Highlight app looks like (don’t try visiting its web page, it looks like its from 1996):

highlight app

[credit provider=”Apple”]