Notes From a N00B: 10 Tech Startups That Stand Out From the Crowd

To say I’m no tech expert is an understatement. For a 23 year old, I’m surprisingly old guard. I carry around a notebook, read paperbacks, and leave voicemails.  I must have been the last person of my generation with a 2G phone. I’m the girl whose friends made fun of her because she didn’t know what iOS is.

So how did I end up doing a work exchange at the IPG Media Lab, a company that thrives on learning about the newest technology and thinking about how it might affect the future of marketing?

I hail from GumboLive, a New Orleans based think tank that’s part of the IPG family. We can only be described as a creative experiment: a study in what happens when you collect 15 young people, with backgrounds as scattered as our hometowns, and get us thinking about brands. We work together to come up with out-of-the-box ideas that traditional agencies wouldn’t think of.

Hence the logic behind the work exchange (or, as I prefer to call it, “The Best Hostage Situation Ever!”). Send The IPG Media Lab’s Jack Pollock to New Orleans to teach GumboLive about new tech and learn about creative co-creation: send me here to learn about the future of marketing and offer a fresh perspective.

Fast-forward four weeks, and a big chunk of my time has been spent researching hordes of startups and pulling out the ones that seem the most compelling.  My process is simple: I ask myself, “Would I use this?” based on the website and the description of the app. If I, the person who is the last to download that cool new app, am excited about a tech startup, that’s saying something.

I’ve finally whittled it down to the Top 10… and learned a lot about what’s trendy in the tech startup world along the way. (Hint: if your startup has to do with apps, don’t make your company name an app pun. Trust me, it’s played out.)

The Top 10:


What it is:  A fun, social app that crowd sources the decision making process. You choose two options, add pictures, and people vote for their favorite.

Why it’s cool: It’s simple, visually compelling and easy to use. Because there are only two things to choose from, useless recommendations and debate are kept at a minimum. There’s a strong impetus for people to engage on the other end, too- it’s human nature to want to voice your opinion.

How it’s relevant to marketing:  Quite simply, you can learn a lot about people based on the decisions they make. This is a whole new way of discerning people’s tastes, data that can lead to great targeted marketing.  Moreover, brands could theoretically pose sponsored branded questions (e.g. “What flavor do you prefer?) to tap into the zeitgeist.


What it is: A way to send video messages, either individually or as a compilation made by friends, paired with a gift card.

Why it’s cool:  Have you ever had a going away party where your friends leave you sappy, sentimental videos to remember them by? It really does tug at the heartstrings.  This is a way of doing that, for any occasion, even if your friends are in different places.  They can even send individual gift cards with the message.

How it’s relevant to marketing:  This adds a whole new level of depth and personalization to the normally staid, cop-out present of a gift card.  Plus, there may be future potential for adding optional branded enhancements to the messages (for example, a fun filter that you can lay over videos).


What it is:  A mobile video app that aggregates all the video streams from an event and lets you contribute and edit them to your own liking.  It then saves on your camera roll and gives you the option of sharing the video with friends.

Why it’s cool: It provides the opportunity to take all of your favorite videos from an event and edit them all together in the way that you think best captures the experience.

How it’s relevant to marketing: It’s a new, unique way of creating, compiling, editing and sharing content from an event. This takes User Generated Content to a whole new level – one that’s strikingly easy for brands to harness. For instance, if a brand sponsors a big festival, the CrowdFliks could be brought to you by a brand and have their logo on the corner of the video footage.


What it is:  An app that gameifies food photography by recommending restaurants and pitting users’ pictures against one another in head-to-head competition.

Why it’s cool: It taps into a phenomenon that already exists- an inherently competitive one, at that.  Trying new restaurants naturally resembles a scavenger hunt, and “food porn” is already a way for people to show off and attempt to best one another.

How it’s relevant to marketing: It presents more fun, subtle way of marketing to foodies, as well as a great opportunity for location-based advertising.  It’s also an example of gamification that doesn’t seem forced, which is inspiring in its own right.


What it is:  An interactive baby book for the digital era.

Why it’s cool:  It’s a way to share every little moment of your baby growing up… but only with the people who want to see it, not every single one of your facebook friends.

How it relates to marketing: It’s a natural place for family brands to live. Advertising could even be based on the baby’s age (nursing pillows when they’re newborns, sippy cups as they get older, etc.)


What it is:  Mind boggling vision-tracking technology that senses if you’re looking away from the screen, leaving the room, etc. and reacts accordingly.  For example, if you walk away and are watching a movie, it automatically pauses.

Why it’s cool:  It has the potential of making interacting with screens even simpler and easily integrated into daily life.

How it relates to marketing: The Lab is keen eye tracking and body motion sensing tech, because it’s so related to how people consume media (and is potentially relevant to many brand’s future media buying strategies). If Cube26 lives up to its claims, it brings that technology directly into the home in a tangible, exciting way.


What it is: Playgrounds that harnesses children’s energy to enhance the recess experience and encourage them to play even more.

Why it’s cool:  There’s massive potential in using human energy to enrich an experience, engage people, and spark conversation. Also, playgrounds are such a fun space to… well… play in, design-wise.

How it’s relevant to marketing:  While there might not be an obvious connection between playgrounds and marketing, there’s plenty to learn from the concept.   Brands that want to differentiate themselves as forward thinking should consider integrating innovative design and/or harnessing human energy in future campaigns.


What it is: An app that lets you plan events with friends, delegate tasks, make checklists, etc.

Why it’s cool:  This could streamline the process of planning small-scale get-togethers that require involvement from multiple people.  It could help eliminate the plethora of irritating group texts, Facebook messages, etc. that crop up when attempting to plan things of this nature, sectoring all of that information into one place instead of clogging up the rest of your digital life.

How it’s relevant to marketing:  Marketing could be tailored to the kind of event being planned.  For example, for a bachelorette party there might be ads for liquor, silly gift ideas, performers, etc. Brands could even have sponsored party plans and suggestions for different kinds of events, like cocktail recipes and party planning tips from experts.


What it is:  A database of professional athletes and artists and what gear they use, specifically intended for creating a presence for online retailers in the form of widgets.

Why it’s cool:  If you’re, say, a golfer shopping for a pair of new clubs, it’s helpful to see what your favorite professional athlete uses while making a decision.

How it’s relevant to marketing:  Brands spend so much money on celebrity sponsorships and endorsements.  This could be a way to use them to their fullest potential in the realm of online shopping.


What it is: A social proximity-based cloud app that uses Facebook and dropbox to share messages, pictures, and files with people close to you, whether you know their information or not.

Why it’s cool:  This could be useful in an infinite number of ways.  You could share pictures from a party with everybody there, or a presentation with everybody in your office, simultaneously and without worrying about formatting.

How it’s relevant to marketing:  Imagine hosting an event – anything from a concert to a film premier- and being able to send information that enhances the experience to everybody in the room at the same time. This could be an invaluable addition to experiential marketing. Both the person sending and those receiving must have the app in order for it to work, so brands avoid bothering people who are unwilling to engage while having unlimited access to those open to receiving new content.