A year ago, South By Southwest Interactive wasn’t even on JJ Aguhob’s radar. He was hard at work developing a mobile app idea -- a sort of Instagram for videos -- but was still a month away from launch.
A lot has changed.
On Monday, Aguhob, Viddy's founder, and his chief marketing officer, Evan White, rolled through the streets of downtown Austin, where thousands of attendees have descended on the city for the annual tech fest, and he heard shouts of recognition along the way.
“We were literally driving the pedicab over and people were like, ‘Viddy!’” said Aguhob, marveling at the company’s sudden rise.
Just hours earlier, Facebook named Viddy one of about 10 companies with apps that can be integrated into the Timeline feature. Pose, another Los Angeles tech company, is also among the new Timeline apps. Viddy has 900,000 active users through Facebook.
Viddy has reached its 2.5 million iPhone app downloads largely organically -- it exploded in Hong Kong without any effort by the company -- but has been boosted by celebrity partnerships, including Snoop Dogg, Linkin Park and Incubus. Disney also partnered with Viddy to release themed “production packs” that dropped Muppet characters over 15-second video snippets.
Viddy is an app that enables users to capture, produce, share and add filters to brief videos. “We help make one moment worth sharing with the world,” White said.
It’s been a good year so far for Silicon Beach, L.A.’s alternative to the better-known, better-financed Silicon Valley.
“It’s a tight-knit community, which I really like,” White said. “We’re all big believers in the uniqueness of Los Angeles as a place to start a business.”
Eleven L.A. companies put on demos of their products at a “Silicon Beach Showcase” at SXSW this week. They also threw a massive party, where about 1,000 people -- more than double the number they expected -- danced into the night.
"SXSW was a surreal experience -- bonding with coworkers, running into friends, hanging out with investors, riffing new ideas, celebrating with L.A. entrepreneurs, giving demos to media, announcing our Facebook partnership, riding pedicabs, eating great food and the highlight -- a live concert from Jay-Z," Aguhob said. "This was my first time in Austin, but it definitely won't be my last."
Nicole Jordan of BetterWorks said the group wanted to put together the hands-on showcase in Austin to show the rise in L.A.’s tech scene.
“We’re fighting the stereotype of no serious players,” Jordan said. “But there’s been this rise. Now we’ve got this huge community of thought leaders and a lot more cohesion.”
Jordan said the tech leaders have embraced the Silicon Beach term in its branding. “It’s a marketing gimmick, but it works," she said. "People are paying more attention to this area.”