The Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI) had a major presence at SXSW. The purpose of YEI is to help students and graduates develop and grow their earl stage companies and to “expand entrepreneurship opportunities across Yale and to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem in New Haven, Connecticut.”1 They do this in a few different ways, but the most important for our purposes is through their fellowship program. More or less, the YEI fellowship program serves as an incubator for those companies and founders accepted into the program. During SXSW, five of the most recently accepted companies took part in a pitch contest.
One of these five startups was Hotspot. The guys from Hotspot have built out a pretty unique sms-based marketing platform. The consumer-facing app allows users to receive a pretty substantial discount. The Yale Daily News wrote a succinct description of Hotspot:
The free app requires users to link their phones’ contact lists to the app. Hotspot Deals then reveals a list of local discounts, such as $3 Oaxaca margaritas or half-off coffee or tea at Blue State. Each coupon is redeemed by texting a certain number of friends — usually anywhere between one to five people, who get an invite to arrive at the coffee shop or restaurant in question. Everyone who responds to the invite receives a coupon and even if no one responds, the coupon is still valid for the person who sent the invite.2
Though Hotspot did not win, nor did the judges – Michael Seibel of YC, Katie Rae of Project11 formerly of Techstars, and David Mount of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers – pick a second place startup, it was pretty clear from the attendee hand raising vote that Hotspot was the second favorite startup. Take a look at their pitch: