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Crowning the King of South by Southwest


How group messaging services plan to win over the tech-savvy hordes

Group messaging services, which make it easy tp chat with packs of friends while on the go, are hoping to break out in Austin this year. They're planning parties, giveaways, and gimmicks to win over the tech-savy hordes

Beluga: Facebook acquired this group messaging service on Mar. 1

Created by: Three Google engineers who helped develop such products as Gmail and AdSense

What's special? Beluga adds a bit of whimsy—groups are called "pods"—and integrates with Facebook. Use your social networking login credentials to start texting on Beluga

SXSW Stunt: Given the recent acquisition, Beluga will keep its head down at this year's festival

Fast Society: The tagline for this New York-based startup is "Built to Party"

Created by: Three friends with backgrounds in sales and marketing at MTV, Vitaminwater, Yahoo!

What's special? Fast Society is aimed exclusively at teens andtwentysomethings. "We're not trying to be a business tool or a tool for families," says co-founder Matthew Rosenberg

SXSW Stunt: A Patrón-fueled party and free hotel shuttles on opening day for Fast Society users

GroupFlier: Based in Bethesda, Md., it lets users chat or "broadcast" to followers

Created by: Morris Panner, a lawyer and cybersecurity expert at Harvard's Belfer Center

What's special? Focused on influencers such as designers and musicians, GroupFlier lets them create groups of their fans and set rules for when members can respond to everyone

SXSW Stunt: Partnering with StyleX, the festival's showcase for fashion, to help designers reach fans

GroupMe: The startup received $11.5 million from prominent investors

Created by: A former programmer at Gilt Groupe and a business development exec at Tumblr

What's special? The founders say that GroupMe is the dead-simple messaging app that anyone can use. Its fans include a circus troupe, hunters, PTA members, and church groups

SXSW Stunt: Co-hosting a "Major Rager" party and also giving out grilled cheese sandwiches

Mogwee: A new app that blends group messaging and social gaming features

Created by: Ning, the 6-year-old social network backed by venture capitalist Marc Andreessen

What's special? Mogwee users can buy virtual goods like broken hearts and hamburgers. Ten zombie sheep go for 99 cents and users can "throw" them at other friends who use the app

SXSW Stunt: Ning paid to sponsor the official SXSW after-party on opening day and hired DJ Premier

textPlus: Popular with teens, textPlus now has nearly 8 million users

Created by: GOGII, a 3-year-old Marina del Rey (Calif.) startup with funding from Kleiner Perkins

What's special? TextPlus sells add-ons, including an ad-free version that costs $3 a year and custom alerts for 99 cents. Users can discuss specific topics in themed "communities"

SXSW Stunt: GOGII will donate $1 to charity for every group created at SXSW (up to $10,000 in total)

Sheridan is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. MacMillan is a reporter for Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Businessweek in San Francisco.

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