Heyo, a social-media company launched by former students, may soon get the chance to showcase a new project on a highly visible stage.
The Blacksburg-based company was recently chosen as a finalist from a pool of 500 applicants for the fifth annual 2013 SXSW Accelerator conference.
March 11-13, companies will meet in Austin, Texas to compete and show off their ideas for the year. The competition works interactively as finalist companies attempt to “discover advancements in social media, mobile applications, and web entertainment,” according to sxsw.com.
In 2007, Twitter attended SXSW Accelerator, and although it had previously launched in 2006, the conference exploded their network and boosted their audience into the millions. Now it is Heyo’s chance to shine with innovation.
At the Accelerator conference, Heyo will have the opportunity to reach out and impress international companies and judges.
“This conference is very well-known. We thought we had very little chances of getting in, just because of our location. When we applied, it’s clear that the people looking at our application saw how powerful the software is and that we have a significant amount of costumers using the platform,” Latka explained.
For a conference that began as the South by Southwest Film Festival, it is a big step to be able to represent technology on such a large scale.
Accelerator works with very large companies like Microsoft, and only accepts the most promising companies that they feel will make an impact in the upcoming year.
“This is the kind of conference that all of the big players go to. I’m excited for the exposure because I think it will be great not only for our company but also for Southwest Virginia when we present ourselves at this international competition,” Carroll said.
Heyo focuses on allowing small businesses to expand their audience and fan base through ‘Do It Yourself' instruction. They work with clients to build fan pages, mobile applications and websites to make it easier for them to drive traffic leads and sales.
“The main reason we entered the competition is for exposure,” said Nathan Latka, Co-Founder and CEO of Heyo. “It will help us forward our mission of helping small business owners. More people will hear about us, and we can make connections and build our cause.”
Along with Latka, previous Radford and Virginia Tech students, Brian Putt and Joshua Gunter, helped to launch the company almost two years ago in a small space above Sharkey’s in downtown Blacksburg.
Now Heyo has about 15 full-time employees and a large, creative office space.
“Heyo is not just focused on building fan pages. There’s a much higher goal, and that is creating a cool office, and getting the most intellectual people in a small area to create density of high-level thinking,” Latka said.
Brandon Carroll, Chief Fun Officer, works to lead the marketing sales and support, but also takes his “fun” role very seriously.
“We have a unique culture here where everyone has fun,” Carroll said. “We are 100 percent committed to the happiness of employees and clients. I think if you invest in people then business will go far. People are our biggest asset.”
Heyo plans to expand and market itself internationally, but always stay in the Blacksburg and New River Valley area.
“We believe that this area has so much talent and could really be the next Silicon Valley. What makes not only Virginia Tech, but also the area different is that we are committed to the idea of Ut Prosim,” said Carroll. “Our company is really focused on serving small businesses and hopefully the Accelerator conference will help us stay dedicated to that mission.”
Follow this writer on Twitter @lesliemccrea