(Founder Stories) How GroupMe Won SXSW: Grilled Cheese

At this year’s overcrowded and overhyped SXSW conference in Austin, one of the few startups to break through the noise was group text messaging app GroupMe. How did GroupMe win SXSW? Grilled cheese. The company rented an outdoor food shack for something like $10,000 and turned it into the GroupMe Grill with free grilled cheese sandwiches and beer. The grilled cheese, says co-founder Steve Martocci in this episode of Founder Stories, was “an homage” to Phish concerts, where grilled cheese sandwiches are consumed in large quantities (watch the video above).

The GroupMe Grill became a meeting point for attendees of SXSW, and it was one of the places everyone was taking photos of on Instagram (one of the other “winners” of SXSW). Jason Kincaid stopped by and did this video. All in all, two million text messages were sent through SXSW groups during the week of the event.

GroupMe wasn’t the only text messaging startup at SXSW. Beluga, Fast Society, Kik, Textplus, Yobongo, and many others were also there in full force. Does all this competition worry the GroupMe founders? In the video below, CEO Jared Hecht says, “It lights a fire under our ass.” But the proliferation of all of these semi-private group texting apps says something about the “broadcast overload” problem on more open social networks where “conversations are sterile.”

Be sure to watch Part I (on how GroupMe got started) and Part II (on where group texting is going) of this GroupMe interview. You can also check out other previous episodes of Founder Stories or subscribe in iTunes. (Disclosure: host Chris Dixon is an investor in GroupMe through Founder Collective).