The chill in tech startups was obvious at a giant tech conference in Texas


snowball face STILL


It may have been close to 90 degrees in Austin, Texas, but the chill over the tech industry could be felt everywhere, from the parties to the backroom conversations.


While SXSW used to be a launch pad for companies like GroupMe, Foursquare, and Twitter, there was no consensus on a breakout app for 2016. Even the tech keynotes were lacking compared to year's past. While President Barack Obama headlined on Friday, the talks distinctly lacked the leaders from the top tech companies and startups.

Most venture capitalists we spoke to had told their companies to skip the show, and stay heads down working. Unless they had a reason to be there, like speaking on a panel or raising awareness, many startups simply stayed home and kept their cash close at hand.

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Some investors touted Anchor, a new app for sharing audio, as the next big hit, but it didn't capture the crowds like Meerkat did a year ago.

L.A.-based startup Service hired wizards - or people from Austin getting paid $15 an hour to stand in lines with a yellow shirt and wizard hat - to promote its customer service app. It gained well-deserved buzz, and those who used it loved it.


But in conversations with investors and founders, the doubts about both apps countered the hype.

With regards to Anchor, some venture capitalists think audio is an underserved market, but wondered if people would put a lot of time into listening and sharing audio clips as they have with images, which are instantly digestible. In a world of Snapchat images and photo filters, many can't decide if it's a hit app yet.

And Service's website shows that it still has some important things to work out. In its own FAQ, the company acknowledges it doesn't have a business model yet. "We're a new company building a name for ourselves. Our services are completely free for consumers and businesses," it says.

The difference in tone didn't stop the parade of parties. But even there, the talk wasn't about the Next Big Thing, but more why there wasn't one this year at all.

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