Former Sandbox Company Wins Top Industry Startup Award at SXSW
By: Diane Stirling
A .com company launched from the School of Information Studies/Syracuse Tech Garden Sandbox in 2009 by three Syracuse University students was named “Best Boostrapped Startup” at the tech industry’s pinnacle conference of the year last night.
was named the overall winner in that category for the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Accelerator competition in Austin, Texas. The “Best Boostrapped Startup” award recognizes the company that has made the most progress with the most promise, given the resources of a startup, according to BrandYourself.com CEO Patrick Ambron.
“We were hoping to win the award for our category, but certainly not expecting to win the overall [competition] award,” Ambron said. “It’s a testament to the quality of our application and more importantly, to the problem that we solve,” he added. “More than anything else, we hope this shows that Central New York truly has the resources to produce great, innovative new companies."
The 2012 Accelerator competition included these categories of technologies: Innovative Web; Entertainment; Health; Mobile; News Related and Social Media and Social Networking. BrandYourself was selected as a finalist out of 670 initial startups competing to present at the SXSW conference. The company was then selected among 48 presenting finalists.
The Syracuse-based company was founded in 2009 by SU classmates Patrick Ambron, Peter Kistler and Evan McGowan-Watson. They were part of the original Student Sandbox entrepreneurship center.
Ambron graduated from Syracuse University in 2009 with a dual major from the Newhouse School of Public Communication and the College of Arts and Sciences, in Advertising and Psychology, respectively. Kistler majored in information management and technology at the iSchool. McGowan-Watson attended the Whitman School of Management as an entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises major.
In announcing the firm’s new investment status last week, Ambron credited Syracuse University, the iSchool, the Tech Garden, and advisors John Liddy and Linda Hartsock for helping the idea become a thriving business. “When you haven’t done these things before, that kind of support, knowing you’ve got a community and a university and a support system behind you, is really important,” he said.
BrandYourself.com has received significant governmental and entrepreneurial community recognition recently. In 2011, the firm won the $200,000 grand prize in the 2011 Creative Core Emerging Business Competition. The company also was honored by the White House as one of the Top 100 Startups Run by Entrepreneurs Under30, and it has been named one of the Top 5 Collegiate Startups by Entrepreneur Magazine.
The firm started in concept after one of the founders could not get an internship in college because he was mistakenly identified on Google as a drug dealer, the company has said. That led to the idea to create a product that made it easy for anyone to improve their search results, thus managing their online reputation by themselves. The company offers a basic product free of charge, and a premium version for a modest monthly fee. “We wanted to give everybody the power of reputation management, regardless of how tech savvy or wealthy they might be, so we created a free product that makes it simple for anyone to do,” Ambron said.
The company is now a regular tenant of the Tech Garden on Harrison Street downtown.
More information about the competition and the Accelerator finalists is at: http://sxsw.com/interactive/startupvillage/accelerator/finalists