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Phone2Action calls in win at SXSW Accelerator

Editor’s Note: Though our team of writers isn’t on the ground at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas, we’re covering the Silicon Prairie’s presence at the annual gathering from afar.  

Ximena Hartsock and Jeb Ory pose on stage after winning the News Technologies category of the SXSW Interactive Accelerator.

Turns out Kansas City, Mo.-based Phone2Action truly was dialed in at the South by Southwest Interactive Accelerator on Tuesday. The mobile advocacy startup outdueled seven early-stage companies to win the News Technologies category after two rounds of presentations.

Co-founders Jeb Ory and Ximena Hartsock will head home with $4,000, two tickets to next year’s SXSW Interactive, free web hosting for a year, an Apple TV and more, but they know the biggest benefits are yet to come.

“More than anything, we get bragging rights and we’re in very good company with past winners,” Ory said Tuesday night in a phone interview. He said he was told following the event that winners over the past five years have brought in more than $400 million in funding.

Ory believes the live demo of the Startup Act 3.0 campaign asking the audience to text “JOBS” to 52886 struck a chord with the judges during his five-minute presentation. “We were the only ones to do a live demo that I know of,” he said. “A lot can go wrong.”

On day two, Phone2Action beat out InfoActive, which turns data streams into interactive infographics for media companies, and Watchup, which allows users to create their own newscasts by hand-picking videos from news channels. The final day was judged by Wired Magazine deputy editor Rob Capps, Wikimedia executive director Sue Gardner and Knight Foundation president and CEO Alberto Ibarguen.

Participants in the SXSW Accelerator pose on stage.

This was the second trip to Austin for Ory and first for Hartsock, but both said the best part of the trip was being embraced by entrepreneurs from their new home—Ory moved from Sacramento in September to take part in Think Big Partners‘ accelerator. “I was very impressed with the camaraderie and supportive network of the Missouri and Kansas communities,” Hartsock said Tuesday in an email.

“I hope our win has a halo effect and shines more light on St. Louis, Kansas City and other communities in the region,” Ory said.

Those connections have already paid dividends. Patrick Stoddart, CEO and founder of Revdel—a startup based in Think Big that provides communications and scheduling services—has come on as an advisor within the last couple weeks to bring his experience in member engagement. In return, Ory and Hartsock have introduced him to potential clients in Washington D.C.

There’s no stopping now for Phone2Action. Ory is headed to Florida today to work on a campaign with the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

For more on Phone2Action, see our story earlier this week: “Kansas City startup Phone2Action dials in at SXSW Accelerator“.

Credits: Photos courtesy of Jeb Ory and Ximena Hartsock.

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