I’m with him that SXSW was far from an ideal place for the app to fully break out for a number of reasons, but remember that Highlight didn’t actually launch at SXSW, it has been out for weeks. Instead, I viewed SXSW as more of an interesting challenge for them to figure out how the service would/will work at scale. I think they learned a lot in a few days.
I also think Brenden focuses too much on one use case: meeting people. It’s easy to see why that is — that’s the most obvious application, and the one that apps in the space have clung to in the past. But in my opinion, if Highlight is to be a success, it won’t be primarily devoted to meeting people. This will always be a part of the app, but ideally just one part.
Just to use networking/meeting people as an example at SXSW, clearly many of us don’t need a way to network more. My schedule, for example, was already packed nearly solid with meetings while I was there. But I remember going to SXSW for the first time a few years ago when I had just taking my first writing gig at VentureBeat. I knew almost no one in the industry. And I was alone in Austin. An app to help guide me to who I should connect with (or at least know) would have been very useful.
Having said that, the networking issue would likely remain from the other side. Even if I wanted to connect with someone, that person may have been busy already. Still, just going up and introducing myself would have been nice. Many people did that to me this year at SXSW, which is great. Hopefully some of them saw that I was around thanks to Highlight.
One more quick related story: I was at brunch one day with Paul Davison, the co-founder of Highlight, in Austin. A young woman came up and tapped him on the shoulder asking if he was the co-founder of Highlight. She had seen that he was nearby on the service and wanted to introduce herself and talk a bit about the app. She went on and on about how she and her group of friends loved the app.
For those of us who have seen thousands of apps come and go, it’s easy to be cynical. But cynicism doesn’t make or break services; the real world does.