Yourco, a Broad Ripple-based software startup founded by brothers Brodie and Benjamin Meyer, has been selected as one of 40 companies worldwide—and the only one from Indiana—to participate in a pitch contest at the massive SXSW festival in Austin, Texas in March.
SXSW, which this year takes place March 10-19, is a tech/arts/culture gathering that includes concerts, a conference, film and comedy festivals and public exhibitions. Event organizers estimate that last year’s event drew attendance of 278,681 in-person and virtually.
The pitch contest, called SXSW Pitch, takes place March 11-12, when interactive technology companies will pitch their companies to a panel of industry experts, media professionals and investors. SXSW says it selected the participants from a pool of 740 applicants.
Yourco will compete in the contest’s “Future of Work” category, going head-to-head against four other companies from Chicago, Austin, Germany and Brazil.
Yourco offers a messaging-based platform designed for what the company calls “non-desk” employees—workers in fields such as manufacturing, warehousing, transportation and construction who don’t work in an office setting and may not even have a work-related email address.
The company launched in March 2021 and now has more than 100 U.S.- and Canada-based customers including paint- and coatings-maker Sherwin-Williams.
The Meyer brothers first developed the software for use by their family’s commercial printing business, M&G Graphics in Chicago. The company’s managers “always had trouble communicating with their plant floor employees,” said Brodie Meyer.
So the brothers came up with a communication platform that M&G could use to share things like company announcements, emergency alerts, or other written information via text messaging.
Because the platform is SMS-based, Brodie Meyer said, communications do not count towards a user’s data usage—an important feature for users who might have limited data plans on their smartphones. It’s also a two-way communications platform, so workers who need to get in touch with their human resources department or supervisor can use Yourco for that, too.
Based on the success that M&G had with the platform, the brothers had a hunch that their idea might have legs.
“We thought, ‘Hey, we might have a scalable business here,’” Brodie Meyer said.
The company now has five full-time employees and several additional contract workers. Brodie and Benjamin Meyer were both living in Indianapolis when they launched Yourco and had built business connections here (Brodie is a 2018 Butler University graduate). So when they both decided to move back home to the Chicago suburb of La Grange, Illinois in late 2021, they decided to keep Yourco’s headquarters in Broad Ripple. Both brothers travel back to Indianapolis regularly, Brodie Meyer said.
The SXSW pitch contest won’t award any cash prizes, Brodie Meyer said, but he’s looking at the opportunity as a prime chance to network and raise Yourco’s profile—particularly among people who live outside of the Midwest.
Being associated with big-name events like SXSW can be helpful for startups, attests Geng Wang, the CEO of Bloomington-based Civic Champs. Founded in 2019, Civic Champs offers a software platform to help not-for-profits manage their volunteer base.
Civic Champs was selected as an alternate for SXSW Pitch in 2020. That year’s SXSW was canceled at the last minute because of the pandemic, so Civic Champs never got the chance to participate. But the company has participated in other pitch contests, including TechCrunch’s well-known Startup Battlefield event in 2019.
Civic Champs didn’t win the event—but participation itself is considered a badge of honor because of TechCrunch’s strong reputation, Wang said. Civic Champs has used that fact as leverage in conversations with potential investors, and “it definitely helped” land some investments, Wang believes.
And the chance to interact panel of judges is useful, Wang said, because it gives a company a brief interaction with people the founder might otherwise never meet. “Just making that quick connection is helpful.”
At SXSW Brodie Meyer will be the one actually doing the pitch, while Benjamin Meyer will be controlling the slide deck offstage.
“I think we’re ready,” Brodie Meyer said. “This is something we’re not really nervous about because we believe in our business—and our customers believe in our business.”