The best way to describe SXSW is like spring break for geeks. Technology entrepreneurs, bloggers, and industry enthusiasts flock from all over the world to Austin, Texas to attend. This year 40,000 people registered for the festival which showcases innovations in music and film as well as the interactive part which is packed with panels and parties.
My third year in attendance, this year was bigger than ever with more traditional media and big name brands having a presence; The CNN Grill was invite only and Pepsi had their own stage and bar area almost a block-wide. I noticed this year there also seemed to be an increase in attendance from the UK and Europe and also from South Africa.
As ever the SXSW veterans who have been attending for years complain about it getting too big and too comercial and reminisce when it was about meeting a small group of interesting people, but there they are again in attendance, for another year of speaking on panels, doing interviews and lapping up the sun drenched atmosphere which is laid-back but not lazy and filled with party after party.
Yes, you could easily think SXSX is just an excuse for industry professionals to party, but some of the best contacts I have ever made have been at SX where, because of the laid back vibe you’ll catch people in high powered positions with their guard down. In a business environment it’s easy to have your pitch perfect facade on display, whereas at SX, the chaos of marketing experiments, music and the smell of BBQ ribs are the backdrop for your business meetings. It’s this setting that makes it easier to have a genuine conversation and get to know people on a deeper level than usual.
Technology-wise the themes on everyone’s lips this year was group messaging and location based chat, companies like Beluga (recently acquired by Facebook) and GroupMe who are trying to make it easy to stay in contact with select groups of friends already in your contacts list and Yobongo and Buddycloud who are trying to solve the issue of connecting people you don’t know, but who are near by. Twitter emerged from SXSW 2007 as the service that everyone was using, but I don’t feel the same thing happened with any particular service or app this year- With the cost of innovation coming down there are so many apps trying to solve the same problem, in the end it just becomes a competition of who can shout the loudest and nothing jumped out at me at SX this year making waves as the next Twitter.
The Next Web’s @patrick and I getting ready for our #TNWHustle battle
The convention center during a flash mob
An interview with @shiralazar
The world’s biggest pants? Companies will do anything to make themselves stand out from the crowd
@Leolaporte and i doing a double interview livestream
The results of #TNWHustle