Each March, the South by Southwest superfestival takes place in Austin, Texas, showcasing the latest film, music, and interactive media. In the startup world, its Interactive Festival has become known as a breeding ground for emerging tech.
Last week, I was fortunate to attend Startup Pow Wow #3, a talk about making the most of SXSW given by SXSW veteran Dave Knox, Co-Founder of The Brandery startup accelerator, alongside a SXSW first-timer Mike Sarow, Co-Founder of Kapture. I have transcribed some of their advice and stirred it up with other ideas from the interwebs.
The talk was timely and insightful, but for me it was more — without SXSW, the startup that I work for every day wouldn’t exist.
Lisnr was born three years ago, on a bus to SXSW 2012. Though before my time, tidbits of the story about how Rodney and our other co-founders met, brainstormed, and began creating the Smart Tone have been passed down over the years. In late 2012, we had the first big pilot: Swedish House Mafia.
I could tell you more about our story, but this shiny, new infographic conveys it pretty well.
What it doesn’t tell you are the little details, like that we were invited to meet with Pepsi and Disney before the week was over. Since 2012, we have done more major pilots, and evolved Smart Tones to be more robust and powerful. This year, we built a platform on top of them. Next week at SXSW 2015, we’re coming full circle with our latest demos.
In general, the advice from Dave and Mike about SXSW, revolved around three themes: the value of having a very diverse body of attendees, the large amount of niche events, and the serendipity that naturally arises from the first two. (Dave wrote a related blog post about SXSW 2011.)
Should I get a badge?
Dave and Mike agree that you don’t need a badge to make the most of SXSW. That said, some sessions and events require a badge for access. There are multiple badge types, and most are $1k+. Austin.com adds that, you can get into any film without a badge by buying a $10 ticket right before it starts (as long as there are open seats). Alternatively, some people leave early handing out their badges as they go, so there’s a chance of getting into a special talk that way.
How should I network?
The broad advice with meetings and networking was to be intentional. Know why you’re attending (or not attending), and who you want to meet with. Try to schedule coffee with them ahead of time. If you can, get their cell, so that you can text to find each other, even in crowded space. Mike added that reaching out to mentors to ask if they’d be attending led to occasional replies offering them onto lists into shows and events they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Which sessions & events are worthwhile?
Let’s be real — the amount of sessions and parties is overwhelming. The SXSW schedule is overflowing (information architects, where you at?), and that’s only the official events. Even once you have arrived, sometimes the line will be so long you can’t actually get in—don’t waste your time standing in long lines, rather just accept missing that talk and follow the tweets instead. Also, don’t forget to allocate travel time between sessions that aren’t close by, and to focus on niche events.
Is there an app for that?
- Skoop SX [iOS] [Android] is a new app that brings everything about SXSW 2015 into one “micro-social network”. It just launched on Friday, but already touts 980+ events (official and unofficial).
- SXSW Side Parties database by Austin360 has 700+ events.
- Eventbrite SXSW 2015 lists a couple hundred.
- Unofficial SXSW Guide on Facebook features some unique parties like Off the Grid.
- RSVP Master List by CoolinAustin has about fifty events, many still open.
What about parties and shows?
Avoid most official parties for long lines and over-generalized conversation—instead seek out curated events, like vendor parties. Mike adds that while mingling, they had success simply asking, “what are you up to tonight?” then asking to get on the list for event as they networked. Dave mentions that your friends at marketing at branding companies, as well as VCs can have the sway to get you onto these exclusive RSVP lists, while most startup friends won’t. (But please don’t RSVP bomb.) When it comes to shows, the same advice holds: find the emerging artists instead of the big guys.
If you are in startups, two events not to miss are the SXSW Accelerator competition at Startup Village over the weekend (badge required), and the Global Accelerator Network Party on Monday (free).
Taylor Edmiston is a startup software engineer, entrepreneur, and Lead Backend Developer at LISNR in Cincinnati, Ohio.
This post originally appeared on Medium.
LISNR is a high frequency, inaudible technology; a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. As the leaders of the Internet of Sound, we use inaudible sound waves called SmartTones™, to transmit information. LISNR essentially transmits customizable packets of data every second that enable proximity data transmission, second-screen functionality, authentication and low-fi device to deviceconnectivity on any LISNR enabled device. We enable this functionality better and more efficiently than bluetooth (proximity), ACR (2nd Screen), and NFC/RFID (authentication). As an integrated software partner, LISNR can power devices to connect with world around better than ever before.
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