On the final day I was at 2019 South by Southwest (SXSW), a colleague approached me and asked, “So what have you seen that rocked your world?” I looked blankly at her and responded, “Well, nothing actually. It’s rather par for the course.”
But I really do like the course.
What I meant in my response is that we are far from the days when Twitter and Foursquare were unrolling new technology in 2007 and Siri was being launched at the 2010 SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event before it got acquired by Apple, Inc. All of these innovations surely blew the audience’s minds at South By. I wish I would have attended back in those days – what a ride!
In hindsight, I should have added to my reply that South By Southwest is my favorite conference for many reasons. Most of all, the people you meet, the client conversations that occur, and the environment which is packed full of creation, sharing, technology, and more. It is funny as I feel a bit jaded now that I have been there three years in a row and that the things that shocked me when I first attended in 2017 and 2018 no longer have the same effect on me. I feel like a child that has lost his elation after the weight of the world has crushed his soul.
OK, not that serious :-). But now without further ado, I unroll my top 5 highlights from SXSW 2019.
1. Diverse Founders Forum
To start off, the main reason I was out there was at the Diverse Founders Forum, as part of #SXSW Community Conversations. It was great to be on a panel with so many diverse minds, nine of us total on stage including my business partner Natasha and I. We had an invigorating panel discussion and all found that we shared similar situations, with unique twists to each. Among issues discussed were founder struggles, how to achieve investment, challenges as diverse founders and more. This forum was number one overall for me because of the valuable connections I made. This experience by itself made the entire SXSW trip worth it.
Second, I was very impressed by the excellent transport around the city of Austin. The addition of at least 4 different types of e-bike and e-scooter transport—plus more transportation options helped locals and visitors navigate around the city. All of these options made it easy and fun to get around wherever I wanted without having to get a cab, or even a Lyft/Uber. My partner and I were able to burn some calories as well, which is important as we all know that when traveling it can be hard to get any exercise as you shuffle from airport to restaurant to hotel and repeat. It was great! My favorite mode of e-transport was the Jump Bikes which allowed you to do most of the pedaling but kicks in with an electric jump whenever you are first starting up on the bike or going up a hill. This is amazing technology. I can only dream of the day when adequate e-transport comes to my poor city of Phoenix which is riddled with an obsolete bike sharing system that only obtains 3 stars on Trip Advisor. I digress, but I must say that I really was impressed with the overall ease of transport.
3. Rando Event Invites
Third of my five highlights would be the random invites to events that you consistently receive throughout the conference. It allows you to be fully booked without ever even having a registration badge for SXSW! I myself had a Platinum badge this year (thank you Southwest Airlines!), but found that at many of the top events I attended, there was scant a badge to be found. I liked how this kept SXSW open and accessible to everyone, not just well established companies or well-funded founders.
One of the many live performances I was invited to at SXSW 2019
4. Support from True Partners
On our behalf, it really was nice to benefit from Southwest Airlines having flown my partner and I out once again to an important conference. I love the investment that Southwest puts into their partners, as it is something that many companies in the Fortune 500 really need to strategize as opposed to tokenizing diverse founders which is done by too many firms. Putting your money and resources where your mouth is is really what I enjoy most about working with Southwest Airlines. And of course, the friendly flight attendants 🙂
5. Peer Pressure
Last but not least was the experience of convincing my business partner Natasha into delaying her flight and staying another day. It was 12pm on Sunday and my good friend Jessie from Salesforce Ventures and I decided that we could collectively convince her to stay for one more evening of festivities. There were too many sponsored events offering conversation (and free drinks) to not stay one more day in the City of the Violet Crown. It was a great day, as I believe the pics below illustrate well.
Wrapping up SXSW 2019
Overall, SXSW is an event that never ceases to pique my interest. The festivities, people and overall atmosphere this unique experience provides cannot be replicated elsewhere. Despite the fact that I’ve been to this festival for several years now, it always leaves me wanting to come back for more, and counting down the days until the following March. So I’ve shared with you my top 5 highlights from SXSW 2019 and I’ll hope to catch you in Austin for SXSW 2020.