Category Archives: SXSW

Do’s & Don’t’s from SXSW

End of a 2 block line of pilgrims waiting to g...

I just got back from another “South By,” always a fun time.  I spent the weekend there, which given SXSW‘s total boondoggle nature, is I think about the right period of time to be there.  Having caught up with other folks who attended and having traded notes, and now having attended for 3 years, here are a few Do’s and Dont’s for SXSW.  Pro Tips (alright, potentially only semi-pro tips).

  1. Wear comfortable shoes.  SXSW is a place where you should be spending a lot of time walking and standing.  Wear the most comfortable shoes you own.  For me, I bring and wear a pair of Brooks running shoes.  I could walk to Arkansas in them, they’re that comfortable.
  2. Avoid conference sessions (unless I’m speaking ;). Every year I make this mistake…  I get my badge, and I think, wow I should do something useful like go to a conference session.  This year, I did this and I ended up at a session where a guy had as his powerpoint slides pictures of kittens… talking about what I parsed to be the evolution of work and questioning why our normal workday was roughly 8-5.  Snooze fest.
  3. Do make sure your app works.  Highly touted mobile app Highlight launched a new version of its app prior to SXSW.  They garnered press on their cool ice cream truck.  I thought I’d reinstall Highlight to see how it had evolved since the last SXSW.  Unfortunately, for me at least, I couldn’t get Highlight to work after installation.  When I click the “Sign in with Facebook” button to actually use the app, nothing happens.  So other than a splashscreen, Highlight doesn’t really offer me anything. I’d be interested to learn whether anyone else ran into this problem. (A few disclosures .. First, BlueRun Ventures, where I work, is an investor in Banjo, which is often positioned as a competitor.  Two, I reinstalled Highlight twice to try and overcome this issue, unsuccessfully–user error may be at work here, but I’m dubious.)  Robust testing pre-launch, especially for mobile apps where Apple will take weeks to approve updates, is an absolute must do.  Quick plug: check out mobile testing platform Appurify (disclosure: I’m an investor), when you want to put your mobile app through a rigorous QA and testing regiment.
  4. Drink a lot of water.  Next year I’m bringing a Camelback and just wearing it.  SXSW does have a lot of partying.  At the same time, Austin restaurants are pretty weak at getting you water.  Get water every chance and place you get.
  5. Always be charging.  ’nuff said.


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SXSW : Spring Break for Silicon Valley

English: Industrialist Richard Branson at the ...

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Most SF & Silicon Valley startups and investors have been straggling back from SXSW in the mid-to-later part of the week.  As with ever year, ‘South-bye…” provides a great opportunity to mix and mingle, to catch-up and carouse.   Unsurprisingly, one sees several tweets invoking the spirit of Richard Branson.

One founder exemplified this spirit during a lunch we were having when he showed me a text sent to him from a senior BD exec at a big carrier he’d partied with,  that read, “R U still alive?!?”  Don’t let anyone confuse you: it’s a blast.  (And btw, the founder did a great job selling me–nice job!)

Which is great, everyone should let off steam every once in a while.

But I come away from the place, again, with two key complaints.  The first is a common one: the conference iteself is *very* light on useful content, to the point of being laughably amateur.  One example: the Startup Bus, a bus of hackers putting projects together en route via bus from SF to Austin had its final presentation during a session.  15 minutes after the session was to start, an organizer came out and expressed that several of the project teams couldn’t decide who should present or whether they should present at all.  In the tone and  spirit of a flight delay by Southwest Airlines, a few boosters told us it would be totally awesome, but we had to wait until courage was summoned.

Sorry, we’re closed…  Lame, amateur hour, bush league.  The show must go on people.

And this really feeds into my larger gripe with SX and the challenge I put to us all  in the industry.  Namely, we need more “boot and rally,” more fearlessness…  If we’re going to go out and rage until 5am, then get up the next morning and get at it–figure out how to bring you A-game.  (Not that you have to–fine with me if you skip the whole thing and stay focused on delighting customers).  Geek Culture should be all over this.  The guys who bring us Brogramming get this to a T.  Sure go out and rage, but get your ass some coffee and/or Red Bull and get back at it.  Hangovers shouldn’t slow you down.

In the land of high tech startups, fearlessness is the order of the day.  I worry when I go to a scene like SouthBy that we’re becoming too hype-conscious, too coddled and self-referential, and in a sense too fearful.

Get out there.  Have fun and let your hair down, however that works for you, whether its with a lot of partying, or with none.  That’s not important.  What is important is to be fearless.

More Richard Branson, less Richard Simmons.


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