SXSW 2013 Recap

SXSW 2013 – Topline learnings

What is South by Southwest?

-          Interactive festival in Austin, Texas.

-          Started in 1987 with the Film festival, music & interactive followed in 1994.

-          2004 attendees: 3.000 interactive,7.000 music, 3.000 film.

-          2012 attendees: 25.000 interactive, 19.000 music, 16.000 film.

-          64 countries attended. Biggest are US, Canada, UK, Australia & NL.

-          In 2013 Elon Musk most buzzed about personality with 11.823 comments. 2nd place to Grumpy Cat (7.548 mentions), more than Al Gore or Rachel Maddow

Subject covered in this recap:

  1. Broad general topics
  2. Social media
  3. Mobile
  4. Video platforms
  5. Organization focus
  6. Others (but still very interesting)

Overall SXSW themes/trends:

  • Year of hardware – there are less app/software launches this year. These have been replaced with LeapMotion and 3D printing 
  • Female presence – this is the first year that 50% registrants are female. Female hackers and programmers are well represented, with no diminutive sounding sessions eg. ‘women in tech’
  • Mobile presence – there are still too few dedicated sessions to mobile. Mobile is however getting called out in some sessions and people are talking about brands’ shift into this area. 
  • Quantified self – a lot of sessions talking around this theme.
  • Top SXSWi 2013 themes:
    • Space Exploration (35 panels)
    • Big Data (including self tracking, self hacking)
    • Digital / Physical (Leap Motion, 3D printers (Makerbot), Ouya)
    • Entrepreneurship (value of the start-up, maintaining energy & excitement as companies grow up)


Start-up session for college entrepreneurs:

  • Teens don’t want to create a profile
  • Email address is dead
  • Only use mobile to connect buyers and sellers
  • Frictionless and short-term relationships (only want to interact when you need to)

Survival Strategies for brands in China:

  • Chinese consumers have huge choice, little brand loyalty, are well informed and price conscious
  • Expect foreign brands to be world leaders in their category
  • Expect foreign brands to be authentic to their roots
  • Should consider the “collective” not just the individual
  • Retailers can build a business online first, then build physical stores in areas of high demand

3D Printers and Digitizer

  • Development of new products that allow the ability for anyone to scan 3D objects and "print" them
  • Will put a strong emphasis on the value of design and intellectual property
  • This will create a shift between the current choice to what people want
  • Empowerment of people to create new things without the need of heavy machinery

Present Shock; When Everything Happens Now 

Social Media and technology shifts us to live in the “ What Just Happened” rather than the Now.

  • Narrative Collapse; stories are failing because its too easy to interrupt. Gaming is a function of us wanting to write the story. However, movements require a strong narrative
  • Digirenia: too much choice, think we can do it all. Spread ourselves too thinly and we become over-programmed (no free time)
  • Over Winding: Put too much weight on a single moment, its implications and a future which may or may not happen.  Leads to ridiculous speculation
  • Fractalnoia: How can we make better connections
  • Apocolypt ; intolerance of a world that is not going to end

Al Gore on the Future

Al Gore was interviewed to provide a topline view on the 6 key drivers of global change

  • Earth inc. tighter connections between countries create opportunities that never existed before
  • Emergence of the global mind. Connection between people and network of intellingent sensors create a potential stalker economy
  • Emergence of the new centers of powers, size of the “emergent” economies is not above the “west” economies
  • Outgrowth creates significant inequalities between classes
  • Acquiring the ability to change the fabric of nature with the bio evolution
  • Climate crisis.

Commercializing the Revolution – Bridging the Innovation gap 

There are seemingly only iterative improvements to the world of invention / innovation / technology.

Four areas make up this innovation gap 

  • Education – scaling quality learning to populations will begin to bridge the innovation gap. Example: Udemy, Khan Academy
  • Payment – if we're going to scale innovation, we need to enable everyone to tap into a global economy with no cost and no set-up barriers. Eg. Square, LevelUp , Bitcoin, Dwolla, Google Wallet. 30% of Kenya's retai l;transactions are done via M-Pesa (mobile phone based money transfer)
  • Manufacturing – centralized production model came out of the industrial revolution. The future is a democratizing of production capabilities. Eg. Makerbot. This shift will also radically shrink production time. 
  • Energy – we need to generate power that is cheap and sustainable, and that scales with population eg. Arificial leaf tech, Algae wall 

Death Of Demographics

The way we think about brand audience targeting can evolve using new world data such as purchase behavior.

  • Walgreens used learnings from their online retail site ( to inform decisions made to their physical retail spaces
  • Amazon is the biggest threat to mass retail stores, mainly due to their ability to micro-personalize retail experiences for large amounts of people. Amazon is consistently voted #1 in terms of consumer service
  • A study showed that amongst the top 10 spending brands in the US – on average 62% of their TV ad spend was only reaching 2% of their purchasing audience
  • Kraft found that 80% of their purchased goods were coming from 1% of their target audience – leading them to explore better targeting of higher value customers
  • OREOs have found that combining their TV purchase with relevant social buys increases their advertising efficacy 2x.
  • 5% of OREOS US upfront budget is spent on mobile video. With this in mind, their first challenge was to establish Video Equivalency – ie. Understanding and driving ROI digital AV versus traditional TV.

The Sports Tightrope Balancing Content:

How can club media contribute to the sports publishing ecosystem from Arsenal FC Media Group?

  • Fans want to know everything all the time
  • Clubs don’t need to be first, but should be foremost authority
  • Biggest assets is access to players
  • Access to player data is also interesting area to explore

The Asian Struggle with the Fear of Failure:

How does the Asian culture and mindset affect entrepreneurship?

  • Failure is a badge of honor in the USA but shameful in Asia
  • Asians have fear of the unknown, this holds back people even trying
  • Parental understanding and approval is lacking right now
  • Pressure to support older generations affects risk taking and career choice
  • People from less well known families take more risks
  • Change will come with more local heroes
  • Need more private investors rather than Govt. grants

Pandora and Tech Crunch Dissect Music Tech

The future of music streaming is mobile

  • Consumer behavior is shifting to mobile (Pandora 170m users)
  • Ad $ are shifting with audiences
  • Pandora is a traditional radio model (not subscription) just digital
  • The future is in-car (integrated) and mobile
  • Customised and personalized discovery is key

The Buyer and the Beats: How to Reach Music Fans

Results of a Nielsen research study into what fans want from artists

  • Music sales at record levels
  • 316m physical sales/100bn music streams in 2013
  • Up to $2.5bn of untapped revenue in the market
  • Teens listen to music on YT over radio
  • 10% growth in smartphones usage for music
  • Nielsen segmented audiences into 6 groups
    • Aficionados (14%)
    • Digital Fans (13%)
    • Big Box Fans (14%)
    • Occasional Concert Consumers (14%)
    • Ambivalent Music Consumers (22%)
    • Background Music Consumers (24%)
  • Fans want a deeper connection with artists and are willing to pay for it
  • Consistent across age groups and genres


#pathonly Social’s Shift to Real Privacy 

Smaller social networks result in more intimate sharing

  • Users want to show emotion and tools to illustrate (Path produced ‘stickers’ in response)
  • Create a “home” feel and users will relax and have more private conversations (feeling of trust)
  • Snap-chat is a response to non-recorded interactions (just like real life conversations)
  • Govt. regulation required to drive real privacy and online safety…is this the principle the online world was built on?
  • Build campaigns around real human behaviours to illicit real responses/reactions

It's Reddits world, we just live in it

A panel discussion about the way the popular social news site Reddit works & influences in the world around us

  • Reddit has a big following of loyal users who identify with the site; if someone attacks the site, they feel personally offended & will act based on that
  • Several of the site moderators are really influential, with the ability to rally people for their 'real world' causes.
  • This has been used for good (i.e. standing up against SOPA act) but also for bad causes, like defending racist, sexist or aggressive 'trolls' of the Reddit community
  • Although the panel argues that Reddit has done a lot of good, they are also worried that a commercial company like Reddit might get too much influence, channeled through a handful of really (too) powerful moderators. This could be a challenge to politicians, brands or general causes

Building Tools for Creativity

A View in the development of Tumblr from the its founder

  • He cannot define what Tumblr is and likes that
  • Built for film, image, music and text making it open to ALL creators; a diverse an eclectic community
  • Most people on Tumblr curate rather than create
  • Fashion is the leading category at 15% of communities
  • Advertising opps are limited and no plans to develop any
  • Brands need to design for the platform, not just use standard assets and leverage its creative community

How is Twitter changing how we watch TV

A point of view into what makes a successful TV and Twitter show

  • Sports, reality TV, dramas and one time events are the most successful at gathering conversation
  • Experimentation with regards to content distribution (house of cards on Netflix) are showing the ability to sustain the conversation over time better than traditional distribution
  • Twitter helps the discovery, advertising, personification, and makes the watching experience better
  • Hashtag use is becoming the norm of the advertising industry, innovation in this space will be needed

The death of the couch potato; the future of social TV

Looking at the ways TV networks can engage their audience beyond the TV screen, by offering additional,social content

  • TV networks increasingly facilitate social discussions around TV broadcast, allow viewers to unlock additional 'webisodes', and offer rich trans-media experiences, in order to lock in the audience.
  • The key to successful "social tv" is to focus on a strategy that delivers a 24/7/365 experience for the fans to participate in, rather than getting a trending topic for a couple of minutes
  • Concept of “spoiler free” social tv vod experience has been experimented with success on Univision
  • Although social TV does come at increased costs, there's an argument for the fact that the data/insights that are being collected through social TV is the actual ROI

Creators vs Audience: The next chapter in story telling

  • As fans have more access to content makers they can actively contribute towards content as well as simply provide feedback: creator/audience collaboration. Jon Chu is leading this in film – G.I. Joe 2 was contributed to by the fans so that Chu would not destroy the franchise.
  • As creator/audience collaboration increases we expect an increased number of challenges surrounding content/IP.
  • Collective genius vs singular genius – the rise of this activity will push for group recognition surrounding content creators rather than individuals


Android’s Principles for Designing the Future 

Design products to illicit positive human emotions; a nice insight on how Google sees the world

  • Three principles
    • Enchant Me
    • Simplify My Life
    • Make Me Amazing
  • Sub-principles for each, for more go to
  • Key Android principle is “Its Not My Fault”; make it easy for people to use technology and don’t ever blame the user
  • Get to know me, decide for me but give me the final say, show me only what I need, when I need it
  • Make things visual (pictures are better than buttons)
  • Design a product to be a best buddy and avoid negative emotions from users

Beyond Mobile: Where no geek has gone before

  • Experiences should be designed for the sensors, not the screen
  • The best touch interfaces have no touch at all
  • Convergence of surfaces to screens – Normal surfaces such as glass doors become interactive
  • Designers will be overloaded by operating systems – smart glass turns smart devices in to a remote control for Gaming/TV but is OS agnostic
  • Smart devices such as tablets and smart phones will power dumb devices such as glass doors etc.
  • Main Aim: Hardware will grab software when it needs it

The Future of Location; from social to utility (Dennis Crowley, Foursquare)

  • Foursquare reveals what's interesting in the world 
  • Shows places where your friend have been and where you should go
  •  Moving away from the check-in ‘game’ to focus more on providing best local relevance
  • Currently 30M users on the platform, adding 1.5M per month. 60% of users non-US, Brazil & Indonesia very big. Turkey & Russia coming up quickly.
  • Foursquare is positioning itself to be the most important player in the future of maps, adding the key fourth element of what makes a map:
    • Map (tiles)
    • Routing information
    • Points of Interest
    • Overlay of social data
  • Main competitors in this field are Google (maps) and Facebook (social data).
  • Interesting Hurricane Sandy video >>  


Jash; A comedy platform with full creative autonomy 

A new site, co-founded by You Tube with artistic freedom

  • Give artists a voice to create without a filter
  • Adding production values and quality to the world of online comedy video
  • Aims to be the #1 comedy site and will curate content as well as deliver original videos
  • Artists are also business partners
  • Not a new model or revolution, just artists looking for autonomy…but without a producer/studio, who will act as the filter or quality controller?

The post YouTube Apocalypse - The future of Video - 03.10.13

  • New production model for studios based around “free” distribution through video platforms – however the business model is still traditional from a digital sense i.e. CPM revenue.
  • Content makers are being given the teams they need to make better primary platform. No desire to create for TV networks, Cinema producers etc.
  • Creators need to refine the content to maintain their audience - Creator/Fan collaboration.
  • Emergence of fan sourced funding – Fans/channel subscribers who resonate with the creators are now paying for them to create content i.e. $200K Investment in documentary ‘Im Vlogging Here’.
  • Content feedback could be used to evolve an on-going content piece. Determine key principles to measure success or failure and refine/evolve content accordingly.


Say Yes to the Mess ; Leadership Lessons from Jazz 

Working on projects requires “Learning while doing”

  • A strategic plan is not a complete map, just a starting point, expect it change and learn to improvise
  • Master the art of unlearning; break routines and remake yourself if you feel too comfortable
  • Develop an appreciative mindset (embrace the mess)
  • Problem solving often gets in the way, it becomes too resistent to outside thoughts
  • Develop provocative confidence (be Miles Davis)

Conscious capitalism

Capitalism needs to evolve to help to match the broader needs that the world has. 

  • Businesses needs to focus on their higher purpose vs short term revenue
  • Businesses needs to create value for the people they trade with, all of them. Consumer, trade, team members, suppliers, investors, local communities
  • New type of leaders, focus away from power and money, put more emphasis on social and emotional intelligence, serving values of the companies…
  • Create a work culture that is more humanistic, have integrity, rewards loyalty, values trust and employee empowering.  

Acquiring the skill of meta learning

An overview on how you can be better with how you use your time and get better results through a structured approach to better learning. 

  • Deconstruct – break what you want to learn in smaller pieces
  • Identify – find out failure points to avoid them in the early stages of your training
  • Select – focus on the 20% of learning that you need to get to 80% of results
  • Sequencing – ask the questions about the order of that skill that you need, be inquisitive about it
  • Stakes – Put some serious incentives for you to achieve 

Innovation and leadership in the agile age

How do you produce game changing innovation when your company goes bigger?

  • Design for delight : design 7 version of one same brief to get to 1 solution. Go broad, then narrow. 
  • New way to make decision is through experimentation – results vs opinion
  • Role of leaders is evolving to champion the challenges, install the experimentation culture, pull the insights of success and failures and live by the same rules that you want your teams to do.
  • Making it work is through a 3 steps approach,
    • Make leap of faith assumptions 
    • Experiment with a small number of users
    • Learn and adapt the experiment


A Conversation with Rachel Maddow 

Great insights and views into the world of politics in the USA

  • We need strong parties to push strong arguments, only then will the best outcomes emerge
  • Liberal views are prevalent amongst Republicans now, but will they still be there during an election year
  • Biggest single issue in USA this year will be Gun Control, low expectations on sensible voting in Congress

Leap Motion and the disappearing consumer interface

The two co-founders showcased their new product innovation (a kinect on steroids) that is launching later in May 2013. 

  • Ability to have gesture control on any device in the near future
  • Mass adoption of the technology will happen when application that are actually a better of doing things (vs different) are created
  • LeapMotion has currently 50k developers working on applications

Designing habits: From big data to small changes - 15:30 03.08.13 

  • Behavior needs to be changed in order to change habits
  • Break down the small changes to behavior required to make an impact on holistic data surrounding habits
  • Data awareness is the key to help change habits - as soon as someone is aware of what they do they will be more willing to change.
  • In order to create behavior change, the experience needs to evoke emotion and be social. Consumer knowledge is not enough to make an impact.
  • Gamification can help users to achieve small changes to have the holistic habit change as long as achievable goals can evolve with the users ability.

The Signal and the Noise

Why is big data is not yet producing big results or resolving big problems?

  • The volume of variables of data sources that we have to our access increases the volume of potential answers
  • Not all variables are providing a true signal and thus neutral interpretation of these is necessary to design accurate statistical answers
  • Future analysis success will be led by the ability to get to a neutral and holistic view on the world.

Art, Activism and Augmented Reality 03.10.13

  • Augmented Reality (AR) via smartphone can be compared the concept of a Cyborg; AR technology enhances the human
  • AR Activism is used to make symbolic gestures in banned space in order bypass the law/controlled areas – the police can remove a movement physically but not digitally from a location. E.g. Occupy Wall Street
  • AR Activism is Elitist – In order to see it you need the technology i.e. smartphone. Awareness of the movement or the location is limited unless you have outlets
  • Creatively AR could work from a cultural perspective for Nike but your audience would be limited depending on the limitations outlined in point 3.

Brands Bloggers and Social Commerce Future

Women use digital sources at critical points in their purchase process – as a first stop and once they’ve narrowed choices.

  • 60% of women turn to online & social media before making a purchase
  • Across females, blogs drove purchase intention, and actual sales, more than Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest respectively
  • Embedding widgets within blogs elicit higher sales than links
  • This was due to women not wanting their reading experience to be disrupted by leaving the page

Four key strategies when using social to drive commerce:

  • Quality product
  • Trusted advocacy
  • Frictionless sale
  • Take the store to her

Five questions about Persuasion Profiles

  • To deliver behavior change its not the product, but HOW YOU ASK
  • We are all different but consistent in our individual behaviors, understand those and you can target more effectively
  • Focus on the individual rather than normal groupings and segmentation
  • A Persuasion Profile is the a collection of estimates of the effect of pieces of communication
  • No other data points (age, gender, etc) are relevant

Connecting and Empowering the Creative World

How is trying to create a meritocracy

  • The Long Tail and fragmentation is creating vertical and isolated communities with reduced chance for discovery;
  • We’ve empowered the masses without discernment; is the crowd the best judge vs expert opinion? Assign weight and balance the Critical Mass vs the Credible Mass; WHO likes something is important.
  • When work is not attributed, opportunity is lost; with attribution, discovery and referral increases

Learnings on how to build a successful start up:

- Team:

  • Initiative trumps experience
  • Motivated by problems worth solving, not money
  • Resourcefulness trumps resources

- Mentality:

  • Mission beats the medium
  • The Relative Joy of Entrepreneurship; aspire for a positive slope

- Leading:

  • Lead by being the wind at the backs of your team
  • What you agree to do, do right
  • Learn to gain confidence from doubt

Google[X] Building a Moonshot Factory (Astro Teller, Google)

“What would you work on if you knew you wouldn't fail? Why not start on it tomorrow?”

  • Moonshot thinking starts with picking a huge, important, global problem, and finding an incredible yet realistic solution. There needs to be a belief that it can be done, and it requires audacious thinking
  • Examples; Google Glass, Google Self Driving cars
  • Ask yourself; does it add huge amount of value to the world? (i.e. impact & positivity). If so just go, make it and get it out into the world. Money will follow automatically.

Building new experiences with Google Glass - Tim Jordan

Google developer presented the topline on Google Glass – background info can be found here

  • Guidelines for Google Glass developers
    • Design for glass
    • Don't get in the way
    • Keep it timely
    • Avoid the unexpected

Peter Thiel: You Are Not a Lottery Ticket:

A look at the role of luck in success

  • Hard to quantify luck in innovations, since the sample size is one
  • Entrepreneurs that repeat success are proof it is not a fluke
  • Framework to examine how success happens
  • Optimism vs Pessimism
  • Determinate vs Indeterminate
  • World is now in a state of Pessimistic Indeterminate mindset
  • Aspire to a state of Optimistic Determinate
  • In a determinate world, success is dependent on the robustness of “the secret plan”; vision of the founders
  • Businesses with a plan don’t sell i.e. eBay, Google and Facebook
  • Adopt a Darwinist mindset for Indeterminate Optimism

Closing Remarks from Bruce Sterling:

  • Some technologies are dying fast, within a generation, as innovation makes them redundant (no-one mentioned a PC once this year).
  • If you live by disruption, you die by disruption
  • Don’t add to the disruption, do less
  • The internet has reduced everyone to the level of musicians, struggling to adapt
  • Accept that your role as an innovator is to kill old technology
  • Embrace it
  • Kill the old and Eat it!


Alistair, Liam, Dan, Ivor and Adrien.