SXSW 2013 Summary


South by Southwest Interactive first ran in Austin, Texas in 1994, with one venue. Almost 20 years later it has expanded in proportion to the growth of the digital world itself to 10 venues that accommodate 27,000 people over 4 days. Attendees digest and spread the learning’s around the world in real time. There is great appetite for it. Recent years saw Twitter launch (2007), Foursquare revealed (2008) and Nike’s Fuelband (2013). So, what were the trends from SXSW 2013?

Hard wear

Wearable technology is in its infancy and a space where there is a lot of excitement. Although we didn’t see an iWatch or Facebook phone being announced; we did see Makerbot reveal the 3D printable scanner; OUYA, an android based gaming device spoke about a console forming for a web based community; Google Glass (at what was the most in demand session of SXSW) they announced that the API was open and developers were encouraged to ‘come up with stuff’. There is a lot happening in this space but is this overlooking the smartphone as the most interactive ‘wearable’ product already on the market?


What next for mobile, location, payments, I wondered? I didn’t expect to find the answer from old hat Foursquare (2008 – now with 30 million global users). It is Foursquare Map API, not Apple’s, not Google’s that powers all the social networks. Their founder Denis Crowley is sticking to core location ‘checking in’ offering but shifting away from ‘gaming’ to a more broader ‘explore’ offering, he called this a truly ‘local search engine’.


‘Storytelling’ did its best the major trend here, but the future of online content was captured best through the keynote talk from Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti. He believes advertising lost sight of what it was during the banner age, and that we need to return to the creative Mad Men era though creative native content. Understanding what people want to share and creating content that meets that need gives brand up lift, he cited examples from Virgin Mobile and Toyota. Their aim is to create a media company for the social media age. It was interesting to hear this charge being led by a publisher, not an agency or a social network.


Attendees were spoilt by a series of lectures from some of the preeminent futurologists living today, here is a quick summary:

  • Peter Theil (Entrepreneurship) – legendary investor explained how the different types of successful companies are either determined or undetermined in their nature.
  • Elon Musk (Space) – CEO of Telsa said that we should be able to travel to space, why not? He is the man building what will take us there.
  • Tim Berners Lee (Coding) - The founder of the web provided a rallying cry of how important the development of coding is to the freedom of the web.
  • Tina Roth Eisenberg (Design) – Representative of the entrepreneurs at SXSWi who believes in building a quality product and the revenue will follow.
  • Chad Hurley (Video) – The founder of YouTube, called for a return to collaboration in social media from the selfish medium it has become and said that if this conference was a month later he’d have an exciting product to launch. Watch this space.