The Nerdpocalypse Returns #sxsw
Here we are, on the eve of the Nerdpocalypse (aka South-by-Southwest), which occurs every year in Austin about this time. It is almost hard to remember that this started with a music festival and that the interactive part almost happened by accident.
SXSW-interactive (South by South West-interactive) is here. The usual gnashing of teeth has commenced:
- Is it too big?
- Is Austin too small?
- Is it still worth it?
- Can I get a hotel room? (um, no)
- Will the traffic suck?
Well, yes. Traffic will be horrendous. No, you cannot still get a hotel room (try an Austin company, HomeAway). But it is still worth it. First of all, a ticket to SXSW-interactive costs half as much as a ticket to IBM’s big conferences, such as Impact, which I’ll be attending in two months, and last a similar number of days. The conference is also half the price of a typical 2-day Gartner conference. So, while the price is about 2x what it was 3 years ago, The increased price has actually helped hold down the increase in demand, along with the lull in hotel expansions in Austin (never fear, another 1000-2000 hotel rooms should be available in downtown Austin by 2014… )
How big will it be? The Wall Street Journal estimates:
This year, about 25,000 people — or 5% to 7% more than in 2012 — are expected to register for the interactive part of the festival alone. While that increase is modest compared with last year’s 27% increase and a 36% increase in 2011, the festival’s organizers say that’s only because there isn’t much housing left in the Austin area to accommodate out-of-town registrants.
25,000 people. The first year I went I believe the total was 8-10,000. And people complained that it was already too big.
As we’ve noted before, SXSW-interactive avoids typical conference “relevance” pitfalls because the agenda is built from the bottom-up in a voting process mostly by previous attendees and prospective attendees. I’ve been impressed by the constant evolution and refactoring – and reinventing.
So what’s on the plate this year? Here are some of the sessions that jumped out at me:
- Getting Started with Angel Investing – hey, who doesn’t want to do this.
- SXSW Ping Pong Tournament. Tempting… but I think there’s too much going on that I want to see to really participate in this…
- Architecture of the Air – seriously. this sounds good.
- Tales of US Entrepreneurship Beyond Silicon Valley – very topical – this isn’t about Austin either, but about the midwest. Should be a great topic to cover.
- Toward the Unification of Physics. Seriously? They’re talking about this at SXSW? I’m there. This reminds me of Craig Ventor’s talk on designer bacteria and using DNA like software…
- Startups are your thing? Then 5 Austin Startups that can get profitable on less than $1M might be for you.
- Move your Startup to Austin … For free! Sounds too good to be true – but it isn’t…
- The Learn to Code Movement – this is important for software and for the United States. The Learn to Code Movement is catching on…
- Why the Neanderthals were lousy entrepreneurs – this has to be good.
- Quantification is in. Here’s a session about it – one year later.
And then it is off to the evening’s festivities. That was just day 1, and I’ll have to pick 2-3 of these to go to – because you can only be in one place at a time.
How about Saturday’s schedule?
- Here’s one I would like the folks who put on Gartner and IBM conferences to go to: Successful Wi-Fi at Large Events SXSW does this better than any conference I’ve attended. Please, if you are involved in Wi-Fi at big events, attend this session!
- The $100bln Mobile Bullet Train called Africa– Mobile and Africa = $100bln opportunity…
- Startup Grind Austin Asks “Why Austin?” – besides that tacos and BBQ, why? :)
- Importance of Diversity in Austin’s Tech Community – another take on “why Austin” in my view.
- A Design Thinking Bootcamp – I’ve never seen so many design-oriented sessions at SXSW as I’ve seen this year- clearly a meme on the rise!
- Too Long Didn’t Read – the Future of Indie Longform – this is great stuff. Is our attention span too short for longform?
- The AI Apocalypse: The Evolutionary Virus – this should be a good book reading.
- There are tons of “meetups” at SXSW – one of them is focused on Small Business. There must be 20 or 30 of these in all.
- Who doesn’t want to check out Leap Motion?
- Craig Malloy, founder of several successful businesses in Austin, holds a core conversation on “Declaring War on IT Turnover” – this is a rare opportunity to be in an intimate room with someone of Craig’s stature (previously started ViaVideo and LifeSize)
- Marketing B2B 101 – Sounds pretty topical for BP3!
- SXSW has long been the home of a thriving blogging community and awesome sessions on blogging. This year is no exception, as Kara Swisher and Matt Mullenweg hold forth on The State of Blogging in 2013. I hope someone publishes notes from this one because I probably won’t be able to make it!
- Bill Powers, a legend in Austin, talks about getting great ideas out the door.
- David Sacks of Yammer is having a fireside chat.
- For someone worried about corporate culture and collaboration, this research on the Allen Curve sounds interesting.
Did I mention the Elon Musk keynote?
And yet there are still more sessions on Saturday:
The Lean Startup sessions are in full effect. This is consistently one of the most popular events of SXSW. Hopefully they have larger capacity rooms this year than last year…! Speakers include Eric Ries and Dave McClure, but also Vinod Khosla and Steve Blank. Sign me up!
In the evening (7pm) – There’s a Celebration of America’s Startups (presumably sponsored by StartupAmerica)
That would be plenty for a conference, but on Sunday there’s more. NASA telescopes,
Andy Rubin Amit Singhal and Guy Kawasaki (let’s hope Andy Amit does a better job than Vic Gundotra did last year), the Making of DOOM (Romero!), Rails for Designers, Rachel Maddow, Cory Booker (Go Stanford!), several sessions on Responsive design, and “How not to suck at presenting your work“… hmmmmm
And in the next two days there are sessions to look forward to with Scott McNealy, Steve Case, Peter Thiel and Esther Dyson… and Shaq! I’m very optimistic about the session choices this year. Wish me luck getting into the sessions I’ve picked out!
I, for one, am ready for the Nerdpocalypse. Let’s hope Austin is ready! And today was a great way to kick it off with the ATX Startup Crawl. Congrats to Capital Factory and Red Velvet Events – and all the sponsors – for throwing a great (free) event tonight. It is becoming an institution in Downtown Austin Startup culture.