#SXSW2014 Day 2: Gravity Exists Whether or not you Believe in it

Scott Francis
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Day 2 of SXSW came in wet and cold.  And it got wetter as the day went on.

The first session focused on the future of networked humans, and the second session I attended as a pretty thoughtful framework for evaluating startup opportunities.  The second session got my attention more than wearable tech did.  The framework was conceptual – mapping startups to “business model archetypes” to simplify the process of understanding how it might work, and how to compare, contrast, and learn from example companies with the same business archetype.

The primary archetypes are product, service, and trade- with the remaining 4 derived in the overlaps between each of these three, and then the combination of all three at once (ecosystem).

There was a book and a presentation to go with the talk – Cabage has done startups, and Zhang has studied them as an academic.  I’d say the overall approach is accessible and something that you could apply as a way to think about your business. But at least in this talk, there was a lack of field testing, when compared against competing ideas for generating business models for startups.  Lean Startup, for example, almost goes overboard on case studies vs. academic concepts.  The strength of the ideas presented in this session would really benefit from being applied and tested in startups out there in the real world.

The keynote of Day 2 was an interview with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the most well-spoken physicist I’ve met.  The interview was one part Sagan, one part Cosby, and one part Hawking.  Neil has a little something for everyone.  His ability to combine humor, relate-able examples, and data was fascinating to watch.  He encouraged breaking eggs, banging on pots and pans, and reconnecting with one’s sense of curiosity, like our kids.  He eloquently encouraged us not to judge by someone’s knowledge, but by the state of their curiosity.

Best of all, like Elon Musk last year, Dr. Tyson encouraged a cosmic perspective – to realize what a small spec in the universe we ware.  That fighting over a line on the ground here, on this little planet called earth, seems silly when you have a cosmic perspective.  That dinosaurs died out because they didn’t figure out how to build spaceships and leave earth.  Great perspectives on subjects you already thought you knew.

Next up was 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon.  Not kidding.  The guy who helped invent the six-degrees-of-separation game, Kevin Bacon, and several other guests joined for a panel discussion.  There was something just surreal about this conversation.  I like how Kevin Bacon embraced the idea and started a charity (sixdegrees.org) to leverage his celebrity to raise money for other people’s charities.  I also liked how each guest would come on stage and cite their “Bacon number” before talking about anything else -and then explain how they’re connected to Kevin Bacon.

One of the best moments of the session was Kevin relating that he checks the Bacon number of actors on the call-sheet on his hit show, The Following, to see if he’s worked with them before!  A Bacon score of 1, is someone he’s worked with before.  I imagine when you’ve worked with as many actors as he has, you have a hard time remembering just based on the name!

The last session of the day was a great interview of Mark Cuban by Guy Kawasaki.  They have a good rapport and kept it casual.  Despite his clear business acumen and no-nonsense attitude about it, it was interesting to see a more well-rounded aspect of him when he talked about doing Shark Tank partly because it inspires kids 6, 7, 8 years old to get engaged in business.  Similarly, his approach to the Dallas Mavericks and the responsibilities of a business that is, in a sense, owned by the fans more than the “owner”.

After the last session, 4 of us met for dinner at Garridos, my favorite high-end taco joint downtown.  Great atmosphere and a few hours later we were headed home to dry off, because the cold, rain, and wind had really set in.  By all accounts there were some great networking events that night, but we were content to get warm and dry at home! The advantages of living in Austin…

 

 

 

 

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