#SXSW2014 Day 3: Inspired by Science, Sliders, and Socializing

Scott Francis
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On Day 3, I braved the Daylight Savings change and made it to the first sessions at 9:30am.  Only to find myself in a session that lasted only 20 minutes, on the death of VC’s as we know it. More like the death of this particular session.

But, like any good attendee at SXSW, I struck up a conversation with the two folks behind me, who were from a PR firm in NYC and were down at SXSW for the first time.  We shared a good conversation about startups, recruiting, our respective markets, and even the current events in Ukraine (both of them were from Ukraine originally).  This is the kind of connection you make by being in the present and not (always) looking at your phone.

I migrated from this session to one by Dean Kamen, where he updated us on his amazing inventions for purifying water and generating electricity from methane… and then went on to really plug the organization he founded: FIRST (For Recognition and Inspiration of Science and Technology) and their robotics competitions.  There was definitely a theme within SXSW this year of reinforcing the art and value of science in our lives and in the lives of our children.

Dean Kamen’s emphasis wasn’t on education, however. Not that he’s against science education. But he is after science inspiration, and science leadership.  Not just teaching science to people who already were predisposed to want to learn it, but to expose everyone to more scientific thinking and the fun and inspiration of science.  [side note: does this ring a bell for BPM folks out there? it isn’t BPM education we need – it is leadership and inspiration to change businesses for the better!]

Dean Kamen’s session was followed by lunch for me – catching up with old friends who were in town visiting, over a fantastic couple of Banh-Mi sliders from Peached Tortilla.  Sure you can get the tacos, but in this case, trust me, the sliders are even better.

This was followed by a really intriguing presentation by Anne Wojcicki of 23andMe, who discussed the value of owning your own (genetic) data, and learning about yourself.  She discussed (briefly) the limitations imposed by a recent FDA ruling, and how the cost of a DNA report is declining fairly rapidly as technology improves.  Her stated goal for 23andMe is to increase people’s knowledge about their own health and prevention of disease, rather than her experience on the investment side of the industry, where a chronic treatment was considered a good investment.  (There’s a key difference between startup-thinking and investment-thinking).

I then caught up with my wife over coffee, before heading to a Trilogy Alumni happy hour hosted by Thinktiv, with help from Lambert’s Foodapalooza Food Truck, and Radiant RFID –  three businesses run by Trilogy alumni… It was a great time to catch up with friends from all over the country who were drawn to Austin by SXSW – as well as friends in Austin who came out of the woodwork to socialize!

The interesting thing about this gathering at Thinktiv – represented in this group of Trilogy Alumni are senior leadership of companies that employ thousands in Austin, of the recruiting firms that staff them, of the investment firms that fund them, of the consulting firms that advise them, the legal firms that protect them.  It is quite an ecosystem.  I’ll have to think about how to put a good SXSW session together about this next year…

 

 

  • I just finished reading a good post https://medium.com/tech-talk-video-notes/60d34fc3e955, semi-related to your pondering on science leadership and inspiration.

  • Speaking of being inspired by science:
    http://gizmodo.com/astronomers-discover-first-direct-proof-of-the-big-bang-1545525927

    “Somebody’s going to win a Nobel Prize. At least that’s what the physics community is saying after the announcement on Monday that a Harvard team has found the first direct evidence of cosmic inflation right after the Big Bang. It’s more proof that the Big Bang really was the beginning of it all.

    Regardless of how you picture it, this is a big deal. “If it is confirmed, then it would be the most important discovery since the discovery, I think, that the expansion of the universe is accelerating,” says Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, who was not involved in the research. Loeb added, “It’s worth a Nobel.”