#SXSW Sessions that Caught my Eye amid the Nerdpocalypse

Scott Francis
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IMG_7559As many of you may know, Austin is preparing for SXSW, and first up: SXSW-interactive on Friday.  With the conference comes more than 20,000 attendees and a similar number of “non-badged” attendees in Austin to meet investors and clients and partners – or to catch up with old friends. I’m attending again this year, and participating in a panel.  As in years’ past, I’ll share my thoughts here, and in several posts to come. You can follow the feed from the SXSW category if you aren’t interested in all the other wonderful topics we discuss on this blog.

SXSW starts on Friday, but as with previous years, the pre-SXSW activities kick off on Thursday, riding the coattails of a great conference.  The ATX Startup Crawl on Thursday night is a good excuse to go pick up your badge and then meet some startups (no badge required mind you). 

Turning to Sessions at SXSW-interactive, let me point out a few interesting tidbits.  I’ll be paneling at a session detailed later in this post, on recruiting talent to Austin from Silicon Valley.  I notice that SXSW has set up a series of sessions about topics near and dear to Austin’s heart in the Austin Chamber Offices, which are in the Hilton building, but accessed from a separate street entrance off of 5th Street.  I’ve been to sessions in this space before and it is great for discussions. I like the thematic approach, as well, to have a series of sessions with a common thread, in a single (or smaller) space.

Examples:

  • Exploring Austin’s Funding Landscape
  • Weird Goes Galactic: Austin’s new Space Economy
  • Creating a More Diverse Austin Startup Scene
  • Reflections on the Austin Tech Scene Then and Now
  • Innovation vs. Regulation in Austin
  • Entrepreneuring Women in Austin
  • Can Austin rule the AI world?
  • The Media’s Role in Austin’s Tech Boom
  • How Austin Leads the Business of Social Media
  • Can Austin Take Top Talent from Silicon Valley?
  • Save the Weird – Preserving Austin’s Culture
  • etc.

Personally, I love it.

Did I mention President Obama was coming to SXSW? The first sitting president to attend the SXSW conference. 

Other interesting sessions:

  • Dan Rather, One Newsman, 11 Presidents. 12:30pm on Friday
  • Austin’s best hardware startups, 2pm Friday
  • What you need to know about doing business in Cuba, 3:30pm Friday
  • Austin Goes Global – Austin’s best International Startups, 3:30pm Friday (note: BP3 isn’t participating in this one, but we are international! : )
  • Find your product market fit in 15 minutes – 5pm Friday
  • Stanford Alumni Happy Hour at SXSW
  • Reprogramming the Genome with CRISPR, Saturday 11am
  • Making Epic Sh*t, Saturday 12:30pm
  • Daring Greatly, Saturday 2pm
  • Max Levchin on Consumer Finance, Saturday 3:30pm
  • Cracking the Human Code, Sunday 12:30pm
  • Elephant in the Valley, Sunday 2pm
  • And more

My tentatively overloaded schedule is here, in case you’re interested.  My method is to tag everything that looks interesting, then circle back and narrow it to two or three choices the night before each day of the conference. Then, when I go to a session, if I can’t get in, I have a Plan B.

Additional advice on the Austin Startup publication on Medium.  SXSW Capital Factory summary is here. The key thing is that CF has become ground zero for startup activity in Austin, which has been great for the city. During SXSW they host entrepreneurs from Austin and elsewhere in their space.  Capital Factory affiliated sessions and startup pitches here.  One man’s guide to SXSW-interactive is here.

There are some great sessions by Trilogy Alumni at SXSW this year.  A quick summary:

  1.  Sunday March 13, 3:30pm – 4:30pm Hilton Austin in the Austin Chamber Offices.  Can Austin Take Top Talent from Silicon Valley?

“Is Silicon Valley sucking up all the top talent? Can an Austin company compete in today’s talent wars? Conventional wisdom says that what Trilogy accomplished in the 90’s – recruiting scores of the top students from the top schools to Austin, TX – can’t be done today. It is too hard to compete with startups, established tech giants, and unicorns. But some Trilogy alumni still think you can recruit the best talent from top schools in 2016 and beyond. Can it be done? Is anyone actually doing it? In this session, we’ll have a showdown between these two world views on recruiting “only the best.”

Hear from Farhan Thawar, formerly CTO of Xtreme Labs and VP Engineering Pivotal Labs; Danielle Royston, CEO of TenX recruiting; Kristen Clemmer, head of US and Europe recruiting at Atlassian; and Scott Francis, CEO and co-founder of BP3.  We’ll debate the merits of recruiting Silicon Valley to Austin, Trilogy style, although the argument will hold regardless of the destination city.  As moderator, Scott will challenge them to defend their points of view.

2.  Tuesday, March 15, 9:30am – 10:30am – From Success to Significance.

Are you at an inflection point in your life where you have the luxury of choosing what to focus on for the next phase of your career? Have you had success in business but it has left you wanting more? Are you ready to add more meaning and impact to your work but not sure where to start?

Joshua Baer, of Skylist, OtherInbox, and Capital Factory fame, will present.

3. Tuesday March 15, 11am – 12pm, Take No Sh*t: Thrive as an XX in an XY World.

While commended for its forward thinking, Silicon Valley is dangerously dated in its views on gender equality. And, despite efforts by several companies to change internal views, the Valley’s long-standing identity as a “brogrammer’s haven” symbolizes a community too far ingrained in its existing culture to enact quick change. But a city like Austin, with its growing tech scene & abundance of female executives, is ripe to solve the gender disparity issue & serve as an industry example. Let’s explore how companies (particularly those in male-dominated industries) can inspire change at a company level, & how growing cities like Austin can scale initiatives to the national & industry-wide level.

Heather Brunner, CEO of WP Engine, participates in a panel on success as a woman in the software business, serving on the panel alongside Aaron Burcell of Vevo, Julie Huls, CEO of Austin Technology Council, and Sara Spivey, CMO of Bazaarvoice.

4.  Tuesday 9am – 11am, Atlassian Austin offices, Austin Open Coffee Club (during SXSW)

Damon Clinkscales has coordinated the best coffee socializing events in Austin- “Open Coffee” – for years.  Doing one during SXSW has also become a tradition.  All conversations are better with breakfast tacos and Houndstooth barista-crafted coffee being served.

5.  Sunday 12:30pm – 1:30pm, How Austin Leads the Business of Social Media

Austin has a unique gathering of social marketing gurus, agencies and software companies compared to its sister cities. Why is there so much social media talent in this city and where are we headed? Hear from Austin social marketing experts talk about the next generation of social media companies and what to expect in our city. Learn about the leaders and companies that make up Austin’s social media business scene, and what factors led to its growth. Join a collaborative discussion to uncover the opportunities in social media that are ahead of us.

Virginia Miracle, Chief Customer Officer of Spredfast (and Trilogy alum) joins Erik Qualman of Equalman Studios, Krupa Bala of Facebook and Sam Decker, also of Spredfast.

 

*Note: for those wondering, Nerdpocalypse is an unofficial term we techies sometimes use to refer to SXSW in Austin.  Also commonly heard: “Spring Break for Geeks” or “Spring Break for Nerds”.  It is hard to imagine the mass of humanity that descends on Austin’s downtown streets until it happens, and it always makes me wonder what Austin downtown would be like if 50k to 100k people lived there…

 

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