#SXSWANDERBRIEF: 6 fresh perspectives from SXSW Interactive 2016

Image by Wanderbrief: Mark van der Heijden, Gary Vaynerchuk, Valentijn van Santvoort at SXSW Interactive 2016

AUSTIN – From March 11 until March 15, the 23rd annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival returned to Austin. For five days, the city transformed into a big media playground for people with a zest for discovery. A festival filled with memorable presentations and panels from the brightest minds, networking events hosted by industry leaders, experiential glimpses into the future of emerging technologies and above all a global celebration of innovation. SXSW Interactive is a festival that you can experience in multiple ways. Therefore we decided to give you a recap through six perspectives.

A First Timer’s Perspective

Those two newbies with a continuous big smile on their faces the whole week? Yup, that was us. It was our first time attending SXSW Interactive and we’ll never forget it. In partnership with Adobe we were reporting under the flag of #SXSWanderbrief. After two flights we hopped on an Uber that drove us to an absurdly overpriced AirBnB. (Pro tip: Book early). We went straight to bed and a couple of hours later we woke up so stoked that we didn’t even gave our jetlag time to catch up on us. It was day one and we were more ready than ever.

In the weeks prior to the festival we’d been in an intense rollercoaster with our recently launched start-up (Wanderbrief), so we went in quite unprepared. But hey, that’s what adventure is all about right? That being said, SXSW can be quit overwhelming for first-timers. In retrospect, we have some tips to help you enjoy your ride even more next time.

  1. One app to rule them all

Download the SXSW Go App. You’ll simply get the most out of the festival. Browse all events and speakers, create your personal schedule, find people with mutual interests and network like there’s no tomorrow.

  1. Find your flow

Don’t try to do everything. There is so much cool stuff going on at the same time that it’s simply impossible to attend it all. Don’t be disappointed that you missed that kick-ass director or big time CMO. Choose wisely and enjoy the moment with the people around you. Also, if you don’t like a seminar from the start, walk away and move on the next one.

  1. Four letters: RSVP

Most talks and sessions are open for those with a SXSW batch, but for some sessions and every other party/event worth attending you have to be on the list. Make sure you gain access to Facebook/Whatsapp groups with connected people who know where the magic is happening. Above all, RSVP to all the major events in advance and you’ll be enjoying free music, food and drinks with an umbrella in it all week long.

An Entrepreneur’s Perspective

Obviously there were multiple memorable keynotes from industry leaders all around the world. But if there’s one guy who totally owned his session and therefore deserves his own subheading, it is the entrepreneur, investor, author, public speaker, and Internet personality Gary Vaynerchuk. It was the first talk we saw and to be frank; the most impressive one. Before entering the venue, Gary was standing at the entrance, welcoming everyone to his seminar. After a short introduction, he started a Q&A session like we never saw before. Within no-time people lined up at the mic in the middle, to fire questions towards mister Vee. He treated everyone with respect but wasn’t afraid to tell people the truth in a confronting yet constructive way. Although he used the word f*ck more than you see in an average Pulp Fiction scene, it was absolutely amazing to see how much energy Gary brought to the room. We believe that ‘Gary Vee’ is the Chuck Norris of entrepreneurs. That’s why we decided to honour him with a few quotes:

“I don’t even give my failures time to learn from them”

“There are 300 milion ways to win in the U.S. Don’t do it like me. Don’t do it like Zucks. Do it like you.”

“The second you start letting in outside shit being a factor is the second you start losing. I don’t give a f*ck about anything”

When we grow up, we want to be like Gary.

A Techie’s Perspective

A techie at SXSW Interactive is like a kid in a candy store. This year it was one big treat. Imagine being surrounded by Robots, TIE fighters, Raspberry Pi’s, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and everything in between. We would have loved to give you an immersive 360 experience of all the highlights, but all the available VR gear in the United States was confiscated by the biggest brands months ago.

Here are the three buzziest tech topics of the week:

  1. Mobile Apps

The battle for the most relevant messaging medium in people’s pocket is more intense than ever. Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, WeChat or Viber? There were lots of discussions on different digital marketing panels, but one thing is for sure; Snapchat is beating them all like Muhammad Ali vs. Frazier in 1975.

  1. Robots

You think that robots are still in an early experimental stage? No way José. Robots become more cool, useful and human everyday. At SXSW Create they introduced ‘The Robot Ranch’. By showcasing a series of robotics companies we discovered these AI creations in a playful way. Our favourite? Jibo: The world’s first social robot for the home.

  1. Virtual Reality

Buzzword of the year: VR. Everywhere you looked there was a demo experience to play around with. Samsung had a VR rollercoaster and McDonalds let people decorate the inside of a Happy Meal. Another way of using VR was a system that lets military veterans “relive” their traumatic experience to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The potential to innovate through immersive experiences with VR in the nearby future is huge.

Here’s an interesting breakdown in terms of Twitter impressions:

(Source: Sysomos)

A Party Animal’s Perspective

SXSW is a festival where brands and companies love to show that they are the biggest, best and most epic of them all. Our favourites?

  1. TechCrunch’s SXSW Party

On Saturday we were invited to TechCrunch’s SXSW Party. After skippin’ the queue and collecting some beers, we found ourselves dancing to the catchy tunes of dance rock wizard Robert DeLong. Make sure to attend this one (if you want to party with the hottest tech start-ups and investors around.)

  1. Mashable’s MashBash

There are more parties than people at SXSW. Mashable’s annual ‘MashBash’ ladies and gentlemen; takes party production to the next level. You really need to know people to get in. Fortunately, we did. We entered the VIP line and 10 minutes later we were bouncing with a few hundred of Mashable’s closest friends in a setting that felt like a Bieber video. From hanging out with Snapchat guru Shonduras, chilling with the Vagabrothers and sharing the dance floor with Silicon Valley’s finest.

  1. GSD&M Presents

The annual party of the Austin based agency GSD&M is one for in the books. The agency’s massive garden accommodated the crowd, serving up free food and homemade cocktails. But the real win was the music, as the party closed with the Austin born band ‘Ghostland Observatory‘. Their sublime mix of electronic beats and indie rock made the crowd go wild.

Image by Wanderbrief: ‘Ghostland Observatory’ at GSD&M Presents Party

A President’s Perspective

Obama was the first sitting president to visit SXSW in its 30-year history. With the growth of its interactive programming, the festival has taken on a greater cultural importance in the last couple of years. Therefore Obama’s presence was more relevant than ever. Unfortunately we didn’t make it to the live audience due to bad luck in a lottery drawing. Nonetheless, it was something special to watch the live-stream with a couple of thousand people just one block away from Obama. He started off with an eye-opening remark that it was easier to let people order a pizza in the U.S. than to let them vote.

In a quite informal chat he addressed topics such as privacy, Internet culture and emerging technologies. Halfway his talk he truly engaged and challenged the audience to start using their talents for societal and climate change, which created a special feeling of ‘bonding’ amongst the crowd.

“The reason I’m here is to recruit all of you. It’s to say to you as I’m about to leave office, how can we start coming up with new platforms, new ideas, new approaches?” – President Barack Obama

Obama. You rock.

A Speaker’s Perspective

Mark van der Heijden (Wanderbrief) was on a panel with Mike Butcher (TechCrunch) and Anika Saigal (RoomSplit) talking about Reversing Murpy’s Law. They were discussing if serendipity is a choice and how technology can enhance it or even destroy it. The presentation room was packed with open-minded people, which transformed it into an energetic conversation with the crowd. Mark’s point of view was that technology can help to create more serendipitous moments but that AI can never fully take over: “In the end it will always be about human interaction and energy.”

Image by @ImageThink: a visualisation of the panel discussion “Reversing Murpy’s Law”

“SXSW is a true festival in that random things happen as you walk around and talk to people. The panel I moderated was, appropriately, all about how do you ‘hack reality’ in order for those random events to work more and more in your favour. It was fascinating to find that, not only were my fellow panellists were working on this, but so were many others fascinated by the idea. As Artificial Intelligence takes hold, we will see greater and greater implications for the future of human volition, and what ‘reality’ will actually be…” – Mike Butcher (Editor At Large TechCrunch)

What’s your perspective?

We hope these fresh perspectives on SXSW Interactive 2016 inspired you. If you attended the festival as well, please share your perspective in the comments so we can all learn and grow. We’re looking forward to connect and of course see you next year on the streets of Austin!