Four SXSW Takeaways

Michael Tchong innovation, trends

SXSW was, as usual, a spectacle to be experienced. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Multitasking events – SXSW may remind you of the COMDEX conferences of yore, but with a twist. While there were many corporate parties at that long-forgotten Las Vegas event, most did not feature “content” as the main draw. Lesson: business prospects like to be entertained and informed because we need to multitask everywhere.
  • Affinity targeting – SXSW proves that the old rule of “precision targeting” is less relevant today. The exhibit hall featured a panoply of B2B video services, consumer audio, marketing services, 3D/AR/VR vendors, entire countries trying to attract startups, robot makers, and more. In other words, there is no easy way to define the SXSW audience, except to say that they’re all interested in the latest and greatest innovations. It is perhaps the best personification of this popular new marketing focus on social media influencers.
  • Social good – The SXSW Super Accelerator featured 50 startup pitches and ended up choosing 10 finalists in as many categories. The best Startup Pitch winner was an Oakland-based fintech company, CNote, which offers users a “40x better return on their savings with 100% social impact.” CNote offers a 2.5% return and invests its money in social good projects. Social good tie-ins will clearly play a major role in future revenue streams and marketing expenditures. Millennials like these tie-ins and these messages resonated loudly in Austin.
  • Future, now – A special award for the most innovative startup went to Helixworks Technologies, which has devised an open architecture method to store digital information in DNA. As Helixworks’ site trumpets, “We provide technology to immortalize your memories, thoughts or just plain binary data into a medium that can stand the test of time.” Think of it, you will soon be able to store your best ideas not only for posterity, but the way transhumanists envision it, maybe one day even be resuscitated as “RoboInnovator.”

As the accompanying photo shows, even Austin’s street bands have decidedly edgy branding. No wonder the capital of Texas’ motto is “Keep Austin Weird.” See you at SXSW next year! 😄

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Michael Tchong

Michael Tchong
Michael is a professional people watcher and founder of four ahead-of-the-wave startups. He’s also a top-rated innovation and trends speaker, and an adjunct professor of innovation and social media at the University of San Francisco and the University of California at Berkeley.