SXSW 2015 – a mind blowing experience!

South by South West (SXSW) was in March 2015 and it was hands down the best learning experience of my life. A big statement perhaps but in this blog I’ll share with you why I say this and please check out my Storify to see pics and tweets over the festival.

Travelling to the USA with a group from New Venture Institute at Flinders University we came to SX via San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Las Vegas (only a quick stop with 1 hour on Sunset Strip) to Austin in Texas. Arriving in the early hours of the morning, our taxi driver gave us some sage advice about looking after ourselves over the festival. She pulled up in front of a double storey, jaw dropping white Texan mansion that we rented for the next 5 nights.

This place was amazing with 5 bedrooms, massive marble ensuite and multiple bathrooms, a huge kitchen, family, meals area with a separate lounge, dining room and another kitchen/bar area. It all looked like it was from the pages of an American home décor magazine and it had a big back yard too.

If you want to see the DEN Luxury Short Term Rentals then click here.

With only a short sleep in, we called for an Uber and headed into town which was only a 5-10 minute drive away and as we got closer to the Austin Convention Center the SXSW crowds started building. I couldn’t comprehend 85 000 festival attendees taking over all the large venues and hotels across Austin plus the many bars, halls and quirky spaces.

As this as the first day of the interactive part of SXSW we were greeted with the biggest line up I have ever seen with thousands of people moving towards the numerous registration desks. After an hour or so we had our badges, program (A4 thick as plus mini binder version) and bags and if was off to our first key note.

SXSW takes over Austin with activities at numerous venues, bars, halls, pubs and unusual spots like barber shops. Big tech companies rock in to Austin and take over a venue like a bar, theming it completely in their brand just for the festival.

How to Rock SXSW in 4 Hours with Tim Ferris who answered the (my) first question via Twitter which was,

Scott’s responding tweet to this was, “I’m @waperry’s husband and yes you can have too many mini breaks!”

Hanging out in the Startup Village at the Hilton I saw some great pitches from Capital Factory – like 3D printed shoes fitting within 1 mm of your foot; mobile phone wrist bands for kids; sole power that charges your devices from the kinetic energy in your steps; cockroaches that you can control with tech; and drones walking dogs.

There are so many different Meet Ups to choose from and I went along to the Female Entrepreneurs session supported by Dell.

A featured session by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick titled The Art of Social Media focussed on the use of images and video.

Over the weekend (you actually lose track of what day it is) I went to the following sessions:

  • Secrets of Growth Hacking: From Zero to $50M
  • Survive the Techstorm: Strategy Under Uncertainty
  • Make Social Media POP! With Video
  • Young Millennials: Entrepreneurship for a New Era
  • A Conversation with Jimmy Kimmel
  • Bill Gurley (Uber investor) and Malcolm Gladwell in Conversation
  • SXSW Accelerator: Wearable Technologies 3
  • HoloGramma: How Tech Can Bring Back Our Departed
  • Inc Presents: The Honest Company with Brian Lee, Jessica Alba, Lindsay Blakely

Scott met Gary Vaynerchuk, Jack Welch and Suzy Welch in a session on What It Really Takes to Win in Business.

Saturday night saw the first couple of ‘after parties’ with Mix at Six presented by Aurasma. On Sunday night it was an amazing event with tech companies pitching to venture capitalists that had millions to invest – Tech Cocktail’s Startup Celebration powered by Tech.Co. Always interesting with who you might meet, I met the Small Business Acquisitions Director of WordPress at the SXSW Accelerator After Awards

Monday and Tuesday offered an interesting pick of sessions and I saw:

  • The VEEP Speakers with Anne Fulenwider, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Matt Walsh, Timothy Simons
  • Everything Eric Ries Has Learned Since 2011 with Ted Greenwald
  • Startup Oasis session with the Kauffman Foundation on Measuring an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
  • Innovation with Trend Hunter with Jeremy Gutsche
  • Tour of Austin coworking space, Capital Factory, with amazing views, beers on tap and a secret “Harry Potter” esque room behind a bookcase plus they hosted a visit by Barack Obama
  • Future of Austin Tech: Student to Startup

There were so many sessions (around 30 every hour) to choose from such as Book Readings, Future15S (groups of 12 minute solo presentations around a theme), Meet Ups, Mentor Sessions, Partner Programming, Workshops and Special Events.

No much of a need to buy food during the day as many venues (especially those hosted by tech companies) provide free food and drinks (often full open bars!).

A final couple of examples of what SXSW is all about with a chance meeting on the street corner with a guy giving away T-shirts. Turns out the guy was Toby Morning with the title on his business card –Startup Evangelist promoting Detroit as a city that is reinventing itself through entrepreneurship.

The SXSW Expo is amazing with 1350 exhibitors, latest tech on display and many countries have a stand like New Zealand. It was here that the crew filmed a video encouraging Australia to have a stand in 2016 and we met Adelle Kenny from Grow Wellington. A great connection, Grow Wellington understand that economic development and entrepreneurship goes hand in hand with workforce planning and development.

Getting ready to next year I’d love to see a bigger delegation at SXSW 2016 from South Australia and I’ve had people from all around the country express interest.

If you are interested in travelling to SXSW 2016 with an entrepreneurial group of Aussies then please send an email to


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