SXSW Interactive 2016

Now that SXSW 2016 has come to a close (and I’ve had the chance to detox and catch up on sleep), here’s a recap blog showcasing what I saw, learned, and what’s looming in the interactive technology world.

Highlights include a GaryVee Q&A, President Obama’s Keynote, Google Self-Driving Car update, Twitter innovations, live streaming, IBM and the Internet of Caring Things (IoT), and marketing movie trailers.

Note: this was my second time in Austin for SXSW. I first attended in 2014 as an exhibitor with Insightpool, and again this year with Object 9. Below I’ve included a quick SlideShare presentation, daily session takeaways, and photos I took during the convention. Enjoy!

10 SXSW Experience Takeaways:

  1. Panels: very hit or miss. The bigger the name/company, the longer the line and harder to get in (ended up missing ~5 sessions for this reason).
  2. #SXSports track: impressive growth and housed the majority of my favorite sessions.
  3. Mentor Sessions = gold.
  4. Exhibit Hall: disappointing. Not the revolutionary robotics and 3d printing showcase I remembered from 2014.
  5. Virtual reality was everywhere.
  6. Proximity is key: walkable to downtown + Austin B-Cycles. Thanks Airbnb for the hook-up (@ “The Bowie” apartments).
  7. #ChooseATLSXSW: The Atlanta Takeover. Metro Atlanta Chamber’s ChooseATL marketing initiative took over the Speakeasy on Congress for two days of panels, performances, and good old Southern hospitality. FB album here.
  8. Celebrity sightings: Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Ludacris, Mark Cuban, Adrian Grenier, Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer, Rae Sremmurd, Rock City, Vernon Davis, and Gary Vaynerchuk.
  9. Fooooood. Annie’s, Cantina Laredo, Cooper’s BBQDriskill, 24 Diner, Jo’s Coffee, and La Pena off the top of my head. A lot of generic catered food, too.
  10. Thank you, come again! I’d really love to get back to ATX outside of SXSW to check out more of the city: Zilker Park, Barton Springs, Lake Travis, Lady Bird Lake, Mount Bonnell, etc..
  11. Bonus! You become a line-waiting expert if you attend SXSW. Impatient people beware.

10 Content & Trend Takeaways:

  1. Virtual reality is the next platform and the applications are endless.
  2. Live streaming is bigger than you think.
  3. President Obama gave the first ever SXSW Keynote by a sitting President; focused on recruiting and civic engagement.
  4. ChooseATL showed up to teach SXSW attendees that the south got somethin’ to say!
  5. Google’s self-driving cars are close, so imagine the implications and net benefits to society.
  6. Developments around the Internet of Caring Things will mean our homes adapt to us as we age, not the other way around.
  7. Quantified Self –> Immersive Self: Wearables go beyond tracking to truly improve quality of life.
  8. Twitter is becoming as innovative and exciting as ever, focusing on LIVE moments.
  9. SXSW may not be as weird as it previously was, but it’s still wildly inspiring and motivating.
  10. The Mentor Sessions, which launched in 2012, are incredible and perhaps undervalued. As long as SXSW invests in quality speakers and similar programs I’ll be eager to go.

Day 1: Friday

#AskGaryVee IRL: Gary Vaynerchuk Answers It All Q&A

  • Virtual Reality is the next platform/internet, but we’re roughly 20 years out.
  • Trends according to Gary: eSports, B2B virtual reality, direct to consumer, virtual reality audio. Most important aspect for Gary when looking at new companies/tech = look at the people involved.
  • “Bet on the jockey more than the horse.”
  • “There’s no undefeated in entrepreneurship.”
  • “99% of people are not clever.”
  • Snapchat is the most interesting platform right now. It’s not a social feed, but instead, you’re watching a moment with context. Snapchat will be the first platform since Facebook to host millennials transitioning from teenage years to adulthood.
  • We’re finally leaving the ~80 year period where mainstream media only published .00001% of the dirt that’s out there.
  • “[In life] we’re given one at-bat. We die. That’s it. I don’t understand being stuck in a job you hate.” Quitting can seem like a setback, but what’s 5 or 7 years when you really think about it?
  • “Entrepreneurs are born, not made. We can all create a $200K business, but maybe not $5M. We can all be our best entrepreneur, but you can’t discount genetics.”
  • Advice: Go to a nursing home and learn from the experiences of our elders. Gary’s takeaway: People are either happy or unhappy. Being unhappy typically derives from complaining. Also, no one today has patience. So, more patience + less complaining = more happiness.

President Barack Obama Keynote Presentation (click for video)

  • The United States government is fostering talent from the likes of Google, Facebook, and other tech giants in solving issues related to cyber security and federal initiatives like
  • Obama became the first ever President to speak at a SXSW to recruit tech talent to government branches. He cited tax incentives, higher salaries, etc., in his quest to create a sustainable pipeline of talent. “Convening people across different industries to get together and solve problems.”
  • Obama hopes to see the next President enter “improvement mode” – institutionalize improvements across the board.
  • A problem local to Texas was addressed – lowest voter turnout (no online registration because it was deemed “insecure”) is a legislative issue because the legislators simply don’t want it. This needs to change.
  • The government is always doing invaluable work that the majority of people take for granted. Obama used this example – weather updates on your phone come from government satellites. However, people still feel a large disconnect from the government. Look at the DMV and the IRS, who have loose ties to the government and are accustomed to hatred.
  • On news: People prefer to be cynical and consume news where bad things are happening to other people. Human nature is weird. So although our financial system is much more secure than it used to be, this isn’t newsworthy to most Americans.
  • We need Americans to pay attention. There’s a huge need for civic engagement. With the connectivity never higher, and the current digital age we live in this should be easy. But, there’s a digital divide in access to general wifi and internet.

Bryan Srabian Mentor Session

  • Bryan is the VP of Brand Development & Digital Media for the ‎San Francisco Giants. Also a USF Social Sports professor.
  • Perks of starting with a small team (Bryan started at Sacramento River Cats) are finding what you’re best at and operating with a sort-of startup feel.
  • Be open minded flexible throughout your life. Nothing is forever whether it be your job, city, current role, etc.
  • Saving money is not everything…saving knowledge is.

Michael Ehrlich Mentor Session

  • Michael is a Senior Public Relations Manager at Adidas.
  • We chatted about the Adidas structure and how their teams operate. As a lifelong Adidas fan and sports-lover, this was very interesting to me.
  • Important fundamental skills include communications, analytics, consumer behavior and trends. Everything on top of this can be taught.
  • Takeaway – Adidas is an amazing organization that allows opportunities to move around within the company or around the world.

Google Self-Driving Car Project

  • Presentation by Chris Urmson, who leads the Google Self-Driving Car Program.
  • Google emailed their employees asking who would be interested in trying the program. 4,000+ responses came back immediately, and initial test results showed that the Googlers trusted the cars with their lives. Some going as far as turning around to grab charging cords or putting their seats back for a nap! Disclaimer: the cars are far from perfect, so don’t try this at home.
  • Overheard: “If you’re at Google and not working on, like, teleportation, you’re not trying hard enough.”
  • Cars make generalizations from what they see to make future changes. The amount of data these cars are instantaneously processing is incredible.
  • Problem – tech comes incrementally. When the tech does come it needs to be better than people at whatever it accomplishes. Well, how good are people at driving? Problematic question… According to Chris, 80% of accidents go unreported.
  • In car entertainment will be huge. Imagine a 6 or 7-hour trip from SF to LA (as opposed to 3-hour flying process) where you’re able to watch a movie or get real work done. There will be a shift to your car being an extension of your house/rooms. Your car will be another room. Woah.
  • Takeaway – Self Driving cars are not ready, yet, and are not for everyone. Some people want to drive, some don’t, and some can’t (think cerebral palsy). We’re in this together, for the net benefits to society. Think of the city planning implications when parking lots aren’t necessary. Chris said there’s something like four spots for each car in the USA, giving city-scapers an incredible opportunity to redefine the future cities.

Day 2: Saturday

Marie Claire Talks to the Stars of Broad City Panel

  • Abbi and Ilana’s friendship is layered as business partners aiming to showcase NYC transplant life. “It’s fun to show how liberal life can be.”
  • “If you ask someone to help, you have to have something to show.” – Abbi and Ilana reaching out to Amy Poehler.
  • “We’re all millennials now. The internet is an equalizer.” Fascinating, thought-provoking quote.
  • A bunch more about their show – comment below if you’re interested in hearing.

@TwitterSports: The Power of Now Panel

  • Panel-picker discussion featuring Sam Laird of Mashable (I’m a big fan of his soccer coverage) and Danny Keens of Twitter.
  • The most successful brands on Twitter keep their fans engaged post-game. Roughly 70% of tweets are sent in the broadcast window, but you have to do more than that to keep up engagement.
  • Tactic – cut broadcast into bite sized pieces. This presents an opportunity to convert casual fans to passionate fans, and get more eyes in the timeline. (You may not be a fan of the Warriors/NBA, but might see about Curry’s amazing game vs. the Thunder via a Vine post or infographic statistics.)
  • Danny recommends getting “out in the wild” with the team to see what they’re doing. Share what they’re doing, how they’re solving problems, and help them innovate. You have to go where the best content is made, meaning a lot of on-the-road time for Danny and his team.
  • Rules of Engagement: NBA is really strong on Vine. NFL skews more long form as well as highlight reels. MLB rocks GIFs.
  • Spotlight on Andrew Barge and his idea to launch #MascotScope for March Madness. Strap a GoPro to any given mascot’s head and watch ensuing awesomeness from their angle. Bravo, Andrew.
  • Ranked timelines were introduced to ensure you don’t miss the content you care about the most. Moments were introduced as a compilation for telling the stories around major events and happenings, where Twitter showcases the best tweets and images.
  • Rio Olympics coverage on Twitter properties is estimated to reach 1 Billion people in one month (Twitter, Periscope, Vine). Twitter is working closely with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to broadcast not just sports moments but cultural moments. Remember the 2012 Spice Girls moment in London? Well, yeah, it was one of the most tweeted happenings of those Olympics.
  • Takeaway – Twitter is now innovating faster than ever. Between GIFs, Moments, Periscope/GoPro integrations and more, what’s LIVE is what’s most important to Twitter these days. Live, in the moment, functionality is key to Twitter’s future and is the most powerful part of the platform. An important factor, however, is that you’ll never know how people will use the new tech/features, which makes it that much more exciting! Very inspiring presentation.

Ryan Stoner Mentor Session

  • Ryan is the Strategy Director at Publicis, Seattle.
  • Passion is everything, find your niche. Regardless of where you go there will be thought leaders and industry experts, you have to know your place and be comfortable asserting yourself where you belong.

Daniel Brusilovsky Mentor Session

  • Daniel is the Digital Initiatives Lead at the Golden State Warriors.
  • Working in sports, it’s invaluable to really know the community of fans. Whether it be their locational cues, cultural preferences, or preferred methods of communication, consumer insights are key.
  • In the sports industry, ticket sales and game day operations are the best ways to get a foot in the door. At the mid-to-senior level, a team like the Warriors is able to pick up talent from other organizations so industry experience is key.

Lauran Driver Mentor Session

  • Lauran is a Senior Account Executive at Twitter. We discussed her role, our mutual love for sports, and how the teams operate in the Twitter-sphere.
  • For good follows in the Twitter sports realm, Lauran recommended TJ Taylor-Adeshola (@TJay) and Laura King (@LK). I followed, you should too.

Daniel Martins Mentor Session

  • Daniel is the Digital Operations Director at Ogilvy & Mather, Brasil.
  • Daniel explained how Brazilians watch Danish movies and often joke about the “Danish lifestyle” because it is the top-form of humanity. His words, not mine. 🙂
  • We talked soccer for a long time. Interesting to hear his perspective on attending games in Brazil. There are hardly any brand advertisements at the stadiums, parking and general transportation can be difficult, and there are often fights. For this reason, he recommended heading to a bar or watching with friends. I’ll be down there soon, Daniel!

Sean Dennison Mentor Session

  • Sean is the Senior Director of Corporate Communications for Major League Soccer.
  • Sean explained how teams are often shorthanded in their PR and communications departments. When looking for an entry point, volunteer yourself for game day operations. Teams are “drowning” when it comes to game day ops.
  • Small world – Sean managed fellow Atlantan Michael Tavani when he interned at the MLS. I’ll be connecting with Michael soon, thanks, Sean!
  • Be personal during the interview process. Really getting to know each other will be invaluable in working together. That’s what it’s all about.

Victoria Taylor Mentor Session

  • Victoria is the Director of Digital Community at WeWork, NYC.
  • We discussed the importance of separating personal and professional in making big life decisions. What feels right deep down?
  • Victoria is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. The ~ 30 minutes we spent together was so impactful, and I left feeling like we really understood each other. With a new WeWork location opening in Atlanta next month, I’m excited we’ll cross paths again soon.

Sunday, Day 3

Tyler Bahl Mentor Session

  • Tyler is the Head of Brand Marketing at The Makery, Google.
  • Fascinating to hear about the projects and scopes that Tyler and his team are working on, as well as Tyler’s past experiences. He’s been down a very similar road to one I’d like to take, so it was very inspiring to picking his brain for a while. I left feeling motivated and opportunistic about my future.

Jason Kopeck Mentor Session

  • Jason is the Events Manager at TechCrunch. Formerly Pandora, and we discussed a mutual connection we have in Heidi Browning. Again, another small world moment leaving me thankful I signed up for the Mentor Sessions.

Monday, Day 4

Livestreaming is Bigger than you Realize Panel

  • Featured reps from FremantleMedia, Coca-Cola, Karen Allen Consulting and 15 y/o influencer Zach Clayton (BruhItsZach).
  • Facebook Live: Big celebrity or big brand
  • YouNow: Celebrity one-on-ones. Split-screen videos and interviews. The community is overwhelmingly positive, making this new channel an exciting, creative challenge. Along with Twitch, YouNow was labeled as a super organized platform by the panelists.
  • Periscope: Great to grow your Twitter following and engagement, and anyone can setup/broadcast easily. Labeled as greatly unorganized by the panel.
  • Analytics – “participation media” is the most appealing to brands. Real time engagement and focus.

Tuesday, Day 5

Aging Population and the Internet of Caring Things Presentation

  • Presented by IBM’s Susann Keohane and Nicola Palmarini.
  • Smart cities are the future, measuring everything from energy flows to transportation patterns.
  • Think beyond America and beyond tech applications. Agriculture is a massive innovation category – for good reason as scientists debate feeding our growing population.
  • The current city environments were built by and for youth. Let’s support and engage the 100+ population!
  • World Population Pyramids (pictured below) highlight patterns in population growth/trends (or crises in China’s sake). Becoming more of a ‘skyscraper’ as opposed to a ‘pyramid’ as our population grows increasingly, and sustainably older.
  • “90% of old people interviewed by the AARP want to stay at home [and not go to nursing homes].” This fact would save between $3-19K/year in most cases, and give us more access to the elders’ lifetime of knowledge and experience. It’s time to create a more connected, caring society (hence, Internet of Caring Things)
  • Let’s create a shift on how to engage the elders, and not always focus on the younger demographics (Millennials, Gen Z, etc.). Opportunity for a new business model, as the Ubers/Lyfts of the world are disorienting to seniors — tip: create offerings that don’t deviate from known paths (even if it takes longer time).
  • “Home hubs” are a huge part of the future (think Amazon Echo). They’ll increasingly be able to help us, track us and offer localized tips — soon without needing the cloud.
  • IoT sub-categories:

Internet of CARING Things
Internet of HEALTHY Things
Internet of SECURITY Things
Internet of FAMILY Things
Internet of MINDFUL Things
Internet of _______ Things

  • Consider the Internet of Security Things for a moment. This simple example would create a network of support for the aging population where parents/children can remotely operate household locks, lights, and appliances etc.., when the younger/older forget to flip the switch.
  • Innovations: Dinosaur Doll –> Pepper Robot –> Seal Companion –> Trackable Slippers –> ???
  • Down this innovation track, we see a children’s learning toy, next a somewhat scary robot followed by a more comfortable seal companion. In the works today are projects, like trackable slippers, that can sensor movement, predict your activity, and provide alerts when the patient goes off course. Think falling, emergencies, etc.
  • “I want my home to adapt to me as I age, not the other way around.”
Credit: Economist (Source- UN)

Music in Trailers: How Music Drives Film Marketing Panel

  • Presented by reps from RipTide Music, Confidential Music, Mob Scene Creative+Productions, and Audio Machine.
  • You cannot simply place nostalgic songs in movie trailers today unless you’re Star Wars. You need to create a level of mystery and anticipation for a “hair stands up” moment.
  • Studios typically hire 4 or more agencies to work on the trailers and teasers. Add a few more agencies when we’re talking International movies.
  • Piano music = emotional and captures you right away.
  • Song covers from independent artists are being used more and more. Recognizable, but in a different format and from an unknown author. Decomposing a track and making it fresh again. Results in music discovery, supporting the “little guys”, and cheaper for the studio in general.
  • General trailer info: Hard cap at two minutes and thirty seconds today. Each studio gets one trailer over 2:30 per year, so must be selective (Star Wars = no brainer).
  • “Less is always more. Don’t spoil the movie, no one likes that.” -Toddrick Spalding
  • Trailer sounds are very specific: The music for the “3rd Act” of a trailer must build on the stories told in the first two chapters. Movie trailer culture is very different in different regions of the world.
  • Looking to break into the industry? Get in some kind of trailer, any kind of trailer! Even if it’s an unknown movie or project, at least you’ll have some experience. Size does not matter here.
  • More tips on working with the movie producers: Be unique, be malleable, act quickly, let them remix whatever you make, expect 25-50 edits and be happy with whatever the client wants. You have to be producible, not stuck up or pretentious.


  • VR application example: Never struggle with putting together that Ikea chair ever again (see image below). Check out CN2 and Aurasma.
  • Live streaming: Between Periscope, Meerkat, Facebook Live, and YouNow – the space is exploding. Not to mention the recent news that YouTube is jumping on the scene.
  • Below, pictures as promised.


View from our Airbnb
GaryVee from a distance
Google Self-Driving Car Presentation
Double rainbow over the ACC
Ludacris pop-up show at Cedar Street
NBC Sports Lawn at the Four Seasons
TwitterSports Panel: Danny Keens & Sam Laird (Mashable)
Moveo by Krush, a free-rotation VR simulation pod
Enjoying a fresh squeezed OJ/Vodka (Tito’s, of course)
The Bud Light SXSW can; ordered for design not taste
Rae Sremmurd at the CrowdTap party
Game of Thrones exhibit #SXSWesteros
Second story bowling at the Speakeasy house
Kate Atwood of ChooseATL welcoming the crowd and introducing Killer Mike
Killer Mike and Shanti Das talking ATL
Views from the Speakeasy rooftop
Mark Cuban at the Brand Innovators summit
Some Austin tips from Jo’s Coffee #josrecommends
Chromeo live at the Moody Theater, presented by Spredfast
Outside of the ‘Silent Room’ installation – 45 minute wait
Inside the ‘Silent Room’ – monochromatic, negative decibels. Eerie experience.
The Bumbys, offering ‘A Fair and Honest Appraisal of Your Appearance’ at the Acquia booth
Atlanta-local CN2 showing off augmented reality applications at the ChooseATL booth
“Flash Drives for Freedom” – smuggling thumb drives with movies, TV shows, and information into North Korea to fight Kim Jong Un.
USTA Texas had a booth so naturally Adam and I had to get a pic. 🎾
Google Cloud Platform party at Container Bar – an awesome venue off Rainey Street.

So this marks the end of my coverage. Feel free to email me or comment below if you’re interested in hearing more! You can also read what my coworker and travel companion, Branden Lisi, thought about our trip here.

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