SXSW Days 4 and 5 – Oscillating between Changing the World and Narcissism

Days 4 and 5 of SXSW are a bit of a blur because my brain was starting to overload and my digestive system was getting clogged from running on peanuts and chips for three days.

One thing that really started to bother me was the amount of time spent on twitting versus actually listening to panels or discussing new ideas.  I would sit at a panel or a talk and realize that every single person around me was on his or her mobile,  trying to catch buzz phrases from the speakers, while the speakers themselves were throwing statements such as “flexibility is the new stability” or “xyz is the uber of industry abc”. I can’t say I could completely stay away from this herd mentality but I guess that encouraging narcissists to use social media is the same as providing free drinks to MBA students: Total destruction of any intellectual pursuits.

The second thing that bothered me was the amount of venture capitalists that were there to give friendly advice, which actually seemed more like some narcissistic need to show how important and cool they are. But maybe that was just me..

Interesting things I got to see:

Liam Black, a very funny sarcastic social entrepreneur from the UK,  who started various businesses which have social purpose but  are also profitable. He talked about how this is the only viable model instead of philanthropy.  He started initiatives such as a furniture cooperative that trains makers from the community to build affordable furniture FOR the community or a program with Jamie Oliver, called Fifteen, which puts youth from tough neighborhoods in chef schools and places them later in high end restaurants. He was also making fun of do-gooder MBAs who want to start social businesses in Africa or India without ever spending time in those places.

His organization, Wavelength, now works with companies and innovation leaders to create more profitable social businesses and overall stimulate this way of thinking in corporate environments.

ecar, thesamewavelength, social entrepreneurship
E-Car: Providing car sharing service for underprivileged / rural population
Ignite, Centrica, social impact investment fund
Ignite – Centriaca impact fund that came to replace their CSR program
Impact ventures, social impact investing, the same wavelength
Impact Ventures – UKs version of Grameen Bank

BuzzFeed CEO, Jonah Peretti, gave a brilliant talk on what they do beyond sharing Cat videos or developing #theDress story. His big point was that since they produce content very quickly and get so much feedback, they can learn a lot from every interaction and use it to produce even more impactful / engaging content. He also mentioned that this model is very new way of thinking for example, about movie production that takes a very long time, requires tons of resources, and you never know how the movie will do once released. BuzzFeed approach is sort of the agile design applied to media production : try and fail quickly and learn from your mistakes to create a better product. I also learned that there is apparently a tinder for pets app, Cute or Not, that’s has been a great success, and now can be used as a platform for advertising for pet products from them.

BuzzFeed talk, sxsw, idea cloud
BuzzFeed talk idea cloud
breast exam, buzzfeed
Funny way BuzzFeed found to increase health awareness


Buzzfeed New, Russian soldier in ukraine, instagram
BuzzFeed news proving presence of Russian soldiers in Ukraine through their Instagram geotagging. Duh!

The CEO of Mashable, Pete Cashmore gave a really dull keynote about his view of media; he was too busy with being in love with himself to leave time to talk to the audience. This was very surprising from someone whose job is actually connecting with audiences. He did share that Meerkat (Streaming video sharing) is the new hot thing of social media. I guess I will check it out in 5 years or so.

There are so many more things to share, but I am afraid that no one wants to read more than 140 characters anymore. I have exceeded those so if you want to hear more, we might have to have a real conversation or something.

Check out the previous articles in the series on South by Southwest

Day 1 – What do cupcakes, tech and Schrodinger’s cat have in common?

Day 2 – It’s all about the ladies

Day 3 – VC’s are A-Holes and Lets Change Society

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