In a random women entrepreneurs networking event in Austin, I met a lovely woman called Danielle who turned out to be a founder of a company called Chalk Ink. We hit it off immediately and she invited me to an event she was holding at her office. She seemed nice and I had no plans for the next day so I of course signed up (I might tattoo “Never Stop Exploring” on my chest of forehead soon).
The story of the company is quite interesting. Danielle used to work as a designer for Whole Foods and create their store graphics and signage. She then realized that the chalk markers they were using were not adequate and created her own high quality markers which is now used in all Starbucks, Whole Foods and many other restaurants and establishments. I was also surprised to learn that they are also used in industrial plants and even by the US army to temporarily mark some equipment!
Chalk Ink came up with a very cool event to promote their brand. They invited a bunch of successful Do-It-Yourself and other artsy bloggers to come and hang out in Austin and create stuff with the markers. I had a really fun morning getting inspired by all these talented people and learning how to draw, something I haven’t done since high school. It was such a liberating experience.
My college friend was in town from New York so we decided to check out the local comedy festival.
One of the acts happened to be a Houstonian stand-up comedian who lived in NYC and was going on a rampage about all the things he hates about it. He talked about getting angry at tourists for thinking that a New York Moment was going to the top of Empire State Building or hi-fiving a celebrity on the street, while for him, a New York Moment was finding a dead rat inside your fridge’s mechanism and trying to convince your landlord to get rid of it.
After the show, we passed by a cute Italian restaurant and decided to go in for a later dinner. “Wow, it really reminds me of some of the places I used to go to in NY,” I commented to my friend.
As we were finishing up dinner, I happened to look up at the wall in front of me and saw a GIANT rat running up to the ceiling and hiding behind the suspended speaker. Oh the screams I was able to produce…
The owner of the restaurant seemed horrified (I am still not sure how much of it was from seeing a rat in his restaurant versus me leaving a bad review). We of course got the meal on the house and promised we won’t tell anyone.
I go to a Brazilian restaurant in Austin and my companions ask me to show off my Portuguese so I turn to the host and ask: “Tem uma mesa para tres pessoas?” (do you have a table for three people?)
He looks at me with bewilderment like I just spoke Swahili to him. Then I try another approach: “Tienes una mesa para las tres personas?”…
Then he understands.
When I asked our waiter if anyone there spoke Portuguese he pointed at the adjacent room and said – “Yeah there’s is one Brazilian, he works in the taqueria.”
In Brazil I would have said: “Pó, você tá de brincadeira meu.”
I ignored the TexMex page and ordered Feijoada because I wanted to make sure that I go REALLY Brazilian. It was ok.
So I go to the grocery store to buy my first-ever protein shake.
As it’s the USA there are about 50 types of different kinds of powders and liquids, all with shiny letters promising all sorts of benefits.
Then I see about 30 more kinds in the natural / vegan / gluten free / non GMO/ organic or whatnot categories that cost you 50% more for something that is half the size, all these have lots of green and white packaging that will sure make you feel healthier just looking at it.
A nice store employee comes and asks if I need any help because I obviously look lost. I tell him that I want to buy a protein shake because I want to gain weight. So he points to one of the shelves and says I should get THAT one but “beware because it has lots of sugar.”
“Strange,” I say, “because it only has 3% daily value of carbs per serving…” (which is about less than half of the carbs in the average yogurt cup).
“No, you have to look at the calories,” he says, “that shows you how much sugar it has. ”
Now, am I missing something or I learned the wrong things in Biology class (I know it has been at least 15 years since but still…)?
Finally, I ended up getting something that is called Muscle Milk, which has no milk, but has milk proteins (so confusing).
Answer: My first day at my first ever South by Southwest (‘SXSW’ or ‘South by’, as the super cool veterans call it) conference in Austin, TX.
“Overwhelming” is the best word to describe this day. It started with the schedule of panels, meetups, talks, book readings, mentor sessions, parties and keynote speakers. I got so stressed trying to figure out which of 10 events in 10 different venues around the city I should attend at any given hour!
I did RSVP to go to a session about the Internet of Things, getting all excited about learning new trends. Instead, I ended up in a panel of 4 boring middle aged guys, trying to impress each other and the audience by talking about Moore’s law and microchips. When asked by show of hands to answer who is a hardware geek or a software geek, I was one of the few people in the room not to raise my hand. Clear clue to being in the wrong place, eh? After this I just simply gave up and switched the logic to picking stuff that were closest to my physical location at any given time.
My next session was a keynote by Paola Antonelli, the architecture and design curator from the MOMA, titled Curious Bridges: How designers grow the future. Here, the attendants looked much cooler, a mix of hipsters and artsy Japanese people so I was starting to feel cooler myself. But then, when Ms. Antonelli started talking about quantum design, Schrodinger’s Cat, superposition, Entanglement, I started missing my physicist boyfriend and having flashbacks to when he would talk about work and my mind would start going into the blue screen mode. I quickly started snapping photos of her slides, trying to impress him with the level of my intellect, which allowed me to watch such sophisticated lecture. Once I got tired of snapping pictures, I realized that 20 mins have passed and I still had no clue what this lady was talking about.
Just before dropping out of this event, I did learn about the most impressive art piece (UN)known to mankind: the menstruation machine (created by artist Sputniko to show men how does having a period feel like).
You can watch the video about it here
Finally, I stumbled upon a women entrepreneurs event, which lured us in with custom-made cupcakes and free drinks. The ladies (except for some panelists), were pretty cool, and we had a great discussion about why networking, role models, and better pipelines of candidates are all important in getting more women into tech and into leadership roles overall. I really wanted to take over the discussion but it wasn’t allowed 😦
I also got a bunch of business cards because I decided that in the next few days I shall become the networker I have never been. To be continued…