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

SXSW Day 3 – VCs are a-holes and lets change society

My first session of the day was a conversation on global trends between Malcolm Gladwell and some guy named Bill Gurley. Gladwell was engaging, funny, provocative and overall brilliant and HUMAN while Gurley reminded me of an overgrown frat boy, with his University of Texas sweatshirt and cowboy boots and “I’m so awesome, you should worship the ground I’m standing on” attitude.

My disdain of this “dude” grew even more when I found out that he was one of the key venture capital investors in Uber and mentioned the words “disruption”, “sucks” and “inefficient” for the 10th time. He spoke as if he were the god of the universe and pretty much diverted most of Gladwell’s challenging questions (ex: what is the net effect of Uber taking private cars off the roads? won’t it cause for massive job reductions in the auto industry ? or: don’t you think that automation in medical industry can be harmful (and already is) to the relationship building between doctors and patients?). While I was hating on Bill, hundreds of people in the audience were taking down every single word he said and idolizing him just like he wanted it to be.

Bill Gurley
Bill Gurley
Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell

After Bill’s not so exciting start-ups and insights I ran into the Japanese area at the start up Trade Fair, where I encountered some real innovation from Fove, which uses eye tracking technology for controlling images on screen. Aside from various virtual reality applications, they intend to commercialize this also as a medical device for patients with disease such as ALS. I got to play with the device and found it truly extraordinary to be able to kill my enemies with my eyes.

eye tracking device, ALS, FOVE
Trying out FOVE technologies

Finally, at a random panel on film and social influence at the Brazilian pavilion I learned about 2 extremely cool initiatives that I hope we could all learn from:

Videocamp – “an online sharing platform that gathers films to provoke, inspire, engage and entertain. These films tell stories that deserve to be told and will excite and captivate all film lovers: yes, films have the power to change the world. And that change starts with you.” The main benefit of this platform that it allows people and organizations to deploy high quality films as a tool to win people’s hearts and minds and drive societal changes in a very simple way. They tackle issues such as child obesity, violence against women, child prostitution, refugees, etc. 

UCLA Global Media Center for Social Impact  (Let by the charismatic Sandra de Castro Buffington)– that works with Hollywood and overall entertainment industry writers by providing technical expertise in order to insert specific themes through compelling stories on topics such as “health, immigration, racial justice, America’s prison crisis, the environment, LGBT/gender equality and more. ”  Some example of their work was incorporating discussion of backlog of rape kits (ie rape cases not getting processed fast enough) into CSI (which later led to Congress acting on this issue), breast cancer early detection into Beverly Hills and HIV testing into the Bold and the Beautiful story lines. They also collect data about how these messages drive viewers behaviors (ex: 10% of people who watched ended up calling their doctor to schedule a checkup).

To read about my inspirations from day 2 and learn about some powerful leaders, click here.

SXSW Day 2 – It’s all about the ladies

I went to SXSW expecting to meet lots and lots of men in tech, but instead I ended up meeting various inspirational ladies.

The first of which, were Jan Ryan and Virginia Miracle, both very impressive female executives / entrepreneurs / mentors / investors, all in one very friendly package. They shared some great tips on how to get more women into the C-Suite with the discussion revolving around: 1) improving negotiation skills, 2) finding the right culture to work in and the mentors that will help you reflect and evolve and 3) learn to handle conflict resolution. I found this such an upgrade compared to the normal “let’s all sing kumbaya and promote diversity” bullshit. #sxwomen

I also listened to a keynote from Princess Reema from Saudi Arabia and how she had been using her business sense (and very deep pockets) to get more women into the workforce, promote breast cancer awareness and support local female entrepreneurs. I really loved her talk and ideas but had this nagging thought in the back of my head that kept me wondering if this was all a big hypocrisy as certainly the best interest  of her family is to keep Saudis in the middle ages while the royals party it up across the world. But that’s just me…#empower

I attended a panel titled: “She’s a C-Word! Lessons From Tech’s C-Suite Women”, it was led by a crazy lesbian lady (I wouldn’t even care, but she kept mentioning that she was a lesbian) with sunglasses named Kara Swisher. She kept telling everyone to f.. off and sharing stories about the time she hung out with Oprah or Sheryl Sandberg so I suppose she was someone influential as well.  The other participants, Kira Wampler, CMO of Lyft and Sara Clemens, Chief Strategy Officer at Pandora were pretty damn cool and so I asked them about how could we get more women into the board rooms but was told to not even bother, because the boards are the ultimate boys club and unbreakable glass ceiling. Since I really want to be in a board (and get tons of money to work like 4 times a year), I plan on using my newly acquired Twitter skills to pester influential ladies to change the power dynamics on executive boards. #cword

In contrast to this, I went to get free makeovers at the Cosmopolitan / Cover Girl booth, where I discovered other ways for women to be useful parts of society. I could take only about 5 minutes of listening to a fashion blogger talking about how she spent her entire free time discussing hand bag features or twitting about them. And these people are making tons of money and influencing thousands of American women. Total fail.

Upon exiting their booth I ran into squirrels reading books and this definitely cheered me up and helped me regain hope with respect to the future of our society.

You can read about my learnings in the first day at SXSW here or how on Day 3 I realized that Venture Capitalists are a-holes and there are other ways to change to society here., cool SXSW promotions, marketing ideas
Come read with the squirrels at SXSW