“Keep Austin Weird!“ is the city’s overriding motto. And indeed Austin is exhilirating, lively, quirky, unusually liberal and alternative for Texas. Culture has a student flair with a huge number of clubs. It goes without saying that the steaks here, bang in the middle of Texas, are fantastic. People love coming to this city and especially when South by Southwest (SXSW) gets underway every year in March 10-19, 2017. Then the city really steps up the action. SXSW is the world’s biggest digital conference, they say – as if the number of participants is anything to go by! Don’t criteria like “personal relevance”, “degree of inspiration”, “knowledge gained”, “value of networking” make individual participants feel the fair is important and special? The constantly rising number of German delegates shows that SXSW is crucial to a growing number of people in commerce, media, start-ups and agencies. And how important!
More Germans at SXSW
Well over 1,000 Germans including many from Hamburg will take part in Austin this year in their quest for ideas, inspiration, investors, customers and new contacts. The City of Hamburg is offering start-ups their own (Texan) stage to network with others. Johannes Everke, Hamburg Marketing, noted: “SXSW has become a hotspot of the digital industry. Hamburg cannot stay away and its companies will show how it measures up with the world.” The SXSW programme of panels, keynotes, and workshops is as thick as the former telephone directories of big cities. Good job there’s an app now to make things overviewable. Planning your day is the rule of thumb. However, rule number two deflates the first one: be prepared to abandon all your plans, as you will certainly have to do so.
You may not get to that highlighted keynote or the doors to your favourite event have been closed early due to overcrowding. In that case, head for the nearest event and be open to what’s happening there. And regardless of whom you speak to, exactly these presentations and rounds of discussions, which you had not jotted down beforehand, may prove particularly surprising and valuable.
Nervous, heated discussions
It’s not the themes that are special and different. Self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, robots, content, bots and commitment are on the agenda elsewhere as well. However, the concentration and dynamism of the discussions in Austin are different as they are nervous and heated. The source of this atmosphere may lie in the fact that SXSW launched as a music festival with a mere 700 visitors in 1987. Thirty years later, SXSW and its film and music festival is one of the world’s key, most fashionable technology and start-up conferences. Meanwhile, SXSW Interactive attracts more visitors than the other two parts of the festival. The combination of the three makes SXSW Interactive so special, vibrant and colourful.
You will walk miles every day!
If someone insists on tips for SXSW, the following could be given: 1) Make appointments with others. Spread out and roam around SWSW! 2) Meet up and give feedback. Tell about anything new, curious, astonishing that you have seen, heard or discovered. Then a bigger but incomplete picture will emerge. 3) Wear damn good, comfortable shoes, as you will walk several miles every day!
Guest commentary by Miro Kaminski