It is almost impossible to describe an event like SXSW. Everything I write will just represent a fraction of what is going on.
I arrived on Wednesday evening and thanks to the jet lag I was up early on Thursday. So, I walked around the city and got a pretty good impression.
Austin is a lovely place; you can do most things by walking around, and if you need to go a little further, there is a great public transportation system (I just tried several bus lines), Car2Go or Bcycle, where you can rent a bike at nearly every corner.
After picking up my badge, I thought there was not much going on. I got a hint via Twitter to check out the Start Up Crawl. This thing was huge! Fifteen companies took part, and you could l visit their offices and meet people there. I started at Capital One, where in their basement, 20 startups presented themselves. In their offices, there were at least another 20 startups!
I moved on to a few other places: A coding school, a digital lab from Home Depot, and, finally, Atlassian. I was not able to do more; just too much to see and too many people to meet. Everywhere were hundreds of people…
Yesterday was the first day of the actual conference. I made it to a few sessions, but you will always miss at least 90% of what is going on at the same time. There is so much going on, so many people. You can only pick and choose what you like most. And sometimes, you end up in a session in which you never planned to end up, but usually that turns out great (I watched Al Gore talking about the climate change, Tim Ferris explaining how to master SXSW, a session about arts and branding, and Guy Kawasaki on social media).
I was not planning to go to a lot of parties, but I changed my mind quickly. There are so many parties going on, and they are so important if you want to make new contacts!
I joined the official launch party (too packed, „too official“). Then I made it to Rainey Street, where the street is full of great bars and every single one hosted a party. I started at Lucille’s, which will be the „German house“ from Saturday on. Then I moved across the street to another party, where the line was fifty meters long (I sneaked in a little quicker; I hate lines).
There, I talked to total strangers. But this is the purpose why everyone is here. People ask you to join their group, and you never know who is next to you.
I kept up til midnight, but then it was time to leave.
I followed the same program today: sessions and later on a few parties. Today I saw Jack Welch and Gary Vaynerchuck; I saw a great presentation on why it is important to say „no“ („Fuck No“) and had a meetup with „Marketing Technologists“. When I wanted to have lunch, I made it to the „FastCompany Grill“. It is actually „RSVP only“ (something you get used to quickly, almost every party or special location is RSVP only).
Of course, I am not RSVP but I just said I was. And into there I went, I was in. I also bumped into someone I’d met last night. She introduced me to a guy from Apple. And suddenly I sat among people from AKQA, from the NY Times, from a Swiss agency and so on. As I was not RSVP, I was not in their database, but I was nice and got a wristband for tonight’s party as well. It should be fun …
So for today I am almost done with sessions. I will walk down to the German house now and afterwards visit the FastCompany Grill again. And who knows where else I might stop by. It is almost impossible to make plans here. But that is the most fun you can have: you never know who you will meet and where that will lead you!
Adams House, where I am staying and the surrounding neighborhood:
Startup Crawl on wednesday evening:
Al Gore talking about the climate change:
Long lines in front of a lot of sessions … be early or look for something else:
Food trucks at the beginning of Rainey Street:
More lines, just one of a few in front of all the different parties on Rainey Street:
Great band on the roof of JW Marriot:
FastCompany Grill where you can meet great people: