Why I go to SxSW every year? Engineered Serendipity
I’ve been going to Austin every year for SxSWi for 8 years now and again this year I’ll be flying down tomorrow morning (Friday). I’d agree with everyone else who comments about how different an event it is today. To some extent, the only thing that has remained the same is it’s name, location and that a music festival follows and a film festival runs in parallel.
But for me there is one other common thread. I’ve attended as a startup CEO, one of the leaders of RWW and now as a VC. However, regardless of role, there is a simpler answer to why I go to SxSW every year: engineered serendipity.
As I think through each of the past trips, my biggest takeaway from the event was something I couldn’t have predicted boarding my flight. There is something about the laid back culture, almost everyone being away from home and a density of smart and interesting people that catalyzes really great unplanned conversations. I certainly setup a number of meetings ahead of time, but do try to leave some margin each day to bump into interesting people and have conversations I didn’t plan.
I should say as the event has gotten bigger and big brands like Chevy has started spending real marketing dollars, I think it’s almost impossible for a startup to “launch” at SxSW. However, as I mentioned a few weeks ago Twitter didn’t really “launch” at SxSW either.
Also, as I’ve gotten older (I now have an amazing wife & 2 kids), it’s harder to stay up really late and enjoy some of the parties that I attended years ago. So this year and the last few years haven’t included memories like 2008 where Andrew Hyde recorded 10 of us pitching Guy Kawaski in an elevator on the way to PBS Austin City Limit’s margarita party after doing Geeks Love Bowling. (Interestingly a few years later, ReadWriteWeb co-sponsored the last SxSWi party at the original Austin City Limits.)
I am a VC now and do spend some of the time listening to entrepreneurs pitches during the trip — so if you have a great community driven commerce seed stage startup, ping me to get together. We’ll spend a little more time and don’t have to meet on an elevator.
For those of you skipping this year, have fun doing whatever you are doing this weekend. But if you’re coming to SxSW, my advice would be to leave some margin for some serendipitous conversations.