I have mixed feeling about my first day at my very first SXSW event.
If you have no idea why I keep typing the same four letters that seem to have no relevance let me explain quickly: I am in Austin, Texas at a Music, Film and Interactive (Geek) conference called South By South West (SXSW). It’s my first time in Austin and I’ve just come from New York from a work trip. Things are crazy busy right now but that’s beside the point.
I am having a confusing experience at SXSW. I’m seeing some heroes of the web (Tim O’Reilly) and hearing some of the “hottest” startups in the world talk amongst themselves, or commonly known as panels at a conference.
I’ve had mixed feelings and at the moment my mental state is as follows: I need to listen and realise what NOT to do from these speakers.
The bubble that the world speaks of, it exists. It is real and it encases almost every startup entrepreneur I have met, speaker I’ve heard and evangelist who is trying to evangelize.
There is a fundemental disregard for tech that exists outside of the US (even outside of Silicon Valley), there is a fundemental disregard for tech that previously existed.
Let me give an example of the disregard that I’m talking about:
Yesterday I waited patiently for what I hoped would be the talk of the day: Group Chat, Who Will Rise?
This should have been an explosive and dynamic panel considering the four “hottest” startup CEOs of the four “hottest” group chat apps were all in attendance. Beluga, Yobongo, Convore and GroupMe were present but sadly their brains apparently were not.
At one point the Beluga lady stated that Beluga allows you to receive a vibrating notification when someone messages you, “This has never been possible before” was her claim. WHAT? Are you telling me that you are so ignorant that you think that you invented the push notification on a cellular phone? Idiot. Beluga was recently bought out by Facebook. There’s a service that’s thankfully going to be put to rest. It’s sad because I actually like what they are doing.
The GroupMe guy was maybe the best of a bad bunch because his app at least isn’t an app and can be used with existing tech, SMS.
What’s worse is the entire panel kept pitching the audience as to how different their four services are and that they aren’t competitors. I wanted to ask them: “Who is winning? Which of you has more users? Who has more revenue/profit?” but I didn’t because at the end of their sad panel I realised what I can learn from them all: What not to do.
I also managed to hear the very boring and obvious talk by the Chief Game Designer at Zynga. This sounded like a talk with amazing potential. Alas, another non-starter. The guy (I can’t even remember his name) proceeded to tell the audience that Zynga uses Facebooks social graph to connect their users. REALLY? DO YOU? I’m gobsmacked by Captain Obvious up front but wait it out. He then says that Zynga builds pretty games. Again, really? Thanks. Idiot.
Now I’m actually more frustrated because I know that none of these people are idiots, or can’t be or shouldn’t be because they are being covered by the biggest media in the world as the smartest people in the world. But then I have to ponder: Maybe the media are in on it too? Maybe they are as half-witted as the people they write about? I don’t know. But I’m seeking genius today and hunting innovation. Bring it on.