South by Southwest, commonly referred to as SXSW, is an annual set of festivals. There are film, music and interactive media festivals that take place either concurrently or consecutively in mid-March in Austin, TX. The festival started in 1987. Each year has seen more attendees and many changes to the lineup, event formula and location. The interactive media portion of the festival tends to focus on the creativity, innovation and inspiration needed in the technology-based industries.
What Are The Events
There are a number of different types of events offered at this festival. Participants can attend lounge, screening, exhibition, party, session, showcase and special events. The type of event will dictate what will take place. For example, at the lounge event called “3M LifeLab: The Big Picture,” attendees were able to take a step back from the day-to-day aspects of life and get an inside look at what 3M is doing to confront earth’s challenges.
All of the events focus on creativity, innovation and inspiration. Creativity is weaved into the event through the sharing atmosphere as guests and speakers alike are encouraged to discuss new ideas. Innovation takes the main stage as new technologies and industry leaders are highlighted. Inspiration is pumped into the event through the enlivened, energized and excited atmosphere.
This festival has been taking place for 29 years, but it has never been exactly the same. One major change for this year’s festival was the move of SX Create to the Palmer Events Center. This move gave a family-friendly play-space for the makers and hackers at the event. The move also allowed an addition of the Robot Ranch, which is a space where attendees can meet and greet A.I. animals and their creators.
Who Are the Speakers
With so much going on at the SXSW tech festival each year, it is hard to see every single speaker at the event. Some of the top speakers this year included:
Casey Gerald, co-founder and CEO of MBAs Across America
President Barack Obama
Dr. Brené Brown, bestselling author and founder and CEO of The Daring Way and COURAGEworks
Megan Smith, United States Chief Technology Officer
Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of Under Armour
Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of Headspace
Why It’s Important
The look at new technologies and the discussion of new ideas is a very important part of innovation in the industry. SXSW gives the top talent in technology a space to share their ideas and a way to improve their creations through community input. It is important to have this space where thinkers and creators can come together to improve new technologies, come up with new ideas and make plans to help shape the world.
We have been hearing that the tech bubble will burst for years. Every quarter, a tech, finance, or venture capital publication threatens that the tech sky is falling, but now, it seems that that Chicken Little sentiment is closer than before.
For those who can still picture the early aughts when the dot com bubble collapsed within itself, it was more of a surprise. We should know better from those experiences to avoid Tech Bubble Burst Redux, but do we?
An indication that the bust is imminent is investor confidence, or lack thereof. Recently, investment firm Fidelity Investments devalued multiple startups including Dropbox, 23AndMe, Snapchat, to name just three. In fact, Fidelity cut down the valuation of Snapchat by 25% at the end of last year.
Currently, 150 tech startups are defined as unicorns (companies with valuations over $1bn), but the numbers may be shrinking. Only twelve new unicorns were named at the end of 2015. According to a recent Fortune article by Dan Primack:
Mega-rounds—defined as rounds of funding of more than $100 million—have also declined. Zenefits and Jawbone, a wearables company, have laid off employees. Other startups, like early Lyft and Uber competitor Sidecar, have folded. Still others, like on-demand valet service Zirx, have pivoted their businesses. And last week, analytics firm CB Insights published its own Downround Tracker, a start-up death-watch list of at least 55 companies that have raised money or exited in a down round—meaning a company raised a new round of funding or sold itself for less money than it was worth to investors before.
VCs aren’t the only ones wary of investing in tech, the public’s interest has started to wane. With unicorns like Evernote, Spotify, and others you’ll never hear of (Vancl) unable to meet expectation, the Silicon Valley infrastructure may be in for an implosion.