BY ALAN WEINKRANTZ
Special Contributor to Silicon Hills News
This year, my SXSW experience started at the Abbey Road crossing in London on
Crossing Abbey Road. In a Geekdom shirt, of course.
I was there with a life-long friend from college, on a Beatles pilgrimage. Being in
Liverpool was incredibly special. The last time I was there, I spent my 21st birthday.
Now, approaching my 60th, it was time to return.
Like many of us then, and to some extent, today, the Beatles influenced, well, just
Back then, music was our source code. It gave rise to a global social consciousness
raising that set the tone for everything from putting a man on the moon, to the
decline of communism, the invention of the microprocessor, and of course, what
become the Internet.
I believe we are in the middle of history repeating itself with the manifestation of
a new form of code: it’s the apps and all the cool technologies and gizmos we are
using to digitize our lives and allow us to express, communicate and manage our
relationships in new ways.
As Humanity Evolves, So Does SXSW
For me, this year’s SXSW experience was about intent.
For one week out of the fifty-two in a year, the expression of intent is not about
doing business development, landing a big deal, or a possible career move up the
I believe the act of intent shows a sign of faith that while you may not be able to
rationalize or clearly understand what you are doing, your instinct says you just
have to go with the flow, be intentional, and be open to new flows of energy and
opportunity that could come your way.
and doers. I did make it to hear Tim Ferris, Esther Dyson, and Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone.
I had five other “must-listen / gotta get inspired” talks I wanted to sit in on, but enroute to each talk, the randomness and magic of SXSW swung into full effect. In some cases I ran into people I follow on various social networks. In others, it was friends from San Antonio that I don’t see as often as I would like to. I crossed paths with friends from Israel, the UK, and all over the U.S. There were some friends that I never got to see, but felt their presence on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter as they were there.
In one case, I was standing outside of the convention center, and saw someone “very famous” looking around trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B. I went up to him and said, “hi – I know the area pretty well. You look lost. Can I help you?” This famous person accepted my offer and we walked a couple of blocks as I helped him find his way to his next appointment or interview.
While I have always been awestruck of this very famous person, suddenly I realized that he was just a normal person.
He was human.
He was real.
And he showed his vulnerability.
In another special moment in time, I ran into a friend, and we started to compare notes in the challenges of getting budgets for clients. In her infinite wisdom, my friend said, “there’s always a budget, but not for me…” On the spot, I knew there was a country western song in there. We agreed to save that nugget and re-visit it again at our next random encounter. For those of you reading this story, just you wait; we’ll be on stage on day singing this very famous song to be.
The Dow at Almost 14,500. Happy Days Are Here Again, But For Different Reasons
During SXSW Interactive, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was zooming and booming to new highs, almost getting to 14,500. Happy days were here again, but for totally different reasons.
On the show floor, countries like Korea, Chile, Ireland, and Mexico were there showcasing startups, and promoting innovation that were indigenous to the genetic code of their country. Offsite, there was the State of Israel’s dinner at an Italian restaurant that I attended. As with the folks from Chile, we celebrated with great food and terrific wine.
Going from booth to booth, each foreign country I visited all had similar messages: we see the future, we have connectivity, smart and passionate people, and we are out to rule the world.
While not on the show floor, I spent quite a bit of time with someone who is doing some amazing things with a non-profit organization in Egypt. He told me that the best thing that happened since the revolution, was that young people want to take part in the startup economy. He’s creating a new type of venture capital fund to tap into the entrepreneurial opportunities that is taking hold in his country.
Microsoft Comes A Calling
In my travels to Israel, I get to speak at many of the accelerators, one of which includes the Microsoft Azure Accelerator program in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. Knowing that I was at SXSW, they asked me to interview one of the companies that
was in their program. I was not only happy to help out, I was thrilled. I knew the company when it was a great idea and had some early stage seed funding. Fast forward one year later, and they had not only raised a nice round, but they were
doing licensing deals with some major brands.
New Terms of Art
From what evolves at SXSW, are born new trades and terms of art.
Big data was used in various forms and for the first time ever, I learned the term, “data journalist,” in the Visual.ly booth. The “ quantified self” was on my radar. Devices like FitBit and Nike Fuelband were in full motion, adorned from the jeans and wrists of attendees.
The liberation of currency was clearly on the tradeshow floor. Several crowdfunding sites and professional services providers who are becoming part of this ecosystem were also promoting their message.
One of my favorite talks during SXSW: Transcending Tech: Is G-d Rebooting the World, with Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone from Lubavitch.com
I saw themes of mentorship this year, which also plays a big role in what I am doing. It’s part of the ethos of what we, as residents at San Antonio-based Geekdom have taken a pledge to mentor our fellow community members at what has now become the largest collaborative workspace in the State of Texas.
Tuesday afternoon, I had to leave to return back to my office at Geekdom for a very special event. Brad Feld was in town, sharing his vision on what it takes to build a startup community. I’m fortunate to have my office at Geekdom where I can mentor, do client work, and be around incredibly smart people whose goodness, intellect and intent is clearly there.
In our intent to do new things with the tools, bandwidth and platforms we now have, there is forever something that’s not just better, but more optimistic that was in full swing at SXSW.
SXSW is a platform that creates a place for you to open yourself up to experiencing the medium of intent.
When you put intent into motion, you can reset, calibrate, discover and yes, be discovered. There are people from all over the world randomly (or not so randomly) connecting through the medium of intent.
You now have twelve months to get ready for SXSW 2014.
Think about what your intent is, how you can discover what’s new, and be open to being discovered.
With positive intent, March 2014 will be a good time to return to Austin, Texas for the next adventures of SXSW.
Alan Weinkrantz is a Public Relations advisor to technology companies and startups
Disclosure: Geekdom is a sponsor of Silicon Hills News. Alan Weinkrantz is an advertiser on the site.