Tag: Hugh Forrest

20X2 During Austin Startup Week: What Were They Thinking?

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

20X2 - "What were you thinking?" event at Austin Startup Week, Photo by Susan Lahey

20X2 – “What were you thinking?” event at Austin Startup Week, Photo by Susan Lahey

There were artists and musicians, comedians and luminaries of the Austin tech scene including Bob Metcalfe—representing gravitas in his suit and tie—Hugh Forrest, Bijoy Goswami, and entrepreneurs Eric Bandholz and Josh Kerr as well as Valerie Cason, ATC’s director of sales and marketing.

They were charged with getting up in front of a crowd in the dark bar to answer the question: “What Were You Thinking?”

But instead of 20 origin stories, as might have been expected, they told stories about wandering into a gay biker bar, stories about comedian Katie Pengra biting her grandmother’s fake breast, comedian Ralph Hardesty’s take on gay life in Alabama and a showering rain of f-bombs.

20X2 is an event launched at SXSW in 2001 that brings together people of all creative stripes and asks them one question. In this case: “What were you thinking?”

Participants have two minutes to answer the question. Founded by Kevin Newsum with Jeff Rider and Mark Couvillian, it landed at Elysium bar for Austin Startup Week.

Steve Basile, publican of B.D. Rileys, told the story of working for Tivoli as a “tech guy,” then quitting when IBM bought it, joining a startup that had five business plans in a year, then leaving it all to return to New York when his father got sick. A friend who had started an Irish pub asked him to help with marketing and paid him in Guinness.

“I’m thinking that if you move in the direction of something you truly love, you don’t have to think about anything else.”

Goswami gave a litany of what a lot of other great thinkers were thinking, from Galileo to Jobs, including the conversation in which Steve Wozniak warned that Apple Records was the name of the Beatles’ label and Jobs retorted that it didn’t matter because “We’ll never be in music.”

Valerie Cason, ATC’s director of sales and marketing, photo by Susan Lahey

Valerie Cason, ATC’s director of sales and marketing, photo by Susan Lahey

Cason told the story of her startup ZeneScene, being invited to join the SXSW Startup Bus and falling in love with the Austin tech scene, and staying in love with the Austin tech scene through the demise of her company.

Writer Erin Passons shared what many people are thinking—Mopac or I-35? Though, she said, “Mopac is a hinderance,” she said, “On Mopac, if you’re in a fender bender, you don’t have to worry about getting murdered” because the other car will likely be driven by a soccer mom or Matthew McConaughey. Whereas I-35 is “a cesspool of disaster and disgustingness.” It’s pavements are made up of missing person’s bones, heroine needles, and the skeleton of the Lindbergh baby.

Josh Kerr at 20X2, photo by Andy Aguiluz

Josh Kerr at 20X2, photo by Andy Aguiluz

Kerr, Written founder, was thinking that if he launched his company, Zosh, at DEMO and beat the crap out of a fax machine on stage to demonstrate that the app replaced the fax machine, he would make the crowd go wild and win the biggest prize. He was not doing the math that would have prepared him for the fact that the youth baseball bat he bought lacked the mass to smash a fax machine. He expected pieces to go flying. The bat bounced off the machine. So he picked up the fax machine and smashed it on the ground. Parts went flying, the crowd went wild, and he won the biggest prize.

Bandholz, founder of Beardbrand, said he was thinking about the money “which makes you do wicked, evil things, awful things, you can buy anything you want and save more money than most people make in a year.” The bearded entrepreneur explained how he’d bent his whole life to the founding of the company, showing a picture of himself, clean-shaving, vaguely resembling Opie Taylor, and saying “When I worked for a bank, I looked like this.”

Singer, songwriter Mike Wiebe got the whole crowd singing choruses of: “What was I thinking? Must have been stoned. Rushing into shit like this is was why I’m going die alone….”

Hugh Forrest, was not thinking in January 2000, when a stranger sent him an email proposing an SXSW event in which 20 people would speak for two minutes, that this would become a huge event. He was not thinking it would travel to Chicago and London and hundreds of tech celebrities would get involved and it would cover questions ranging from “Where am I?” to “What’s the big idea?” But since that has happened for 20X2, he said, he’s thinking that “The community has the best ideas for cool SXSW content and maybe this is one more opportunity to demonstrate the power of the community.”

Bob Metcalfe was thinking, after a gin and tonic, while he watched f-bombs falling and body parts and various sexual references punctuating most presentations: “The next two minutes are dedicated to the idea that you f’ing care what I was thinking.”

He reviewed the landmarks that happened the year he invented the Ethernet—the opening of the World Trade Center, Nixon’s confession to covering up Watergate, the invention of gene splicing and the Bic lighter and cell phones. “Today,” he said, with wifi “There are a billion new ports of Ethernet and I get less than a dollar for each one….

Then he told the story of the club to which he is a member, the club of people who invented things that plug into computers, like the USB, HDMI and so on. This club meets regularly but then the inventor of the USB died. The other club members served as pallbearers and lowered the coffin into the grave.

“Then,” Metcalfe said, “we lifted it up again, turned it 180 degrees….”

SXSW Interactive introduces nonprofits to powerful new social media tools

By Luke Carrière
Special contributor to Silicon Hills News

The Austin Forum on Science, Technology and Society hosted a free event Tuesday evening to help nonprofit organizations get the most out of South by Southwest Interactive 2012.
The event attracted non-profit professionals, start-up founders, and University of Texas students. Several people tweeted throughout the evening using the hashtag #austinforum.
To kick things off, Hugh Forrest, director of the SXSW Interactive Festival showed a video by SXSWi, which is an example of how nonprofits can use technology to engage their followers. He advised nonprofits to create dynamic videos, rather than videos featuring their executive director speaking into the camera for 12 minutes, which would not communicate their mission as well. He also invited the audience to attend a free event on March 11: The 2012 Dewey Winburne Community Service Award Ceremony, which honors one of the co-founders of SXSWi, who “believed that the new media revolution could help level the playing field between the haves and the have-nots in our society.”
Next, Heidi Schultz Adams, senior director of engagement at LIVESTRONG, pointed to the power of social media in managing communications with seven time Tour de France Champion and Philanthropist Lance Armstrong’s 3 million followers. Lynn Freehill tweeted Adam’s advice on how to handle the debates that surface on social platforms, “Leave in negative comments, leave in positive comments–let the conversation unfold.” The bottom line about using social media was summarized by Ronald McDonald House Charities Austin, “Social media costs you, but it can also save money for a nonprofit. Be smart about it.” Yes, you will need to dedicate time and resources to ensure you do it right. Giving the task to an unpaid intern is not the way to manage and cultivate constituent relationships effectively.
David J. Neff, founder of Lights. Camera. Help said his nonprofit, like many in Austin, is constantly exploring ways to generate revenue. He said it can often be difficult for a nonprofit to reach the point where they can afford to hire their first full time employee. In contrast, startups have it easier than nonprofits because of the huge upside of potential profit they offer investors and employees. SXSWi can be a resource for nonprofits to stay on top of emerging technology and tools, he said. He recalled SXSW 2005, when he learned about the growing field of online video. That is now central to his nonprofit, which connects nonprofits with videographers to help them convey their mission in a video form. “SXSW Interactive is where I go to find out what’s going to be hot in two years,” Neff said.
Overall, the take-away from the event was that nonprofit leaders should stay aware of the powerful social media tools being developed every year. If SXSW Interactive is not within your budget, there are many free events to attend and affordable options like SXSWedu and SXSWeco.

Sara Peralta, a student at Texas State University, covering all things SXSW at SXSTXSTATE. Filed this Storify post on the event.

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