@ SxSW Interactive: Early Thoughts; It’s Like SxSW Music… But For Startups

imageIt dawned on me pretty soon after looking at the schedule for this year’s SxSW Interactive conference that that it would be a mistake to try staying rested. So it was gratifying to hear, when I poked my head into How To Rawk SxSW: The Basics, a panelist say that his key recommendation for attendees was don’t pace yourself. Just to make it clear, there is a lot going on. More about it all after the jump.

Day 1: Registration day… the flood of people entering the Austin Convention Center to get their badges didn’t seem to slow down one bit from the moment things got going at 10:00 AM ’til it wound down at 6:00. Event-wise, it was a pretty light day, and most of the activity seemed to be taking place in hallway conversations and, yes, of course, Twitter. So far it hasn’t crashed.

Startups are bands: This is something I’ve thought about before, but coming here crystallizes it perfectly: Having been to the music portion of the festival before, you start to get good at identifying who’s in a band and who’s not. Three guys walking together in skinny jeans? Check. Bad haircuts? Check. Handing out flyers urging you to come to their show? Check. The interactive portion isn’t much different. Four guys walking closely together from one room to another — very likely they’re the only four employees of some online video startup. Same too with the party flyers and the bad haircuts, though perhaps minus the skin-tight jeans (but not necessarily). Everyone wants to be the new (insert hot startup here), just as every band wants their SxSW gig to do for them what the festival did for Franz Ferdinand back in 2004 (the last year I attended the music portion, so forgive the very dated reference). Really, the only difference between a band and a startup is that when a band gets huge, it doesn’t have to expand beyond its core team, such that it comes to resemble The Polyphonic Spree.

The who’s who: There’s quite a bit of breadth under the overall “interactive” umbrella. In this room, they’re listening to a lecture on bette Java programming, a fairly technical discussion. In the hallway there are teams flogging their new vlog. Over there they’re playing Rock Band, while others are mainly interested in the more artistic or “design-ey” aspects of digital media. I won’t bore you with a list of the boldface-worthy names that are seen everywhere. There are plenty of multi-millionaire wunderkinds here, sure to be surrounded by a large group of followers-around. But, I will note that one well-known tech executive was found at an evening party with no discernible entourage, just chatting up whoever felt like saying hi. He’s not even here to speak on a panel or to give a keynote, instead claiming to be there on a personal trip. If you’re curious, you can find a picture of him with a certain paidContent.org reporter here.

The plan: Having got my bearings and more importantly some rest, look out for panel coverage, some interviews and other noteworthy news.