Last week we asked 5 members of the Toronto online community about their thoughts of the South by Southwest Interactiveconference in Austin, Texas? We spoke to Erin Bury Melissa Smich Saul Colt Dave Fleet and Lee Dale
Why was it important for you personally to go to SXSWi?
So much of my time is spent staring at a screen. Virtual connections are important and I love me some social graph, but seeing people in person is so much more personal. There's nothing like sharing a laugh and a drink to really form a bond, and that's what SXSW is all about. It's a big reunion for the web/interactive community and one of the only times when everyone from Toronto, the Valley, New York, Boulder, etc. are all together in one place. The caliber of speakers is also unparalleled — especially at such a low ticket price — which makes the opportunity to learn from the most kick-ass people irresistible.
Why was it important for Rypple to have a presence at SXSWi?
One of the largest cross-sections of Rypple users work for small - medium sized business in the tech and creative sector: exactly the type of people who attend SXSWi. It was a chance for us to engage them in conversation, learn how they perceive our product, and give them a chance to try it out firsthand.
How did you expose Rypple to the SXSWi community while you were in Austin?
We ran a really successful campaign called Workplace Hero (http://workplacehero.com) to celebrate the launch of Rypple Kudos. Kudos is the best way to recognize the greatness of your teammates by sending them public kudos complete with badges and stationary. Workplace Hero celebrates the people who go out of their way to make their workplaces better by giving and receiving the most kudos and earning changes to win some awesome prizes.
We handed out thousands of Workplace Hero stickers, which were spotted all over people throughout SXSW. They were so popular that we actually ran out early! I was spotting people and handing out instant win prizes late into the night — I remember standing in front of the Driskill at 3am, waiting for a cab, and still spotting Workplace Hero stickers.
What was something new that you learned during your time in Austin that will help you?
Although there's lots of value in the panels, there's even more to be had by attending the 'hallway sessions' — hanging out in the hallways, and on the patios and street corners. You'll meet an amazing array of people, many of whom will turn out to be friends and valuable business contacts. I think first time SXSW attendees get very caught up in meticulously planning their schedules in advance. Trust me: leave room for the magic of SXSW.
Was there any new developments or companies that you were exposed to that caught your eye?
This year was the battle of local/geo, largely in the form of NYC-based Foursquare vs. Austin natives Gowalla. It was actually round 2 of the battle that started last year, with Foursquare launching at SXSW 2009 and Gowalla holding down for the home team. I'd say Foursquare handily won with far more users and their busiest few days of activity in the service's short history.
Ev's announcement of @anywhere during his keynote caught my attention. Twitter's up to 160 employees now and have spent a lot of time building out infrastructure to keep up with their meteoric growth rate. As the rate slows down and their platform becomes more mature, it's time for them to turn their focus to new features and revenue generation. I really like @anywhere's promise of integrating Twitter into the everyday fabric of other sites. It's a smart move and, I think, a strong hint of things to come.
Who was the one person you met at SXSW that really left an impression with you?
I finally had a chance to meet the awesome Amber Rae Lambke (http://heyamberrae.com/) in person. Amber just recently sold off most of her belongings, packed up what was left, and moved to NYC to be part of the startup scene. She's super energetic, smart, and even more fun than her tweets and Tumblr make it sound like she would be. She has an amazing book about living passionately and acting on your ambitions coming out soon. Everyone (particularly entrepreneurs and startup junkies) should read it. The Ah Ha Moment: http://tumblr.heyamberrae.com/post/417855937/ah-ha-moment.
Why should a company, brand or an individual attend SXSWi next year?
SXSWi has really become the epicentre of the web/interactive community. It's the one event that seems to top almost everyone's must attend list and the place where new technologies will debut. I would encourage people to attend for all of the reasons I gave above: it's the best place to meet the people who make the web happen.