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Whew! Highlights of My First 2 Days At SXSW 2014 |

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Whew! Highlights of My First 2 Days At SXSW 2014

By  - March 8, 2014
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Privacy & Social Impact Leading the Way At This Top Flight Tech Conference In Austin

Wow… What an amazing couple of days I have had at SXSW2014.


SXSW2014The buzz of entrepreneurship and the power of the Internet continues to grow with every year that I attend this festival. It is like a meeting of the minds of some of the greatest forces in the tech industry, and the remarkable energy is undeniable. Although tens of thousands of people converge on Austin, Texas – all hoping to emerge with a slice of the various investment pies on offer – there is still a brilliant sense of community and solidarity that cannot be ignored.


I daresay there aren’t many places or occasions where the CTO of a humble startup like AppHappening can rub shoulders (or shake hands, at least) with Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, and in the same day have conversations with Jeff Housenbold of ShutterFly (NASDAQ: SFLY), Carley Rosen of XO Group (NYSE: XOXO), and ask Michael Dell, Chairman of DELL Computers, for his advice for budding entrepreneurs at the beginning of their journey.
audshores_960x540And, in much the same way as these tycoons of the industry have offered up their time to seasoned ‘serial’ entrepreneurs like me, I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to share some of my learnings and teachings with first-timers and other experienced entrepreneurs.


My days have been dominated by fascinating discussions with the industry heavyweights, and by filling the in-between time meeting with others who are looking for their “big idea”. My nights have been awash with sharing meals and drinks with people from all over the world, all eager to lend an ear and some advice in return for a few minutes back to discuss their journey with you. All-in-all, an inspiring mixture of grand experiences.


As I reflect on my various discussions in the last two days, there have been two areas that seem to recur the most frequently. Those are, the importance of the inclusion of social good in your enterprise, and secondly the issues around The Internet and Privacy.


Social Good
download (2)I am not sure if it’s just my bias which led me to the conclusion that this is currently a hot topic: after all, so much of my consulting work assists people in finding ways in which they can apply their business strategy to the betterment of social enterprises. But let’s say for the purpose of this article that I am not already a strong advocate for this process! It was great to hear Michael Dell speak of DELL’s moves to make hardware more accessible to the third world. But it goes further than that: not only does DELL want to supply the hardware to underpriveledged areas, but they have specific projects that assist the various sectors of entrepreneurship which focus on social enterprises.


While waiting for this particular keynote to start, I sprung up a conversation with Luke who was sitting next to me. Luke advised me that the startup where he works is focused on providing services to areas where deforestation has been their primary source of income. So, they look at helping people get businesses off the ground in these areas so that they have alternative income streams to logging, and can preserve their forests. I’m sure that he was more excited than I was to hear Michael Dell himself announce that DELL computers would be looking to provide support to startups just like his, to save them on infrastructure (or Infrastructure-as-a-Service) costs.


Other great speakers have mentioned the importance of Social Good in successful enterprises. I had the pleasure of a brief mentoring session with TheNutFund whilst on the Las Vegas leg of my trip. Watch this space for another great startup that will be looking at ways to have a positive impact on society while solving a real problem.


Internet Privacy


download (3)It was quite paradoxical, albeit enlightening, to hear Eric Schmidt discuss Google’s moves towards protecting user privacy on The Internet. He specifically alluded to the fact that, with the growing use of ‘cloud-styled’ hosting, the Internet can never be ‘turned off’ – however it can continue to be infiltrated.


Google is in a very difficult position, that it probably only really shares with a small handful of other companies. That is, it has a requirement to tread the fine line between protecting its users, while ensuring that the public has access to the information that it needs, while also appeasing law-enforcement for the purposes of society’s benefit. As the Internet continues to globalise, the lines of this jurisdiction and responsibility will likely continue to blur – making this group of Companies’ job even more difficult.


It’s hard to imagine that a company that started out with a vision to make people’s search experience a little bit better, has ended up as a major contributor to the information flow of major world events – everything from wars to natural disasters to international terrorism.


I crossed paths with several startups and upstarts over the past two days looking at tackling issues of user security and device security. It looks to be a very hot topic, and one that will be attracting significant investment, while also attracting interest from regulatory bodies and law enforcement.




Well, I’d love to keep writing, but it is 7.30am and I need to get to my Coffee Charge-Up session at the festival!


If you have any questions, please send me a tweet @simonanquetil – or follow my posts on #sxsw14.