1000heads: SXSW – What did we learn?

Austin -> Washington

Last weekend 1000heads despatched a number of its team out to a certain convention in the good ol’ US of A.

Admittedly, while we were there supporting a particular client, I also made sure we had time to get into the Austin Convention Center itself and take in some of the more interesting panels and talks that SXSW has to offer.

Yes, but what did you learn?

First and foremost, while a fair chunk of the predicted chatter was indeed about location-based services such as Gowalla and Foursquare, what we found was a very low rumbling about 2010 being the year when companies and brands alike truly harness the power of crowd-sourcing. This piece from Fjord about the iPad cements some of the feelings I already have about it, but also talks about content curation and the knowledge of where as opposed to what.

Hat tip to the guys over at Genius Rocket by the way, good to hear some sense throughout all the noise…

We also learned that SXSW really isn’t as bad as some people say it is. Similarly to other conferences we’ve been to before, the real value lies within the many different opportunities to connect, learn and share… and, with a smattering of smarts, maybe do a small amount of business along the way. Those things themselves are worth the air fare alone.

Real life connections people- it’s the future

One session I personally really wanted to see was Battery Life, the Final (Mobile) Frontier, the description alone sold it to me:

Africa is a much misunderstood market, but potentially as large as China or India. Computer and internet penetration is extremely low, but cellphones are everywhere. How to tackle communication and social services on a continent where electricity – including charging cellphones in rural areas – is the greatest challenge.

Sadly, the panel was cancelled at the last minute as the key contributor was called away to a personal emergency however, I did get the opportunity to meet the lovely Gaby Rosario who gave me the rundown about how while there are only 65k iPhones in South Africa, there are in fact nearly 45million mobile subscribers. Unsurprisingly, in South Africa at least, the iPhone is not the be all and end all.

But we knew this already, right?

It’s funny, even though the US-based event had such an international turnout, a lot of the content had a very US-centric point of view. The point about the iPhone for example, articulated so well by Gaby just hours before I first started writing this down, was a breath of fresh air against the constant stale wind of how mobile iPhone applications are going to change the world.

This is not to say it was a wasted journey, not by any stretch. Seeing people I haven’t seen since September ’08 – made it even more worthwhile. Being introduced to new faces through old friends and connections – given that 1000heads now has French, Canadian and US offices – again, also made it extremely beneficial.

Of course, working out there, meeting clients and competition winners… the list of how awesome it was just goes on.

Would I go back? Yes. Every day I was up at the crack of dawn to catch an early morning panel, be it on community building, crowd-sourcing, social media, blogging, mobile, neuro-science marketing… (no, really).

If the SXSW selection panel had picked someone to speak, it was (mostly) worth a visit.


Well, I’d still want to see a more clearer grading system for each session (like Vero mentioned the year before), and I think I could/should definitely speak about something at the next one.

Maybe my lucozade travels; staying mobile and connected ’round the world. Tips and tricks for the global traveller…

Or maybe even… …plain ol’ Word of Mouth? 😉

What d’ya think?

Hello Texas!

Dealing with delays at the airport...

Today I fly to Texas, 1000heads are sending a small team out to the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival to provide support to Nokia and a group competition winners who found out on Monday (!) that they’d won a rather sweet all expenses trip to join us.

It’s going to be awesome.

If you’ve never heard of SXSW before then don’t worry, I hadn’t until a couple of years ago. It’s a ten day event that’s broken up across three (relatively independent) parts; film, interactive and music. The second one is the bit we’re headed out for for – the interactive aka – SXSWi.

Although, it must be said; if I ever return on my own dime then it’d be amazing to attend all three.

I’ve always loved film and a few influences in my life of late have also helped me rediscover a healthy taste in music.


At the time of writing I’m somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, about halfway between London and Chicago (our first port of call en route to Austin, Texas). This is my first time at SXSWi. A bunch of my friends have been several times before however I am still a Texas virgin. I literally cannot wait.

Did I mention that it’s going to be awesome? 🙂