I hadn’t been to Austin for SX for awhile, and the differences are palpable. Each of these observations deserve a post on their own (blog tonnage warning), but here’s the brief from the plane
1: These kids won’t lap their Parents, but they’re over it
UT Spring break notwithstanding, SXSW trends pretty young but not tragically hip. I’d call it self-sufficiently hip. Perhaps its a stack of student debts, lack of faith in future entitlements, or a crap job market but most everyone here lives and breathes self-reliance. Kinda reminds me of KFAC in some ways.
No, they likely won’t end up better off than their parents but they have founds ways- ingenious ways – to have a share in interesting events, luxuries and experiences. It is the walking personification of the asset light generation, a veritable ride-sharing, house sharing, tab splitting mobile-social-fueled existence. You can see it in the number of backpacks lugged around. The premium real estate around power outlets. The use of timely information to scout out clean bathrooms and taco trucks still serving food. Maybe this generation can’t get what everything they want, but they sure use information to get what they need.
2: Booze may work for inspiration: but Coffee is for Execution
Ok, close to SxCentral (Dirty 6th or perhaps Rainey) the parties roll on late into the night. Bold dreams do emanate from these spots, no doubt. But who will do them? No-one with a hang-over I assure you. Life is not a Reality show perversion of how things get done. The business still happens the next morning, by guys sipping coffee and probably not wearing skinny jeans . I noticed on Don Dodge on twitter, who has backed his share of great SXSW start-ups, hits the parties for a few pics but probably doesn’t extend the night further… unless the band is good. He’s one worth following.
3: Mobile Social Local drives peer actions
And how. In this urbania of the future, I can’t remember anyone who didn’t whip out a smartphone every 90 seconds. Pedi-cab drivers checking directions. SXSW’s checking in on panels, flash mobs, and open bathrooms. Cops, using video. Really no surprise there. But when asked, how many of them pay for apps or subscribe to content the answer was rarely anything but “what?” (see #1 Above).
This of course, drives a few of the major theses of my activity: mobile, social and local will be supported by increasingly relevant and targeted ads. It would help if they were displayed in appealing, but unobtrusive ways but that’s on its way as well. While I was there, I saw a stat that online screen time had yielded to mobile screen time. Revenue isn’t that far behind. Mojiva is ideally positioned for both.
I also noticed that a huge focus of the Sharing Economy conversation (aka Asset Light, Collaborative Consumption, Peer to Peer Economy- talk about a naming clusterjam!) is all about Trust. How will Sharing grow if every transaction comes with the doubt and questioning that goes like this : I know I will make (save) money on this, but might I die doing it? News from the washington Post this weeks kinda underscores the point. Who is behind that screen? Can I just rely on the one network to provide that data (and are they conflicted b/c they want the transaction)? Isn’t there a repository of all the identity, behavior and transaction data that sits with a third-party and can quickly display a dossier on a potential counterparty? I had a back and forth with FAKEGRIMLOCK (yes, all caps please) about ways the Sharing Networks might be compelled to share their API toward this end (his suggestion was a ray-gun). Leah Busque from Task Rabbit mentioned TrustCloud as an option in her panel on sharing- no ray-gun needed. She’s a nice lady and a great entrepreneur.
4. Space: the Everest of STEM
The biggest draw, by far, was the rockstar Elon Musk. And his expertise and passion for Science, Tech, Engineering and Math overfloweth. PayPal, ok. But this guy has Tesla and SpaceX rocking along while parenting five kids. The sheer out-of-this-world challenges this guy takes on, and the STEM talent he draws to do it should be an analog for our entire workforce. Learn STEM, and develop a passion for it. Pursue bold visions.
5. Being Top ten in the information race hardly matters
Just ask #11 in line at the taco truck at 3am. Not so long ago, information was valuable for a lot longer, long as your counterparty didn’t have it yet. Now, most information travels so fast and is so complete that is becoming commoditized. So what counts anymore? Speed, and creativity.
Sam Lessin had a brilliant talk on this BTW. And ironically but perhaps not un-related, his dear departed father Bob wrote a small treatise (Lessin’s Lessons) on what is essentially the asset light generation I discuss above. Great read if you can still find it- self published of course. Ahead of his time. Sam is a great continuation of his legacy.
If everyone has about the same information, at the same time the people who will extract the most value from it will be those that get it first, those that understand it first, and devise a creative angle to use it. It’s an interesting leveler of the playing field.
So that’s the quickie from SXSW. More to come on each of these. But my takeaway for the week is “Live in the future: build what’s missing”.
My Frequent disclaimer: I own equity in TrustCloud and Mojiva.