Apr 09

InSITE Fellow attends the SXSW Festival in Austin

The average MBA student will use spring break as an opportunity to learn how business is conducted in a different part of the world. In true entrepreneurial fashion, I decided to take a less traditional path with my break. For the last few years I have been interested in attending SXSW, so for my spring break I opted out of an overseas experience and flew down to Austin, Texas.

SXSW is an interactive festival with tons of speakers, panels, parties, and people. There are literally 20-30 different interesting things taking place at any point of the day. I equipped my iPhone with GroupMe to keep up with the people I knew, Highlight to keep up with the people I don’t know, the SXSW Go app to know what panels are taking place, and Twitter to follow what’s trending in the area. Unfortunately, even with my system in place there was still too much to keep up with.

If you’ve read anything about SXSW you’ve probably seen that the best part of the whole festival is the people. Well it’s true enough for me to point out again. You get several thousand people in one place to talk about ideas and innovation and the result is something very special. I ended up going to panels primarily to meet people that had similar interests. My personal interest is in tech startups in the digital media and entertainment space. I was able to connect with startup founders, media executives, and even a guy that ran a startup accelerator with that very focus. I’d imagine people with different interests had the same experience.

It wasn’t all business though. Having the SXSW interactive pass allowed us to eat like kings at the sponsored events by day and get into all the good parties by night. The best party I attended was the Foursquare party where, ironically, I wasn’t able to ‘checkin’ to because my phone died. Carrying a phone charger is an absolute necessity, not having one was was clearly a rookie mistake on my part.

During my time in Austin little was said about the new iPad, the presidential election, or any other ‘news of the day’ topic. Instead we talked about the future, because the city was filled with people that are attempting to create it. The entire experience is truly inspirational for any tech entrepreneur, researcher, or investor. So while I didn’t make it to Budapest or any remote island off the coast of Brazil during my Spring Break, I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be. If you didn’t get the chance to make it to SXSW this year, make sure you plan to go next. I can almost guarantee you’ll find me there.

 Post written by Austin Clements, MBA candidate 2013 NYU Stern School of Business

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