Apr 09

SXSW 2015 Highlights

Although it has been a few weeks since Austin’s annual SXSW Interactive Festival, I am still catching my breath. The city was packed with over 30,000 people who came to attend not only the official panels, but also the unofficial parties. Below, is a brief review of a few of my most favorite panels and events from the week:

  • SouthBites. South Bites is where I spent a good deal of my time. The outdoor “cafeteria” featured local food truck favorites that both ticket holders and tag-alongs could enjoy. It was a fitting way to tie the festival to the ever-evolving and entrepreneurial food industry. A true favorite, the coffee from Lucky kept me and the rest of the festival fueled up as we raced back and forth between the Austin Convention center, the JW Marriott, the Hilton, and Rainey Street.
  • David Chang’s “The Future Role of Tech in Dining and Food.”This panel, moderated by Awl editor Matt Buchanan, highlighted Momofuku’s ambitions of being a brand for all people. David Chang dived into what has inspired him to continually expand the Momofuku empire, as well as his vision for his new food tech venture, Maple. All in, I left hungry and anxious to return to New York for some Ko and MilkBar goodies.
  • “Fixing Transportation with Humanity and Technology.” During this Keynote, Logan Green expertly and humorously navigated the tough questions from interviewer, Doug MacMillan. This was especially true of the ones that pertained to Uber, entering new markets, and Lyft’s own profitability. Though I’ve never used Lyft before, I will definitely be signing up in the hopes that Green will be picking me up.
  • “A Frank Lloyd Wright Approach to Digital Design.” This conversation with Kent Eisenhuth of Google, a UX designer, focused on illustrating 6 design principles that he has drawn from Wright’s 70 year career. One example I found particularly interesting was Eisenhuth’s note on complexity; Based on what Wright said about enrichment – “I do not believe in adding enrichment merely for the sake of enrichment” – Eisenhuth uses this point to highlight the need to add complexity to design only when necessary. In tech now, I am constantly inundated with new ways of building, interacting with, consuming websites and content. It is refreshing to think that simplicity may still have a home in this future.

Overall, the access and community. By making the yearly pilgrimage down to Austin, you join the ranks of nearly 30,000 other early adopters, techies, and entrepreneurs. There are few other places where you can take a 360 degree photo while climbing a model of Katie Perry’s golden tiger, plastering your startup’s stickers over an entire city while pitching to interested strangers and hearing Jimmy Kimmel speak. For me, the conference was well worth the trip.

Lizzie Bildner is a second-year MBA student at Columbia Business School and an InSITE Fellow. She is the Founder and President of Sharitive.

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