SXSW 2013: Broad strokes of serendipity

What are the highlights of SXSW so far? Google Playgound’s fun talking Adidas shoe that motivates you by telling you to run faster and jump higher? The new Leap Motion controller that’s sure to kill the desktop mouse and track pad sometime soon? So many great innovations and buzz topics. Here are a few that you might expect to be hearing about from your digital agency in coming months and a few highlights from the last few days here in Austin.

Co-founder of Rent the Runway, Jennifer Hyman, was our favorite speaker of day one and led a panel group discussion on ‘Experience vs Ownership’. Her high-end fashion rental library is testament to her proposition that the importance of ownership is changing and will continue to change, stating that she believes more brands need to facilitate the want of Gen Y’ers and X’ers to access something (but not buy it) and hence need to focus on great customer service as a product differentiator and on accessibility.


Talking shoe

Lu Lu Lemon perhaps, and Lorna Jane in Australia, are great examples of retailers understanding this with the former applying this insight to their customer experience by offering customers free in-store yoga classes and community trainers and health and fitness advice through their social channels.

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, was the must-see event of day two, taking the crowd through the several stages of fear and anxiety he’s experienced over the last 12 years as he’s lead his company’s mission to build the first truly re-useable space rocket so that his dream of living on Mars can become true.

Elon, who somewhat resembles Tony Stark from Iron Man, was very quick to clear up that he’s not in competition with NASA or with the American space race program but rather he sees one of the main objectives of his self-funded mission to colonise Mars being to get the world excited about space travel again.

Elon Musk's keynote

He hopes this will then open up bigger budgets to fund the next big leap into space (it was some time ago now since the Apollo mission to the moon, so it’s about time we did something big in space again). Perhaps he has something to do with Red Bull’s Stratos stunt last year? In any case, he sounded pretty certain that next big thing was going to be a SpaceX product and got the crowd excited with a short video his team had filmed on the weekend of a dummy cowboy taped to a 10-story-high rocket which took off and landed to successfully complete it’s one-minute mission. Edited to the soundtrack of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’ you had to appreciate that even though the last though missions had failed (with PR-crippling explosions and a loss of a considerable amount of money), Elon was a man who was determined but obviously also having fun along the way.


Opening night event (click to enlarge)

Day Three of SXSW. Wow! Where do I begin? It’s only just wrapped and the evening festivities are about to begin. For sure, the standout of today was the Tina Roth Eisenberg Keynote Live Webcast. While showing off some of her greatest designs Tina proudly said, “I don’t distinguish between my life, my work, my play – it’s a blur and a great space”. Here, here! It’s a great time to be in digital.

Is David Karp throwing another open bar event? The 26 year-old founder and CEO of Tumblr was out last night cruising around in a new pair of Google Glasses and there are rumours a few pairs might be lucky door prizes as this evening’s Skype Party. Maybe so?! I’m off to find out.


Event snapshot
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Mike Crebar
BY Mike Crebar ON 11 March 2013
Mike Crebar is strategy director and co-founder of Sydney and Brisbane based digital agency, Pusher.