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South by Southwest Summary

March 21st, 2010 · 1 Comment

Texas may be my home, but from 2007 to 2009 I lived in Chicago. During those two years I became active in the Venture world and gained a boat load of friends and mentors in the process. Maybe that’s why I love South by Southwest so much, for one week a year all of my friends come visit me in Texas. I saw a lot of cool things at South by Southwest and made a lot of new friends in the process. I have a few of the key themes listed out below:

Social Media has become institutionalized

Now that everyone has a Facebook account and Twitter has become the communication tool of choice by businesses, companies and regulators are learning to deal with a social media enabled world. After watching the FTC talk about the need for twitter compliance I met Tom Chernaik from CMP.LY, a nifty new startup that focuses on making sure that communications are compliant with impending government regulations. Tools like this are the perfect ingredients for the emerging Social CRM space, which players like Jive, Exact Target, Sprinklr, Spredfast, and Networked Insights are scrambling to own. These new platforms allow companies to act on data provided by ShareThis,, Radian 6, The Next Big Sound, and other measurement platforms.

One by one, companies are switching to these new platforms for customer measurement and engagement. It won’t happen overnight, but expect to see incumbents like National Product Diary de-emphasized.

Location Services are mainstream

Location based services were a novelty last year, they became absolutely essential this year. Rather than rely on texting friends to find the right parties to attend, I just looked at foursquare to determine where I had the most friends at a given moment in time.

Don’t let the hype fool you. Foursquare owns the location market. Gowalla posted a respectable second at SXSW this year, but that’s because Gowalla is based in Austin. When I go to San Francisco, New York, or Chicago, saying ‘Gowalla’ elicits a bunch of blank stares.  This chart tells the tale.

I completely expected Yelp’s inclusion of check-ins to dominate foursquare at SXSW, but it didn’t. Perhaps that’s because it’s very hard for a brand to dominate more than one attribute within a frame of reference. Yelp is known to consumers as a great review site, while foursquare already owns location. Facebook will see a similar challenge if it tries to step on that turf. For a great discussion of ‘Frames of Reference’ read the works of Derek Rucker.

Where were the 2D bar codes?

Prior to SXSW several companies spent a lot of effort trying to get 2D barcodes everywhere. QR codes were placed on every SXSW badge, to the confusion of attendees. Google peppered local business with decals to stick on their doors with 2D links to their place pages. For a host of usability, awareness, and other reasons no one used any of these codes. It’s a bit sad, but points to how hard the consumer market is to understand.

Closing Thoughts

South by Southwest continues to be THE destination for Social Media folks to gather, talk about ideas, and do business. It’s the perfect complement to what CES does for hardware. I can’t imagine not attending.

Tags: Venture Capital

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Deirdre Walsh // Mar 26, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Aziz – this is a great wrap-up, especially the social media has become institutionalize section. On a personal level, I also enjoyed a lot of the sessions on convergence. Will we end up with one super device or continue to silo? Do I really want the UT football game integrated with my Twitter feed on TV? Will there be an iPad nano?

    Hope you are doing well.

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