It’s been a few days since I got home to Silicon Valley from the SXSW 2014 Interactive event and here are a few perspectives from my own personal séjour in Austin.
This year I did not use my SXSW badge once. I walked into the conference center once to pick up my badge, which I kept in my back pocket and went back to meetings and events where I was on the list. We did not require an official SXSW badge to attend our two Georgetown Angels venture capital and startup events.
We made one investment into a startup at SxSW. I’ll mention Tackk below.
My wife thinks I go there to party, but if that were true I would go to Austin when it’s not SX (short for SXSW, short for South by Southwest, the owners of SXSW ask us to write SxSW, because it does something to make their general counsel feel better about their intellectual property around SXSW).
The purpose for me is to collapse many meetings into a short period of time. Most of the people I met at SX were pre-scheduled meetings. Many of these folks were visiting from Europe or other parts of the US and Canada, making a few days in Austin efficient business in a casual, but exhausting atmosphere.
In addition to pre-booking many meetings, I think it is a good idea to arrange to be in Austin with some true friends you enjoy being with where you benefit from an “entourage” effect. So you end up bumping into people you know and introduce them to your friends and vice versa.
We were three people from Georgetown Angels, my venture capital firm, and we had filled our calendar before arriving in Austin. We also shared our calendar with many friends so we knew each event we went to would include our existing friends that would introduce us to folks they knew would be of interest to us. I actually paid for food and drinks as I had a bunch of meetings in hotels, but Joshua Siegel, my business partner who runs our New York City office, said the only item he opened his wallet for was taxis and the bicycle rickshaws. That’s me in the middle of the back seat in this video.
Video on YouTube here>> http://youtu.be/aCPeAvlOjPc
Get good people together and good things happen!
We also organized two events of our own with enough food to act as lunch and dinner for worn out entrepreneurs and investors. We had beer, wine, tequila, soft drinks and ice-cold water to keep everyone socializing. But rather than make our events brand-building parties to “meet us” we organized proper content with a VC panel I moderated with 5 VCs on Saturday followed by 8 startup pitches some of which we are investing in and some of which we are just helping along now hoping to keep an option to invest in later.
VC Panel at Capital Factory, Austin, Texas, March 8, 2014
The 5 VCs on the panel were great including Bryan Stolle from Mohr Davidow, who write a nice post – SxSW Goes Main Street – Corporate America and Global 5000 Join The Party.
Two days later we hosted our second event with a deep-dive fireside chat where I interviewed Dave McClure of 500Startups followed by 4 startup pitches. That’s when we invested in Tackk. Check out www.Tackk.com. We believe this will truly be the biggest company to come from SxSW 2014. Think Twitter meets PowerPoint meets GoDaddy meets amazing design where any amateur can design and immediately post, use or share any kind of amazing looking content. Just go and play with it. The valuation of this company is about to rocket. Contact me if you are interested in learning more about Tackk.
Fireside Chat with Dave McClure of 500Startups
Our second event during SxSW at DLA Piper, Austin, Texas, March 10, 2014
A big issue for startups at SX is how to compete for funding and attention in a sea of so much noise. Another characteristic that Bryan Stolle points out is the arrival of Main Street at SX. It seamed like every major media titan in addition to many huge technology brands were putting on massive parties and trying to mix with the tech community.
I always try to give practical actionable advice. Share your calendar with others to make sure you AND your friends are on the list of the various events you go to. If you are not at the point with your network that you can pre-book enough meetings to justify the trip I would not fly to SX to meet with one or two VCs when you can just as easily fly to San Francisco, New York or London and meet 10+ in one go without so much noise.
For my fellow venture capitalists, you need to be prepared to meet a lot of non-core folks. Meetings for us at home are back to backs with relevant people. This goes back to making sure your entourage is a cool one and you are satisfied just hanging out with them and feeling good about being out of the office. After my first trip to SX a few years ago I told myself that when I go to SX I am just on vacation with a bunch of entrepreneurs and investors.
I’m curious to see what happens next year. Fingers crossed for better weather next year.
More from The New York Times here: Startups Jostle for Funding, Attention at South by Southwest.