Steers, queers and peers

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I love South by South West, it is a fantastic opportunity to connect with people. They might be old friends, friends of friends, new acquaintances, famous people, people you follow on Twitter, somebody that presented a session, or just a random badge wearer you meet in the hall at the bar, etc. But simply put, it’s an opportunity to connect with people.

Sessions. Panels. Hallways. Breakfasts. Lunches. Dinners. Parties. It’s all an opportunity to connect. It’s an smorgasbord of people from Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Austin, Lubbock, etc. Everybody gathered in Austin, Texas for a festival built around music, film and the technology that makes it happen. You can see the explosion of connections and the evolution of the tools. There’s Twitter, FourSquare, Facebook, imeem, the list goes on and on. The tools are making it easier to connect at the event and stay connected after.

The best part of all it is, you get to go home. Bring the vibes, the connections, the tools, the business, all of it, you get to bring it home.

Brave New World

I’m stoked about what is going on in Toronto and Canada. I’m excited about what is just about to emerge. We’re coming out of our cocoons. We’re finally starting to realize that for it to be a start-up, it must be a business. It was great to see Canadian companies like Freshbooks, Overlay.tv, Raincity Studios, Akoha, iStockPhoto, Thornley Fallis PR, PostRank and Social Media Group. They were all in Austin looking for new clients. This was a marketing event.

“The business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rests are costs.” – Peter Drucker

The good news is that there is room for traditional marketing and the new scary social media marketing. Tradeshow booths, bag swag, and parties co-exist with presenting, participating and engaging with people online and off. Love seeing these people, my friends and acquaintances, and their companies out building their brands. Marketing to the unwashed masses (like me). Then back home to keep on innovating.

And that is the key. These are companies that are building innovating solutions. They are attending conferences like SxSW to build their brands, make people aware of the crazy cool shit they do back at home. It might seem like it’s all bourbon, late nights, and hangovers. But for almost everyone, it’s about being real people with real lives, real companies, real products, real jobs, and the very real need to make money. But it is the conversations and the participation that matters.

What did you bring home?

Let’s home it’s not the dreaded SxSWi sickness.

  1. Pay attention to your customers. It’s not mine, borrowed from Tony Hsieh from Zappos. But it starts to define what you as a startup are doing. What problem you’re innovating around? Who pays you for what? Where are they having conversations? Can you find them to engage with them?
  2. Diversity is critical. “Much of what we think of as innovation is just the creative tension between differing viewpoints”. The diversity of people, venues, presentation formats, art, engineering, media, film, venture, and rock-and-roll create a wonderful tension and we need to continue to embrace this tension.
  3. It’s a great time. It is a tough for a lot of people, but the investment world is driven by greed, not fear. Find the thing that your customers desire, the thing that enables their greed.
  4. It’s about the people and the connections. Spend some time in the weeks following up with the folks you met. Turns out you might meet them next year. /me waves from Canada.
  5. Even with all the social media, crap is still crap. Build something that matters. Make it count for your customers. This is where the innovation is key. You need to be faster, cheaper, better than your competition. And trust me you have competition. You can meet them at SxSW.
  6. Take more pictures. I have 2 cameras, 2 smart phones with cameras, I was thinking about buying a Flip. But I don’t think it matters, until I get into the habit of snapping pictures. #FAIL on my part. Time to change personal information capture habits. Feeling like this is going to be painful.

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