Upon landing in Austin, it very quickly became apparent that it is not a typical Texan city. Yes, there was plenty of Southern hospitality along with cowboy hats but there were also hordes of people navigating the festival map from their chosen discussion via 3-D printer purchase and on to Google Fiber Wonder woman VR showcase, Solange Knowles music set or the like. I felt like a kid in the candy shop. Where else would you see people starting to queue to some geeky lecture an hour in advance? After turning up too late to get into the queue (1 hour before!) for the first few chosen panels, we decided to aim for niche talks, which is how I found myself at a briefing on Innovation in China represented by GeekPark with headphones for English translation. Niche talks was a great decision – how else would I know that a start-up founded by a female entrepreneur in China, Mobike, provides ‘dockless bike sharing’ in big cities in China ready to be picked up and dropped off anywhere ready for the next customer to navigate the city in an environmentally-friendly way. The most fascinating part? – the bikes do not have a lock. To date only 1% of the bikes were stolen.
Feeling happy at Fjord HQ in Austin after meeting the employees and tour of the famous Chaotic Moon studios (L-R): Kevin Gordon (Worldpay), David de Niese, Val Yuskevych (me), Mel Owusu and Sohail Amin from Accenture
Every spring Austin truly transforms into a cradle of futurism, where each flight progressively doubles this town’s population for the period of the festival by bringing in the world’s top minds who shape the future of the world. I personally overheard people discussing advantages of human intellect compared to artificial intelligence in the Starbucks queue (that was endless, by the way).
‘What is hot at SXSW’ becomes hot in business in a year’s or more time. Last year it was all about Blockchain, this year it was all about AI and VR. Our early morning panel on the implications of using AI to make decisions on behalf of the customer was not at all a wake-up call for the audience, rather a morning work-out for further food for thought for the many more sessions at SXSW. The audience does not mess about with the post-panel questions at SXSW, that take at least 30% of the total panel time. About a month after the talk, we received positive feedback from the SXSW audience. For me, the panel was a real success. The panel discussion flew well with Sohail, Tony, John and Jess peppering the AI dialogue with stories from individual experiences as well as discussions from the night before. It felt like a chat between friends all passionate about AI with laughter from the panel and the audience.
About a month later we also received positive feedback from the SXSW committee. What made a difference? Chemistry between the panellists. We arranged dinner with all the panellists the night before the panel. There, at a booth in a barn-like restaurant, we went over the proposed plan for the discussion that we e-mailed earlier to all panellists and benefited from getting to know each panellist individually. Moreover, somehow all the panellists already knew each other in some way through the sale of Honest Dollar (Jess and Anthony) or through the Austin Tech scene (John Fremont and Anthony).
SXSW was a great opportunity to showcase Accenture's leading into the new mind-set with everyone at SXSW which we hope to do more of soon and go to SXSW again next March (hopefully with another great panel – you can figure out what we are up to right now). I am grateful to all the panellists, Accenture AI and SGI teams, Goldman Sachs marketing and PA teams and all who made this panel possible.
If you don’t take part, you will most definitely fail. Try the SXSW Panel Picker to submit your idea for 2018 here and look for support within Accenture or wider industries.
If you would like to talk about SXSW, innovation and boxing or anything at all I encourage you to make connections and ask questions. I believe that technology is there to serve the people. You can find out more about the things I find interesting on my Twitter @valerieyus
Before I go here are some references and a reading list:
Ashlee Vance, “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” – a superbly well-researched book based on interviews with people from Musk’s surroundings and with Musk himself.
Peggy Klaus, “Brag!” – a book recommendation from Sevasti Wong, a Senior MD at Accenturein our Communications, Media and Telecoms practice, – as it says on the tin Klaus, Fortune 500 Communications coach shares her approach and real-life examples of bragging that worked for people at different stages of their careers
Yuval Noah Harari, “Sapiens: A Brief history of Humankind” – a book recommendation from Jess Douieb that as it turned out everyone interested in the future is reading (and that includes my Dad who has been singing praises to Hahari’s latest book “Home Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” as well). Harari is a character himself – look him up on Wikipedia – for you know a man who does not have a smart phone must be interesting.