SXSW Interactive has evolved over the past decade that I have been going. For starters, I’ve watched ridesharing services come, go, and come back again, but it doesn’t seem to help the traffic situation either way. This year there were scooters on top of everything, which come with their own set of issues. It was bigger and more crowded than ever this year, but SXSW is still the best place to learn about the cutting edge of business and technology as well as the latest trends.
Of particular note this year was the first ever tracks for blockchain and cryptocurrency as well as one for the business of cannabis. Both sectors are red hot right now, and while cryptocurrency isn’t always at the forefront of the news cycle these days, blockchain is more popular than ever.
The great thing about SXSW is that you get to peer into the future of technologies and businesses that most people don’t yet know exist, or in some cases that we often just take for granted. Here are the 5 biggest takeaways from SXSW 2019:
1 – LinkedIn went way bigger than last year.
From a tradeshow booth at the SXSW trade show to an entire creator lounge at Brazos Hall, LinkedIn was all in for SXSW 2019. There were multiple stations for a series of creator speeches that included Brian Solis and his new book, Lifescale, Goldie Chan on brand reputation, and Rosanna Durruthy, LinkedIn’s Head of Diversity. Numerous LinkedIn creators were filming live content, which is only available to a very small test group at this time. There was even a fireside chat with Mindy Kaling about how to live your best work life, which included tips like owning who you are and focusing on focusing.
2 – Scooters were the new Uber.
This was my 10th SXSW over the last 11 years, and I’ve watched the city grow and get significantly more and more crowded during that time. Popular ridesharing services entered the city, got kicked out and made way for new local ridesharing services, and then the original ridesharing services finally returned. What I wasn’t expecting this year was to see an onslaught of scooters and the dangers that they entailed. According to CNBC, the number of scooters in Austin during SXSW from five different companies was around 9000, solidifying the trend of ‘micro mobility’. It was concerning to see so many scooters and so few people wearing helmets or obeying traffic laws, but as with any new technology there’s always going to be a learning curve.
3 – Crypto/Blockchain and the Cannabiz were the new kids on the block.
This marked the first year that SXSW had official tracks for cryptocurrency / blockchain and cannabusiness. Unfortunately, they were mainly happening after the SXSW Interactive days, so many of the business and marketing folk didn’t get the opportunity to learn more about these growing industries. This year at SXSW was the second annual Just HODL It event, which featured speakers from multiple blockchain and cryptocurrency startups. Among them was my friend Adryenn Ashley from Loly.io, who is using blockchain to develop a revolutionary dating app. The main crypto and blockchain track focused on the future of these technologies, how policy will affect their use and implementation, and what the future might hold.
4 – The Mercedes TechSet Lounge is SXSW’s best kept secret.
The TechSet lounge, hosted by Mercedes this year, has been the best place to grab some downtime for the last 12 years at SXSW. The lounge’s co-hosts were Brian Solis and Stephanie Agresta. It’s one of the best kept secrets for a solid place to work, meet, network, get great coffee, recharge, and watch a full plate of speakers. Mercedes did a fabulous job with the lounge this year!
5 – Mental health tech like calm.com is the next big tech frontier.
By some estimates, one in four people worldwide will be affected by a mental health problem at some point in their lives. The tech folks, entrepreneurs, political enthusiasts, and the rest of the people who end up at a place like SXSW are often driven to their breaking point at times. It was great to see a number of SXSW panels dedicated to mental health themes this year, most notably Calm.com. Calm.com, which produced an app to help folks with mindfulness, meditation, sleeping, and more, is the first mental health unicorn company. Their booth at the trade show was all about relaxation — and it even featured a sloth!
If you missed out on SXSW this year, it’s time to start planning for next year. After all, where else are you going to see a sloth?
Top Photo via: Jordan French