Greetings from SXSW V2V: A Little KAW in Vegas

sxsw day 1-3I’m in Las Vegas this week, taking in the inaugural SXSW V2V conference.  (You can follow moments from the proceedings on your social media of choice.)

First things, first. I can already say: I think you need to put this conference on your calendars for next year for several reasons. Of course, there are the great speakers, the eclectic crowd, and the terrific daytime & after-hours venues.  The latter is anchored by the Las Vegas Downtown Project that Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and partners are championing.

But more importantly, you should attend for the overall conference vibe.  It’s like a cross between the Valley uber-deal vetting DEMO extravaganza and the SXSW Interactive Keep Austin Weird (KAW) sprawl, but in the earlier days of both.  At SXSW V2V, there’s a smaller audience, a single event location (the Cosmopolitan), and an overall more intimate feel to the happenings.

sxsw day 1-2As you might expect, there is a heavy dose of Austin representation here.  In addition to the heavily Austin-based, SXSW crew (not just from Interactive, but from Film and Music as well), there are many advisors, panelists, mentors, and participants from Austin, as well.

Case in point: during an hour and a half mentoring session during which a series of entrepreneurs stopped by to visit with me, I shared the room with 2 other mentors, both also with ties to Austin. One was Liesl Copland, an agent with William Morris Endeavor (WME), who lives in ATX. The other was Jessica Tunon, a deeply experienced advocacy professional who lived in Austin, now lives and works in DC, but retains strong ties to the Austin-area (with a possible hankering to return some day).

In addition to all of the one-on-one interaction – what you’ve probably heard Tony Hsieh refer to as “collisions” – some of my other Monday highlights include:

  • A great kick-off panel on immigration and its impact on start-ups, featuring Congressman Joe Heck among the panelists, as well as three foreign-born, start-up founders who shared great insights into their challenges establishing operations in the US
  • AOL founder and Startup America chairman Steve Case roaming the halls and sitting in many a session (he keynotes today)
  • An excellent panel on creating and managing online personas – panelist recommendations for reputation management: check out Rapportive for email, Social Sprout for social media and Talentbin for recruiting, esp. technical.
  • Tony Hsieh’s keynote on Zappos, culture, the Downtown Project and the answer to the question: “A great brand is ____?” (Tony: It’s “a story that never stops unfolding.”)  Tony’s enthusiasm,  deep passion, and demonstrable commitment to the Project are good wake-ups to cities like Austin that we should re-double our efforts to make our community even greater, rather than spend many (any?) cycles applauding ourselves about how we’re at the top of so many “Best Cities” lists
  • Jeff Rosenblum’s one-man wrecking crew on the traditional advertising industry business model, featuring excerpts from a documentary his team produced entitled The Naked Brandthat looks informative and entertaining – among his best shares, though, was the brand-destroying story of the Crayola Colored Bubble Launcher …you have got to read the product reviews!
  • The Startup Spotlight – a 3 hour exhibit in the commons area of the conference, where every exhibitor got the same round, high-top table, a power connection, and the right to gab unabashed about their products & services – it was like the early days of the SXSW tradeshow, warts and all: crowded, spirited, and fun.
  • Epic Office Hours, featuring a passel of (mostly) Austin-based investors, organized by Jeff Harbach of the Central Texas Angel Network (CTAN)
  • sxsw day 1-1Alamo Drafthouse co-founder Tim League’s “Entrepreneurial Cinema” which could really have been re-titled “My Life and Lessons Learned as an Entrepreneur” that was every bit as good or better than 99% of the talks I hear on the same subject, whether for tech or any other startup.

Of course, a SXSW event wouldn’t be complete without awesome parties – some requiring tickets, others not.  And those are lined up every night of the conference.  So, that’s it for the Day 1 recap.  Look for more throughout the week.

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