SXSW is Dead. Long Live SXSW.

SXSW is Dead. Long Live SXSW.

This year, a lot of folks have spilled ink proclaiming the death of SXSW. Having just returned with our team, I can confirm that it is dead. And more alive than ever before.

Let me elaborate.

SXSW as a stage for a handful of companies to shine is gone. But SXSW as a bellwether for larger trends (the resurgence of hardware in 2013, for instance) is here to stay. The influx of big-brand marketing budgets and large-scale activations have taken the focus off of the main event, sure, but the opportunities for creativity, connection and collective progress that made SXSW so exciting in years past are all still here.

In that spirit, here are a few quick words of advice to startups already looking at SXSW 2015:

  • Don’t launch there: After working on something (an app, hardware, service, etc.) for a long time in the echo chamber of your office, you may be tempted to introduce it to the market with a bang at SXSW. Don’t. The realities of going up against hundreds (if not thousands) of other companies trying the exact same tactic — many with substantially larger budgets — add up to a slim chance of garnering the kind of attention that would make it worth your resources.

    If SXSW just makes sense for your target audience, do yourself a favor and launch in the week or two leading up to SXSW. You’ll have more momentum going into the show and less riding on the event itself.

  • Do attend (and network): As SXSW has grown, it has become the spot for a yearly gathering of technologists, engineers, entrepreneurs and marketers. This makes for great conversation, meetings and business opportunities — at a volume that would be hard to arrange in another context. To get the most out of your trip, before you go, spend some time researching who will be there there — whether it’s your dream client, mentor, partner or employee — and set up times to meet in advance.

  • Have fun: There’s been so much lamenting about big brand marketers ruining the fun that it’s easy to forget that the epicenter of SXSW — the actual convention — is very much still there. This year saw nearly 800 presentations over the course of SXSW Interactive, culled down from 3,000+ submissions. That’s a ton of fascinating topics being talked about, and chances are a bunch of them are relevant to your personal and business interests.

Oh, and those big brands? They can put on a helluva party. Just make sure to pack some Advil and water for what will surely be an exciting — and exhausting — week. Heading to SXSW 2015 or want to chat about your experiences? Leave a comment or drop us a line.

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