After a few days running around Austin, I jotted down a few of my observations.
Maybe it was the fantastic mix of Korean kimchi and Mexican tacos that I ate last night, but I sensed an international vibe to SXSW. I heard numerous accents and languages spoken throughout the convention center. Prior to the conference, I received invites from dozens of groups outside the US hosting events. The Silicon Valley culture has definitely permeated the globe (nobody carries that torch better than Dave McClure). Moreover, the Whatsapp acquisition has led the generally inward focused tech community to understand the value of a global userbase.
Medtech is mainstream
I saw connected health devices of all kinds. One example was Wello, an iPhone case that captures your vital signs. Another interesting one was Push Strength, a wearable that ensures you’re exerting the ideal amount of power when lifting weights. The R/GA accelerator in NY hosted its demo day in Austin as well, featuring a handful of intriguing connected devices. I still believe we’re in the early innings as it remains ambiguous as to how consumers will use this information in our daily lives.
Commoditization of hardware is fast
I was in the market for a battery recharger (juice pack) and was able to pick one up that can charge my phone 2x for $20. I was shocked how cheap it was. It was a reminder that despite barriers to entry, hardware can commoditize quickly. Larger companies or companies that know how to access Asian manufacturing can produce similar quality stuff quickly and cheaply. It’s another reminder why upstart hardware companies must leverage software as their differentiator. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see lots of low-cost wearables in coming years.
The conference was as energizing as ever. However, I noticed that some of the entrepreneurs and VCs I would have expected to attend, did not. I heard someone say “The valley is over SXSW.” While that didn’t feel to be the case, we did find that within the FC portfolio, fewer founders attended than in previous years. I suppose they’re all heads-down focused on growing their businesses instead of loading up on BBQ!
Tech party meter stands at 7
When I started Handshake.com in 1999, I remember attending a party on a huge yacht that served lobster and top shelf drinks. A well known band performed on the deck. Those types of events were the mainstream in those days. While the parties at SXSW this year were swank, and enthusiasm ran high, it didn’t feel over-the-top like I remember from 1999. On that metric, I’d put the tech party meter at about a 7, so I suppose we’re okay … for now.