Highlights of SXSWi 2014

To sum up SXSWi in one word: ‘serendipity.’ Every day was a new adventure — you never knew who you were going to meet, and where it would take you. Looking back, I realize that every big event or experience stemmed from one chance conversation or moment. Unreal! I also loved that there were hashtags for every event. Since there were so many talks, parties and shows to attend, it was impossible to see them all — but you could always search through the hashtag after and feel like you were there. (Ps. If you search #baoyau, you’ll get to see all the great activities Amy and I got up to – and some celebrity cameos in our photos, like this shot with Guy Kawasaki) [row][column size=9 centered=1]Guy Kawasaki (2)[/column][/row] We took in so much over the course of the festival, but I’ve boiled down our best experiences into Top 3 lists for both conference sessions and the social scene. Check them out below for a sense of what it was like to be at SXSWi 2014.

Top 3 SXSW Session Take-Aways

1. Brian Wong’s presentation on “The Data Behind Happiness”

Brian Wong is the 22-year-old mastermind behind the Kiip rewards network, and brought fantastic energy and jokes to Austin. If you were at the Art of Marketing in Vancouver recently, you’d recognize his presentation — at both talks, he spoke on the importance of an “emotional” connection to mobile and positive reinforcement. Brian challenged marketers to change the way people think about advertising, moving from a ‘sell, sell, sell’ mentality to respecting the user, where “magic will happen” (his promise). Here’s an illustration from his presentation which sums things up nicely: Word_cloud_for_Ads (2) Check out #MobileZen to see more highlights of Brian’s talk.

2. Chelsea Clinton on the transformative power of technology

It was great to see how technology can be used for good, and how it’s improved lives all over the globe. A few examples: mobile donation capabilities to aid relief for the Haitian earthquake, and a mobile app which verifies the authenticity of medicinal drugs purchased in developing countries. According to Chelsea, technology “is changing how we solve problems and who is empowered to solve those problems.” Scroll through #ChelseaClinton to see more. [row][column size=9 centered=1]Chelsea Clinton (2)[/column][/row]

3. Discovering the Chinese online market

Dan Walmsley of NationBuilder, the world’s first community organizing software, spoke about different trends in global internet access. This was especially relevant for our newly-launched Chinese marketing agency, Sheng Li Digital. Dan said, “If you see a market that’s underserved, it’s bound to be an amazing opportunity,” and we couldn’t agree more! We attended several sessions relating to the Chinese online market and discovered some popular social media statistics in China (for example, WeChat has over 600M users in China and 100M outside China). Learn more by searching #chinatech.

Top 3 Cultural Experiences

1. Meeting Josh Constine from TechCrunch

We met Josh the way so many SXSW connections happen – by sharing a cab! On the ride, we gained some incredible insights on how technology has changed the way people interact. This chance encounter also led to an invite to Ashton Kutcher’s party, where there was a surprise performance from Nas (a personal favourite hip hop artist of mine!). Nas even brought Ben Horowitz on stage (he was interviewing him the next day at a keynote session). Ben is a HUGE venture capitalist – and an old Jewish guy who LOVES rap music. His website and blog is even littered with rap lyrics. It was an odd yet amazing night. [row][column size=9 centered=1]

Josh, amy and i at ashton kutcher's party

Josh, amy and i at ashton kutcher’s party


2. Surprise guests and celebrity-studded parties

We definitely enjoyed the Southern hospitality of Austin – everyone was very inviting, which led us to attend many festivities. At the Def Jam 30th anniversary party (also the closing party for SXSW), there was a surprise appearance by Kanye West and Jay Z! Capital Cities (another favourite artist of mine) performed at Krave Dance Bar, while Biz Markie and The Jane Doze entertained guests at Brian Wong’s Kiip party. Justin Bieber even did a surprise performance on Rainey Street – and then the club got shut down due to him being underage.

3. Can’t forget the incredible food

Everywhere we went, there were freebies being handed out, including delicious food and drinks. We enjoyed amazing Southern-style meals — my favourites were Ms. P’s Electric Cock food truck (strange name, I know) and Chilantro, originator of kimchi fries! [row][column size=9 centered=1]southern-style food trucks[/column][/row] Did you attend SXSWi this year? Let us know your favourite moments in the comments!

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