Let’s Get Weird, a SXSW Interactive Recap (2014)

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logoI know what you’re thinking. A recap? Of SXSW? That was ages ago! About two weeks in fact, and as we know, in the world of tech, that is, for all intents and purposes, eons. But considering the huge number of collaborative efforts, contacts, and great run-ins we experienced at this year’s little black sheep of a tech conference, in Austin, TX; we couldn’t possibly leave all the laundry out to dry

Since we’re still feeling the afterglow of a great week at SXSW Interactive, we’re thinking you probably feel the same way. I’ve definitely thought to myself “take me back” multiple times. And for those who missed it this year, don’t worry about FOMO, we’ve got you covered:

We’re also processing all the great video interviews we conducted at the Techzulu/Indiegogo tech cafe and will be rolling those out soon. Tons of great conversations about new startups, hardware, and the entrepreneurs building them.

So consider this something of a recap, photo essay, and a personal thank you to all the great people who worked alongside us at SXSW this year.

All official SXSW Interactive and SXSW Music photos

The Road Track Less Traveled

We knew this year’s SXSW was going to be special. It’d been a big year in tech, and the different supporting parts of team TZ – so what better way to kick off the festivities with an inaugural train-bound journey, courtesy of the good people at Amtrak.


TZ’s SXSW A-team, Efren Toscano and Justin Sewell, were invited to join the momentous ride alongside other tech innovators and influencers from the Socal reach to participate with Amtrak’s first ever #AmtrakLive live-tweet and AMA thread – to discuss the highly anticipated Amtrak Residency Program. Hustle hard, ride in comfort.

Setting the Stage: The Indiegogo/TechZulu Tech Cafe

To cap off our 6th year at SXSW and follow up on last year’s amazingly successful Trend Lounge, we knew this year had to be bigger, better, more engaging, and of course, even more fun. As we know, long gone are the days of experiencing SXSW Interactive with just 9,000 other tech entrepreneurs and business brights – with 30,000 registrants in 2013 and the final numbers for 2014 still in the works.


So how could we accomplish this, while maintaining the close alternative SXSW vibe we had last year?  Well, thanks to a fantastic partnership with the good people at crowdfunding platform, Indiegogo, we were able to do just that!

This year’s TechZulu/Indiegogo tech cafe was a new, never before seen combination of knowledge sharing and immersive experiences. In addition to multiple days of live stream interviews, there were some of Indiegogo’s brilliant new projects on display for inquisitive guests to experience first hand:

  • Myth Innovations – Desktop computing power, into the palm of your hand. (Game changing technology here!)
  • URB-E – The ultimate foldable urban scooter, with a full charge range of ~30 city miles.
  • Misfit: Shine – The world’s best looking fitness tracker/wearable. Focusing on seamless integration into your life.
  • Breathometer – The world’s first smartphone breathalyzer that tells your BAC level and  when you’ll sober up. (A hit with the SXSW party crowd).

In all seriousness though, an extra tip to the good work being done at Breathometer, in light of a hugely saddening and tragic drunk driving incident that marred the positive festival feel of SXSW Music Week.

Founders, Entrepreneurs, and  Celebrities, Oh My!

Cool gadgets and fancy new toys explored, we’re ready to move onto the main part of our show.

It being our third year in a row conducting on site interviews and live streaming, we had to ensure this year’s lineup was up to snuff with the ongoings of SXSW. Whether any of our bright entrepreneurs and their startups will become the new NEST or Whatsapp, we’re rooting for them. Nevertheless, it was fantastic showcase of new ideas and a glimpse into the future of tech.

A special thanks to our guests/interviewees!

  • Jared GoldenPear, connecting local community groups to their sponsors
  • Ricky JohnsonPledgeCents, improving K-12 through community learning
  • Addison McCalebMediahound, making it easier for you to discover entertainment
  • Grant DelgattyURB-E, the world’s smallest foldable electric vehicle
  • Morgan IntratorYoursigma, combining technology with classroom learning
  • James CitronOutspoken, pioneering the combination of mobile messaging and advertisements
  • Noor SiddiquiRemedy On Glass, helping doctors collaborate using Google Glass
  • Mike NormanWeFunder, bringing crowd investing to the world
  • Charles Michael YimBreathometer, combining smartphone technology with safe alcohol monitoring
  • Savannah PetersonShapeaways, the social platform for 3D printing
  • Margaret FrancisHeroku XL, making large-scale app development easy
  • Anima Sarah LavoyConnect, Geo locational convenience for your social networks
  • Erin KorogoskyBeckon, Performance management for marketing companies
  • Susan EtlingerAltimeter, research and consulting company for business disruption
  • Erin ChaseFavado, combining price comparisons with grocery shopping
  • Chris CoxInvoca, inbound call analytics
  • Doug KrugmanWeb Thrift Store, supporting charities through buying/selling online
  • Joergen AaboeMomentfeed, combining life foot traffic with reduced customer acquisition costs
  • Ryan MagnussenGrail, making content curation on the web even easier
  • Sonny VuMisfit Wearables, developers of the world’s most wearable sensor products
  • Hermoione WayVibease, world’s first wearable smart vibrator
  • Alex TaubSocial Rank, Twitter metrics and engagement tool
  • Q ManningRocksauce Studios, mobile ap designers and developers
  • Micki KrimmelCreative District, combining idea makers with creative professionals
  • Pat PhelanTrustEv, real-time online identity verification
  • Allen RomeroHang Local, see which of your Buddies are available to hang out now.

A special thank you to our hosts!Howard Greenstein, Elle Schneider, Andy Sternberg, Damian Pelliccione , Leah Hunter, Melissa Jun Rowley, Chris Denson, Ewan Spence, John Canning, and Marley Kaplan

The_Wrap_logoAs an added bonus, media partners The Wrap was also in the Tech Cafe House and brought a touch of tinseltown to the city of weird with a fully stacked lineup of their own actors/celebrities: to talk scripts, upcoming projects, and life.

Our personal favorites? Run-ins with Elijah Wood (really down to earth guy), Seth Rogan (an extremely hard worker, scanning scripts in between beers and interviews), and of course the Superman himself, Shaquille ‘O’ Neal, in the most meta showdown you’ll ever see.

#SXSF (Shaq by Shaq Fu)

The brainchild idea of our very own live stream and PR wiz, Justin Sewell. Upon the news that Shaq would be in the building and interviewed by guest host Chris Denson of Innovation Crush, the possibilities for a celebrity X tech crossover collaboration seemed endless; especially as Shaq had just spent the day before with Engadget to discuss wearable technologies.

Turns out, Shaq was also in town and specifically here with us at the Indiegogo Tech Cafe to discuss his Indiegogo campaign for the upcoming release of Shaq Fu 2: A Legend Reborn.

According to Shaq, the release of this upcoming game is all about legacy and his intent is to give his fans the game they deserve – all through a community participation crowdfund campaign. So what better way to top off the highly anticipated interview than to have Shaq play as himself in the original Shaq Fu?

Ancient technology barriers be damned, through some scrappy hustling by our in-house gaming experts, Twitch.TV (also our SXSW roommates for the week), we were witnesses to quite possibly, the most meta event of all time.


Big ups to the Twitch.TV guys for making it happen!


#SPSF, Shaq, plays as himself, in the original Shaq Fu

Short-lived but an epic way to cap off our interview; Shaq showed his competitive side when he tried swatting away Chris’s game controller out of his hand. The most hilarious foul I’ve ever seen.


To the Trade Show Floor!

Alongside the running list of keynotes and firesides in at SXSW Interactive was an open trade show floor for a top-down showcase, featuring blue chip manufacturers, hardware brands, web, and technology companies. Funny enough, a lot of folks I talked to throughout the week weren’t even aware there was a trade show floor (which goes to show how extensive the conference has gotten).

When I arrived via personal invite from LA-locals Hive Lighting, I immediately thought the trade floor looked almost like a wing of CES, but without the endless hordes of people, and a bit more diversity (not just hardware). Here are some sites from the trade show floor!

A few companies I really enjoyed chatting with…


Hive Lighting – is a company we’d mentioned before in our REACH recap. I was introduced to them as a great example of a double-bottom company, who’ve been able to do social good in the cleantech field without the need to lean on the sustainability name. As a seller and manufacturer of game changing plasma lighting, they’ve grown themselves a strong business servicing the Hollywood/entertainment industry in Los Angeles with their innovative lineup of cleaner, clearer, and cooler stage and spot lighting.

Seriously – that’s John Miller, head of Hive’s hand on a full power spotlight that’d be running all day.


Olloclip – and their wildly successful iphone camera lens converters. On display for SXSW was the recent launch of their 4 in 1 wide/fisheye/macro lens kit, which turns your iPhone into a bonafide mini point and shoot. I actually spent a ton of time using their gear to cover SXSW Music week – incredibly handy for parties that I couldn’t quite get my DSLR into. What I loved most about them? Global reach with a small business feel; and a very strict level of quality control for the selling of their product. No Amazon listing, Apple stores only.

Take a peek at the photos taken with the Olloclip – There’s a clear distinction between my iPhone vs a Canon 5DMK2 with wide angle lens (of course), but the portability couldn’t be beat! First half of the album consists of iphone + Olloclip photos.


Bass Egg – Winner for my favorite quirky gadget of the week, the Bass Egg is a palm-sized Jambox killer that turns any surface into a medium for musical soundwaves. Home developed and taken to market by a scrappy group of young entrepreneurs, the technical explanation of how it works is best left for you to visit the site.

But I do have to say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having this in my travel case for quick, on the go music. It worked especially well for a recent weekend trip to Joshua Tree where we did a bit of luxury camping, and stayed in an off the grid dome AirBNB with minimal power capacity.

Honestly, half the fun is in finding the best surface to put this thing. Hint: Try your forehead. 

Photos of the rest of the trade show floor

The Parties

Save the best part for last, right? For those who’ve been to SXSW, you’re in the know – and the social aspect is just as important as the daytime events, talks, networking, etc. There’s a few that definitely stick out in our mind and we absolutely must thank our gracious hosts for inviting us for being a part of (and at times, covering) the festivities.

Photo Mar 09, 9 42 19 PM

Paypal @ the Stubb, featuring Snoop Dogg – Crazy night in itself with limited VIP capacity and a huge group in tow; but with the scrappiness from TZ founder, Efren Toscano, everyone in the group got to see Snoop that night. Except for me, I was ejected from the party for having a protein shaker cup and an unauthorized camera in my backpack. One mile of running + a bag check later, I was back just in time to hear Snoop rap the show up with “The Next Episode”.

Photo Mar 10, 6 05 15 PM

Microsoft’s Titan Fall Launch w/ Childish Gambino – Open bar, Childish Gambino on the stage, and the premier of Microsoft’s Titan Fall with an infinite number of fully decked out gaming station? A seriously enjoyable event, despite undergoing massive heart palpitations from the high-pressure nature of Titan Fall.


Spontaneous Speakeasy – Oddly enough, one of my favorite events of the week. Our participation was totally random and off the cuff, and it’s where I stumbled upon LA-local band 8mm. Though they usually have a full band on tour, this particular evening was a special duet acoustic set with couple Sean and Juliette Beaven. The perfect auditory wind-down for the carnival feel of 6th street, SXSW.


Funny Or Die Party on Rainey Street – What’s not to love about dingy old 1900’s homes, gutted out and converted into divey pop-up style bars? A lot I guess, but for those who’ve spent some time on Rainey, you know what I’m taking about when I say the parties are interesting (in a good way). Granted you can get away from the young crowd, it’s one of the closest things you’ll get to reliving the red solo cup days.


SONOS’ House Party – Winner for my favorite party of the week. Friendly crowd, rooftop deck, awesome art-deco house, and free ice cream. What’s not to love? Sonos does their parties right.

And That’s a Wrap

So with that, we (almost) wrap our TZ’s sixth year in attending and covering SXSW (those interviews will be up shortly). And for each story today, there are dozens more left untold.

In the many years we’ve seen the event evolve from its first 9,000 attendees into a massive 30,000+ guest juggernaut, it does make us wonder from time to time, whether SXSW has lost itself in its roots. In light of a consistent stream of upturned noses and criticisms seen in different media outlets, there’s one thing I’d noticed for sure – as a first time attendee to the event.

The ones who were present, absolutely love it. Perhaps the message of SXSW has gotten lost in the big brand hooplah, but for many – at least, the ones I met, were networking, giving/attending talks, setting up meetings, making off the cuff connections, and in general, connecting with different entrepreneurs and individuals from all walks of life.

I spent a good chunk of my weekend writing a monstrous 3,000 word recap/survival guide of SXSW Music for the LA Music Blog and my biggest takeaway was:

With events of this scale – it’s a tough proposition to look at it through a black/white – good/bad lens. Instead, view your experience as a series of microevents that enable you to draw individual value from each connection you make.

You’ll enjoy your hustle (whatever it is) more that way, I promise.

All official photos of  SXSW Music here


Final Thanks to a truly unique experience staying with the good folks at RV Sherpa and their mission to become “The AirBNB of RV’s”. Meeting founder John Alexander by chance, and getting in on their Indiegogo funded campaign to create a SXSW RV Outpost to provide affordable hostel-style housing was a lifesaver in the remaining week at SXSW Music.

Staying here yielded an additional few days meeting some truly interesting folks – like Felix Weis, a German entrepreneur who won a Bitcoin hackathon and had been traveling through the states on nothing but his passport/ID, bitcoins, and cash pulled from BTC atms.

Or Kyle Jester and his startup Gandy.me, a site he’s building that reshapes the way local ad listings are explored – working from his RV, in A Buried Life style roadtrip.


Tim Wut

Tim Wut was once in pursuit of a paper-laden career in bankruptcy law. He now writes for TechZulu, covering startups and founder stories. He explores the inspiration that drives entrepreneurs and shares lessons learned in the startup trenches. Writer by trade, storyteller at heart.

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