SXSWi Nightcap: Day Four

By Lillian Brown, Partner, Director, Communications Planning, Mindshare

This year, SXSWi has DOUBLE the amount of startup related programming as it did in 2014. It's hard to believe given that the entrepreneurial spirit is nothing new and the conference hasn't delivered many breakout stars in the past few years. But it seems like SXSW programmers are intent on changing that.

While the last few days have been spent on the macro topics of content, data, wearables, and the Internet of Things, today was all about the art of the startup - an effort to extract as much inspiration and novelty as possible.

My quest was to get a feel for the stability and viability of the tech startup space in 2015, stemming from a comment made by Bill Gurley yesterday in conversation with Malcolm Gladwell: "There is absolutely no fear in Silicon Valley right now, a complete absence of fear...I think you'll see some dead unicorns this year.”

A few themes emerged over the course of the day:

1) The startups of the future will be mostly centered around social good and having a great deal of empathy for humans.

2) Too many startups aren't leading with a discussion around their technology and what makes it unique. There's a fine balance between wanting to launch quickly and being able to fully articulate your value proposition.

3) In the social space, innovation is happening on a micro-level for the most part. The exodus from Facebook is slow as startups try to figure out how to pull people away from a platform that's as ubiquitous as electricity.

4) Big data and the use of it to create startup solutions that deliver on consumer needs is more rampant this year than last. Privacy was an overwhelming theme last year, but this year we feel much more comfortable with sharing (whether we know it or not) our data in exchange for value and utility.

Overall, the speculation and anticipation of a tech bubble (or risk bubble according to Bill Gurley) is real. But while we all place bets on who the dead unicorns will be, we can all rest assured that this year’s event produced a breakout startup star: Meerkat. Let's all do a slow clap for SXSW and the industry at large.