SXSW Extra credit for finding bright people

SXSW: Best of Show

Top 3 Themes Discussed at Bars:

  1. It only takes a few people to create a legitimate business. Craigslist is 19 people. 37Signals is somewhere around 5… maybe 6? These are the name brand companies who are leading the charge… so what the hell is SixApart doing with 100+ folks and 23 million?
  2. Should I take VC money or not? It depends what you’re building, but software is free and hardware has dropped like a rock, so unless your idea is infrastructure intensive, fund it yourself.
  3. Fucking Charge For It. Relayed at the Fried/Coudal keynote. There is lots of hand-wringing regarding pricing models for web services. Fried’s point was, charge for it. If no one pays, you’re charging too much or your product blows. Yes, you’ll see less traffic when money gets in the way, but YOU NEED MONEY and PEOPLE WILL PAY FOR VALUE.

Best Holy Shit:

In aviation, the Big Sky Theory is that two randomly flying bodies will likely never collide because there’s a huge amount of sky up there. Remember all those World War II movies where the planes are flying through what appears a sea of explosions? How do they survive? They hide in the plentiful amount of sky.

The Rands Big People Theory is a variant of this idea and it applies to gathering audiences for Your Great Idea. You may be wondering whether or not there is an audience for whatever that idea is… and, if there an audience, how big it’ll be. Like there is a huge amount of sky over your head, there is an equal amount of people on the planet and, I swear, your brain can not conceive of the size of this number. In fact, my guess is your brain is tricking you into thinking something silly like, “Well, I’ve been to New York and, boy, that’s a lot of people… so the planet probably has more than that… but it still feels New Yorkish, right?”

No. There’s more. I can give you a pretty precise number, but your brain is going to try make sense of that number and it can’t. Here’s a better way. One of the SXSW panels was about making money via web comics and one of the featured panelists did a successful comic about, wait for it, libraries. The author talked about how librarians loved him and how he spoke at library conferences.

If you mailed me and wrote, “Rands, I’ve got a great idea for a web comic. I really want to tackle that whole emerging library meme”, I would giggle, wish you much luck, and giggle some more. Yet, here’s this fellow at SXSW explaining how he’s making cash money on this library web comic.

If some dude can scribe a library web comic and touch a significant population there is no way that your kooky idea can’t find an audience.

Best Panel:

It actually wasn’t a panel, it was a presentation by Daniel Gilbert entitled “How to do precisely the right thing at all possible times.” His pitch was how the human brain is prone to errors in estimating odds and estimate value when making decisions. Wonderful, fact filled presentation.

Best Conference Quirk:

SXSW is the first conference I’ve been to where panelists and presenters swear. Fuckin’ A.

Best Keynote:

Craig Newmark. Not only valuable insight into the workings of Craigslist, but also an entertaining interview. Craig’s title is Customer Service Rep which he chose because Craigslist is a site generated by his customers. His philosophy is to get out of the way and let people do their thing. Humble guy and inspirational content.

Best Bar Crawl:

The key to any conference where you are going to network with random folks is to finish the last night of the conference drunk and closing the bar. Extra credit for finding a bright group of folks where it’s terribly difficult to get a word in edgewise. Tip of the hat to the Hilton Bar Closing Club:

Special Thanks:

Lastly, I’d like to thank the panelists who joined me for the Sink or Swim panel. These four gentlemen came from vastly different parts of the country to sit down and explain the important decisions they’ve made in building their businesses. I’m incredibly thankful for their participation.

See you all next year.

4 Responses

  1. It was great to be at that table with you, too. And thanks for not outing me here 😉 !

  2. Rands: we’ll drink like that again next year. And like Chris says, you’re a good sport for not outing him for being a Windows user.

  3. Rands, I thoroughly enjoyed your panel and regret not bumping into you during the miscellaneous extra-curricular activities. Maybe next year!

  4. Dude, I read that web comic about librarians. It’s good stuff. 🙂

    The expression among my tribe is “Every kink you can imagine, it’s on the ‘net somewhere.” s/kink/niche/; and I think we’re on the same page.