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SXSW recap: A Finn in a whirl of tech and rubber ducks

During SXSW the city of Austin is full of tech events, gigs and film screenings. Credits: : Hutton Supancic

What’s the hype around South by Southwest (SXSW)? Juha Rippi from the Finnish company Vincit took part in the festival and unveils the highlights of the 2016 SXSW: the biggest trends in tech, how to cut the queues for RSVP parties and how the Nordic Lighthouse concept shed light on the Nordic startup scene.

For a first timer Texas-based South by Southwest can be overwhelming. The event is more like a festival than a traditional expo and consists of three parts: Interactive, Music and Film. The pure amount of events and exhibitors is incredible and a ton of time goes into research on what sessions to attend to.

Interactive

Interactive consisted of tons of presentations about technology and design and a huge trade show, where exhibitors presented their products and services. This year the registered attendance at the event was a whopping 72 000, not counting the thousands of people attending just the side events without an official badge.

Along with the main trade show, there were side exhibitions that each would have been a decent sized expo all by themselves in Finland. These were SXCreate, SXHealth&MedTech, Job Market, VR/AR showcase, Music Gear and Gaming Expo.

This year’s biggest trends in the trade show seemed to be different kinds of wearables, drones and augmented reality and virtual reality. Image: sxsw / Merrick Ales

Talks and presentations

I attended about 10 different talks. My highlight was Stephen Wolfram’s live coding and Q&A session. He and his team are doing cool stuff with the new Wolfram language. But overall, based on the ones I attended, the talks and presentations are not the reason why to come to SXSW, at least if you’re a programmer.

The trade show and the crazy stuff

The biggest trends in the trade show seemed to be different kinds of wearables, drones and augmented reality and virtual reality.

It seemed like almost every other booth had a VR headset. There was even a separate exhibition after the trade show dedicated to AR and VR. I checked out quite a few demos and the most promising ones seemed to be related to gaming and a more interactive way of storytelling. Maybe for gaming, this could mean a return of the arcades?

Our booth was located within the Scandinavian section, which had a large group of Nordic companies. I was happy to notice, that Finland was excellently presented with a total of 14 companies. We had over 200 rubber ducks to give out to the participants to help to solve their problems with coding. I suppose our idea appealed to the attendees as we ran out of ducks already during the second day of trade show. Better bring bigger suitcases for the ducks next year!

The trade show’s Asian section was a whole another story. They had come up with all kinds of crazy ideas and it was great fun taking a walk through their booths. My favourite was a party wig full of earphones. The idea is that you can share your music in a party to all your friends and maybe even sneakily attract the opposite sex closer to you.

Nordic Lighthouse

If Nordic countries were well represented in the trade show, the official Nordic SXSW venue made it even greater! Waller Creek Boathouse was turned into Nordic Lighthouse and it was used for a lot of events and workshops including VC startup meetups, music presentations by Nordic bands and film presentations from Nordic filmmakers. It was a great place to make new connections and talk to people.

Nordic Light House was a cooperation project between several organisations, companies and people from Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Norway. Image: Sxsw / Nordic Lighthouse

The festival

During SXSW the entire city of Austin is full of tech events, gigs and film screenings. It’s a wonderful combination of festival and tech. The city also boasts multiple RSVP parties hosted by different companies, so if you plan your schedule well beforehand, you shouldn’t have to pay for many meals or drinks during your SXSW experience. Getting in to RSVP events usually requires a pre-registration, but there’s an app for that! RSVPster signs you into all the parties and events, so you don’t have worry about registrations.

The verdict

Even though being slightly overwhelmed by just the magnitude of everything that was going on around us, we still managed to pull off a really successful trip. We got a bunch of new leads and contacts, learned new things from the presentations, were introduced to a lot of new companies at the trade show and most importantly solved hundreds of people’s problems by handing them a rubber duck.

Juha Rippi from the Finnish company Vincit took part in the South by Southwest festival to see and hear what’s going on in the tech scene. Image: SXSW / Lisa Hause

This article was originally posted on Nordic Startup Bits

By: Juha Riippi
24.03.2016