And just like that, another SXSW has come and gone – a two-week whirlwind that can be overwhelming for even the most experienced attendees. Three hundred thousand people meet up in Austin, Texas, annually to talk innovation, music and film. And while I agree with The Verge reporter Nick Statt that SXSW has lost some of the innovative glimmer that made it the debut platform for Twitter more than a decade ago, the conference still offers plenty of sessions and experiences to inform and inspire its attendees.
Blockchain is for real
A lot of talk about the benefits of doing business on blockchain revolved around trust or the lack of trust, actually. Edelman’s Trust Barometer Global Report cites that “trust is on the decline,” and many believe blockchain can help address this since it’s a transparent platform with a decentralized verification system.
Finance, supply chain and healthcare are markets that appear to be on the front-end of blockchain, seeking to extract quantifiable value from the distributed ledger. There’s also the fear of missing out, which I think has companies in these categories, among others, jumping in the game. As long as companies are leveraging blockchain to solve a problem and not just chasing the shiny object and perceived cool factor, I’m all for it.
Perhaps my prediction for blockchain was a bit obvious, and, sure, it was very interesting to learn more about cryptography, but I left SXSW feeling most inspired by sessions that looked beyond innovation and addressed changing the culture of the tech industry and beyond into more inclusive places. Here are a couple takeaways from that.
Organizations are prioritizing diversity and inclusion
Diversity in tech was a hot topic last year too, although the conversation evolved from simply recognizing there is a lack of diversity to talking about how people and organizations are challenging the status quo to foster more diversity. Some days, it feels like we’re at the tipping point, while other days we’re reminded we still have a ways to go.
Anyone can help facilitate change
Whether it was Melinda Gates, U.S. Senator Chris Coons or chefs Jose Andres and Andrew Zimmern, these thought leaders from different backgrounds had a common message:
It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do. You can and should foster positive change for yourself and for others. It doesn’t have to be big. Find your own cause and act. The worst thing you can do is nothing.
I really think the convergence of innovation and culture is what makes SXSW so special. SXSW informs. SXSW inspires. And that’s what keeps me coming back for more.
Until next time, SXSW.