Recap: Looking through the future at South By Southwest #sxsw #sxswi

22 03 2010

I was a sxsw virgin and so, have contributed to the inflation of SxSWi over last year (over 40% attendance increase over sxsw 2009). I have to say that more than once it did feel chaotic and quite elitist, nevertheless, I had a great learning experience. Here’s a rundown of all I saw, heard and thought over the  5 days I was there. I hope your enjoy my recap:

1. The battle over location and its convergence with augmented reality: These phenomena could be put in separate buckets but both trends are trying to bring more contextual information to individuals, especially when it comes to location. We poor humans are quite bound by our 5 senses and all these new developments aim at giving us more context, and better information. Location matters when I need advice. Brightkite (whoo-oo Colorado/Techstars) was definitely the early riser in location based tweets and seems to have forgotten about the social-ego centricity of many social apps. Foursquare which certainly was earlier to market, is clearly overshadowing Gowalla despite the industry trying to hype the location-war. These apps might be catering to much ego based activity, but I feel we’re just scratching the surface of what’s to come. Location based apps will tip in the next 12 months…just be prepared. On the augmented reality side, some quite impressive tech is starting to appear, like the GM windshield and others like Webcam Social Shopper,  and the Cannonballz Augmented Reality Game –  reality apps are now crossing into our daily lives and provide more information to users.

The future, the opportunity: Make the computer work to finally bring users a 6th sense. Make ‘check-ins’ become experiential check-ins, not just location. Augmented reality may feel like a lack of privacy but on-grid people see it as providing more value to their lives.

2. The ever becoming dream of crowdsourcing: @Jeffrey and @scottbelsky led an interesting panel on the subject. In June 2006, Jeff Howe coined the term “crowdsourcing” to express how a task performed by an employee could be performed by a large group outside. Back in ’07 at The Enthusiast Group, we launched “Grassroots Channels” for sports events which was a form of crowd based journalism, giving free entries to event participants was such a powerful way to activate thecitizen journalist’. The tools at the time were quite rudimentary (i.e. blogging) but we were getting good traction. Today’s tools are a lot more adequate and fill good niches as social computing has gone mainstream. Good examples are , or the beta (started by an ex-Facebook crew).
Base rules for crowdsourcing projects include: Activate crowds around a common purpose, based around an event. It has a beginning and an end. Incentives should be beyond the transaction and foster discussions. Most projects will achieve something larger than the sum of their parts.

The future/opportunity: As social tools have gone mainstream, there is a larger opportunity to get the crowd to perform better tasks than machines or dedicated staff. Wikipedia might be its best example. Social Search was also big at SXSW as it provides the hope for better contextual search. Facebook is becoming the largest threat to Google when it comes to Social Graph answers.

3. Globalizing the Social & its challenges: Being French and having lived in the US, NZ & Belgium before that, I was quite excited about this session. The US market is always able to seed and scale up its platforms because of its size. Other countries and especially European ones may have lots of startups and great internet dynamism, but it’s still hard to scale up because of the cultural/language factors. For example, I was struck when I met with an employee of (Sebastien Adgnot) who I knew of (the largest video platform from Europe), but which has been eclipsed by YouTube and other US based video platforms.

The future, the opportunity: There is to my knowledge, very little that can accommodate intercultural platforms for businesses… as a global business trying to engage with country communities and their constituents (fans etc..), there is nothing available… creating a facebook fan page per country is bound to fail. There is a great opportunity to cater to sub-cultures.

4. Startup mania: #seedacc – Extanz might be the 4th startup I have participated in and certainly the most sustainable one. I thoroughly enjoy the #seedacc (Seed Accelerators) which featured CEOs from 4 “Seed Accelerators”. If you have never heard the term, it’s usually a private entity (group of investors) which selects idea-stage ventures and puts them through a high-dose of mentoring, tech-social incubator experience to produce a semi-finished product in just a few months. The successful graduates of these programs usually take the fast lane to venture capital funding. Present in the panel were Techstars, YCombinator, VentureHacks, CapitalFactory with different styles and sharp comments, it was certainly one of the most lively panels I attended. 10 years ago, the barrier to entry was probably around $500k while it may be $50k today. The cost of dreaming and getting started has decreased dramatically: 2 founders on pizza, 2 laptops and access to the cloud + some great connected mentors… is pretty much the requirement for web startups these days.

The future/opportunity: The time from dreaming of an app to getting it in your users’ hands has shrunk making innovation cycles even faster. It really feels like Seed Accelerators are a viable model for many communities if the right ingredients are present.

5. Will social finally pierce the healthcare walled gardens? (#er20 – Emergency Room 2.0). This is SO important. What is more important than health, I wonder. I SO believe that healthcare like education, should be a human right. I can’t believe politics can even get involved. The er20 session was fascinating; that session alone was worth spending a whole day on it. Around the jammed room were people from all disciplines (from physicians to PR people…). We were all trying to address how social media can help deliver better health. My impression still was that too much conversation went around how to get hospitals engaged in using modern tools for marketing-conversations. The session truly tried to address how to improve patient health using the new forms of communication but privacy and liability seem to keep everyone talking first about how to get medical environments at least engaged using these platforms.

The future/opportunity: We all know that healthcare is cluttered and driven by interests secondary to patient health. Internet users are far from inactive and many examples like, or earlier are trying to increase patient-centered care… Healthcare might be slower but the opportunity is certainly many fold greater.

6. Zero Waste, the immediate challenge: #zerowaste session: Innovation, global warming, and green technology are all pushing in the same direction: zero waste. This session was very inspiring with leaders from SolDesignLab and Re-Char. SolDesignLab is installing solar stations across town for people to charge bikes & electric vehicles.

Re-Char’s model is to take agricultural waste, burn it and re-inject into the ground that can increase yield by 200% for crops. Small scale distribution works best to reduce collective energy spending.

The future/opportunity: There is a great opportunity for an online platform to collect information on sustainable practices put in place by local communities. No comprehensive platform exists today. There should be a way to simply get people and communities to compete online about their macro-level zero waste improvement… with social media based input.

7. The parties: I don’t think I have been to so many parties in 10 years or ever ,in such a short period of time and glad I went and then stopped :). I still have to applaud how well organized most of them were. The opening Frog party was probably a highlight; techno-geek ambiance with tons of interactive things to do — a blast…. adding DJ Music would have made it complete. The parties were the cherry on the cake, it’s so much easier to discover interesting folks at parties and learn from them.

The future/opportunity: Repeat at SXSW 2011

There is probably much more to be said and next year I’ll certainly be better prepared to handle the density and meet as many people as possible.
See you in 2011.

I look forward to read your impressions!!


What do Engagement and the Value Chain have in common?

12 06 2009

… they are both being rocked by 2.0 – You didn’t think that Web 2.0 and other social web toys were just for pushy marketers, or did you?

Starting with the old and maybe boring Michael Porter value chain allows me to set up a baseline for this piece.  Most of us may have been taught how organizations work. Yep, they add value, every segment of it does or it’s made redundant, especially these days 2.0. We were trained wrong however. There is a beginning and an end to your job, NOT. We’re more and more moving to a river of information in which employees, partners and customers participate.  Think about the news industry or soon to be former news industry. Tipping the journalist maybe the future because all us (we’re the media) are involved, we’re just re-netting the value chain here.  Quality will be rewarded, so why not?

Does the healthcare industry move in any other direction? I don’t think so. The patient and relationship centered care model is moving full speed ahead. The health value chain is a participatory one. Care should be a collective well synchronized effort, no one can claim total expertise and we are all tired of being overly monitored, tested, and analyzed for liability purposes.

Odell's-pollHere is another simple but true product development example (local to me).  Odell Brewery company in Colorado finally got on board with Twitter. They also had the idea to engage their constituents which is probably the most difficult thing to do in social media. Let’s do a TwitterBrew (#odelltwitbrew), they said and then polled their Twitter followers about a new beer and its taste features. They then asked for a new name (TwitterBrew wasn’t as cool as “Blackbird”) and even asked for a new design, getting people again to vote on the design +1,500 voted … Geez ,that was easy and all involving people around them! Ok, if you develop a new Intel chip, it may be a little trickier…. or not, and this is my point. The collective did it and their work is more accurate than anything Odell could have dreamed of.

There is a massive opportunity for everyone across the organization from HR to product design to sales to change the way we work. Here are another couple of examples. CRM (Customer Relationships Management) systems are huge complex systems to empower sales forces. CoTweet (Twitter CRM) is in beta but @Wholefoods and other big names are already using it. Comcast was an early adopter of Twitter as one of their service managers (Frank Eliason) decided to answer customer questions via this system (not a corporate decision). 10 other customer service people later and Frank, they have 20,000 + followers on twitter and are delivering real value.

How to make it work? Check out They integrate automation and people interaction messaging for corporations. Machines can tweet, hey why not? 🙂

Engagement is certainly the most empowering behavior that an organization can expect from their constituents. ‘They’ being ‘people’. Being inside the value chain or outside, engagement allows us to deliver and consume value. It’s time to rethink the value chain 2.0 style.

2.0 is awesome.


Social Media Interview With Walker Thompson [client]

30 03 2009
“I can find out more about you through the web than I can by spending an hour with you […]” Walker Thompson, VP of Sales and Marketing for Syndicom, Inc.

Last week we had the pleasure of interviewing Walker Thompson, VP of Sales & Marketing at
Syndicom Inc. Syndicom is a provider of a collaborative suite of products targeted at surgeons and medical device companies to work more efficiently.

Syndicom was definitely using traditional marketing and PR but felt they were lacking ways to engage with their wider market and influential blogosphere.
Walker felt that using RSS marketing could help Syndicom engage on their own terms and be able to distribute their own messages and content. As he puts it,  “I could suddenly present my message through many different networks (Facebook, Twitter etc….).” However, while Walker has been very active in the blogosphere for some time it was hard to know how to navigate through it in relation to the medical world. He struggled with how to spend time effectively using social media when he had other things to focus on and it’s moving so quickly —  a social media service provider was the only way go. Enter Extanz.

The results speak for themselves. Syndicom’s monthly website traffic has almost tripled in less than a year. This is significant given that Syndicom is a b2b niche focused business. Page views have doubled in the same 6 months and Syndicom’s Alexa ranking went from 7,000,000th place to 500,000th place in only a few months. The bottom line says Walker, “is that we’re relevant and part of the discussion.” People know what their product is, have a better idea of what they do and, by the way,  have read their blog!
Blogging is difficult by yourself, time consuming and sometimes frustrating, but the mothership of good social media programming. Syndicom used Extanz blogging as part of their sales education cycle with both business customers and core users. Combined with podcasts and comments on influential blogs, Syndicom’s content is more objective, professional and ethical. Return comments are a real indication of relational success. As Walker says, “Extanz clearly amplified reaching out to influential bloggers with a high level of vertical expertise. Other influential bloggers would inevitably come back and leave comments on our blog; this is real, influential, two way conversation.”
So what’s Walker’s conclusion on social media and online tools? “If you don’t embrace it, you’ll become irrelevant”. 90% of companies don’t have a blog and he thinks it’s critical to create trust. The way people work and interconnect has changed, if you don’t have a presence on these new media, you’re becoming harder to reach. Syndicom’s business is online and it’s pretty clear that online methods and tools are dramatically changing how medicine is practiced, research, discovered and taught.”
To hear more of Walker’s thoughts, listen to the podcast here:
To learn more about Extanz and how we can help you, click here.