9 Mar 2013

All posts from 9 Mar 2013


SXSW Wrap-up Day 2

Flip the Media’s day 2  wrap-up of South by Southwest Interactive . A big day here at SXSW Interactive as the stars came out to educate and and enlighten us.

Carolyn Higgins:

It was a fabulous morning for anyone who cares about design. Two sessions not apparently related espoused very similar themes: function and aesthetics, stop fighting right now! Aesthetics become one with function to make life better for us all – think of a prosthetic leg that really looks like the user’s original leg. Why settle for less? The future is here.

3-D printing is about to be ubiquitous – we may see people packing them around like old fashioned hurdy gurdy organs.

But Al Gore – unplugged – stole the show for me. I’ll never forget hearing him call the war in Iraq a “dumbass decision”.

Bizzy Schorr:

SX seemed to really kick it into gear today. The lines were longer, the panels fuller, the sidewalks busier, and the restaurants booked to bursting. Finding a nice quiet restaurant close to the convention center where we could grab a bite and do some writing quickly turned out to be a pipe dream. Seriously, you’d think that by 2 pm the lunch rush would be about over, but no. Still, got to see some amazing panels on the future of product production, specifically 3D printing, which is turning into an actual thing!

Daimon Eklund:

Two car-sharing services are competing for buzz among SXSW attendees in Austin this week, UberX and SideCar. Both aim to connect people who want a ride with private car owners who are willing to take them. The only catch? Austin made it illegal for private operators to take money from customers for rides.

So both services have decided to simply hire a fleet of drivers who are giving free rides around Austin. For conference goers, this means not having to wait for a taxi, shuttle or try to find a Car2Go to get home. So far, I haven’t had to wait more than five minutes for a car, even at peak times downtown or at our homebase a few miles from the main SXSW venues. We’ll see if response times keep up with the crowds throughout the event, but either way the move has been a win for UberX and SideCar.

Patrick Doherty:

Today I managed to up my session quotient from one to five. I still managed to be turned away from 3 – but you can’t be bitter! The day started with an overview of the impact and potential of mobile technology in Africa – huge – The numbers are staggering and I’m hoping to get to go to Africa’s version of SXSW- Tech4Africa – next year – I’m sure the lines will be shorter.

Next was a look at vertical social networks – basically professional or skill based networks. An interesting idea that is gaining some traction. Wave which is for small businesses – is signing up 1300 new users a day.

Then I took off to space with Elon Musk, the founder of Paypal who now spends his time spending his fortune on space rockets, solar cities and Tesla cars. So he’s busy.

I’ll leave you to read my post on the sharing economy. Suffice to say its a growing trend to watch

Finally was a look at equity based crowd funding and a new term… Crowdfunomics – we’ll see if it takes off.

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SXSW Wrap-up Day 2

The Future of “Wearables”

Smart armband, smart jacket, GPS shoes

Smart armband, smart jacket, GPS shoes

This morning Carolyn Higgins and Bizzy Schorr had the opportunity to check out a presentation by Jennifer Darmour of Artefact, a Seattle based product design company, on the history, present state, and future of wearable technology.Jennifer’s presentation went through a whirlwind of prototype products: scarves and bike jacket collars that transform into air bag bike helmets; fancy coats with built in safety lights for bike riders; shoes that track your GPS position and give you directions via tiny embedded lights on the toes; rings that help you get the most out of your workout; and a pilates inspired shirt that guides your form precision.

Jennifer’s recommended criteria–which seem spot on and which current prototypes are starting to follow–include beauty (it has to be aesthetically pleasing), periphery (it should make use of more than our direct line of sight, and respond to natural body movements (i.e. train it to interact with us, rather than training ourselves to interact with the technology)), and meaning (the data collected should be easy to decipher and apply).

While the concept of wearable tech is making great progress as far as building products that could be considered fashion in their own right, the two big hurdles are battery packs and making it washable. Jennifer didn’t mention the new graphene supercapacitors, but we expect to see some integration in the future.

As exciting as these developments are, neither of us is ready to jump on the bandwagon. Check back on March 12th as we continue the conversation.

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The Future of “Wearables”

Value from nothing – the sharing economy

The Sharing Economy by Patrick DohertyAirBnbetsy and Relay Rides are the current poster children of the sharing economy. If you don’t know what that is, it’s also called collaborative consumption or peer-to-peer selling. In other words, just fancy names for one person selling or renting their stuff to another person. Clearly this is not a new idea but it has never really been possible to do it on such a large scale. In the case of a site like Etsy – which describes itself as a global marketplace for unique goods, from furniture to food – they have allowed the local artisan to take his or her products far beyond the confines of their communities, towns, cities or countries and sell to a global market.

Tim O’Reilly, tech venture capital pioneer and CEO of O’Reilly Media, moderated a panel at SXSW Interactive with Nate Blecharczyk, CTO and co-founder of AirBnb, Juliet Gorman, communications director of Etsy, and Shelby Clark, founder of Relay Rides, and they explored some drivers of growth in the sharing economy as well as what it takes to be successful. It kind of goes without saying that the convergence of social networks, commercial payment, distribution and logistics technology – and perhaps a greater willingness for people to explore alternative income streams in tough economic times – created the right conditions for peer-to-peer selling to take off.

As Blecharcyzk of AirBnb explained, people have been able to rent their vacation homes relatively easily for years but now by removing many of the logistical blockages AirBnB have made it a much simpler and cost effective exercise. So much so that most of the accommodations on AirBnB are not vacation homes but people’s primary residences. By removing hassle and friction from the process they have effectively created an entire new inventory  of accommodation – people’s homes.  The change has been equally large for the renter, as AirBnB took the hassle out of the booking process by making it just as easy to book a private home as booking a hotel room.

At the heart of what makes these ventures successful  according to the panel, is they offer something new to both the buyer and the seller. For the buyers it’s access to some very unique, very customized experiences. On AirBnB, for example, you can choose to have the experience of sharing someone’s home with them, thus getting to know the home owner on a personal level. Or you can rent the whole place – from the smallest to the most luxurious space in just about any location around the globe. With Relay Rides you can rent some fairly specialist types of vehicles in different locations, and with Etsy you can access goods from across the globe. For the buyer there is often a sense of satisfaction in making a purchase that helps at the individual or community level – not just forking more cash over to corporations.

Sellers gain the obvious benefit of another source of income. But what is truly interesting is the creation of value, in some cases where none existed before. As Clark from Relay Rides explained, you are taking what is essentially a depreciating asset that costs money to run and turning it into an investment with an income stream attached. Most thought it was unlikely people would seek to use their services as a lone form of income. But Blecharcyzk suggested the average AirBnB owner in San Francisco makes around $9,000 a year from their rentals. By no means enough to live off, but certainly enough to finance a couple of holidays or an investment in a passion project. For Gorman and Etsy, she claims its not always about the money for their sellers as they tend to be artists who are passionate about their work. But she says it’s certainly indicative of a shift in the way people work to have a few diversified sources of income.

So how to be successful if you are thinking of setting up some kind of sharing service? First and foremost, all agreed, it’s about trust. It can be a scary notion to rent out your home to a complete stranger or jump into a stranger’s car, so as the service provider you have to make sure that you can allay these fears as much as possible. It’s why AirBnB insures each owner up to $1 million and why Relay Rides does extensive background checks on its users. So far, AirBnB’s biggest payout is $10,000 to cover a trashed apartment. Not a happy experience, no doubt, but perhaps its a little easier to take the risk if you know there’s $1 million worth of insurance behind you.

It’s also important to have a band of passionate advocates who are willing and able to evangelize about the service from the beginning. It can take time for the word to get out. AirBnB has facilitated over 4 million bookings in its 4 years of existence – but 3 million of those happened last year.  So the next lesson is to make sure you can handle the wave when it comes.

As with all “latest big things” it will be interesting to see how these services morph. No doubt, given the experience of the grad daddy of them all, eBay, and the journey it has taken, much of that change and innovation will come from the users. What services will next become part of the sharing economy is anyone’s guess. But if you are trying to think of one, just remember to find something that creates value from the previously valueless and gives the customer that unique, one-of-a-kind experience.


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Value from nothing – the sharing economy

SXSW Wrap-up Day 1



Flip the Media will post a wrap-up after each day of South by Southwest Interactive with notes and images on how the day went from the vantage points of each member of our team.

Carolyn Higgins attended two sessions on Day 1 – the Keynote with Bre Pettis of Makerbot, and Ninjaneering: Where Fine Art meets High Tech.  She noted that there was a common theme between both panels: lightning-fast advances in technology and the merging of design and engineering are giving us new ways to solve problems and forcing us to create new structures for how we work and interact.

Daimon Eklund writes, “The Austin sky was had a distinct Seattle flavor on the opening day of SXSW, as a light, misting rain fell for much of the day. It didn’t present much of a problem, and at least one company took advantage by handing out branded, bright orange ponchos to SXSW attendees outside the Austin Convention Center.”  Also noted was the unexpected orderliness of the (non-existent) conference registration lines.  Check-in took less than 10 minutes.  Even well-attended panels throughout the day lacked long waits to get in.

Bizzy Schorr attended the Consumerization of Revolution panel.  Her first day at SXSW taught her the importance of flexible communication platforms & coordinating those platforms with all key users.  However, the best platform is still face-to-face communication.

Patrick Doherty writes “Today was meant to be a full day of sessions here at SXSW Interactive – I made it to one. The OMMA set of panels looked like to was going to be great until they didn’t have enough  room – the line began forming at 8am apparently and was getting longer as I got there around 11. On top of that they changed the times and topics of the panels with out telling the folks at SXSW. So most of the people in the line were not standing in line for events that were no longer happening. Epic fail! The one panel I did make it to was on Gamification and Big Data for Enterprises. Nothing particularly insightful other than the possibility of using big data and gaming principles to help people predict what is the right steps to take in their career path in order to get that CEO job. If only it was that easy!”

Conrado Tapado notes that ‘serendipity’ and ‘logistics’ could easily be two words to describe the SXSW experience.  Today, while dashing off to a meeting, he had to think about different ways to get to his destination. Too expensive for a taxi, too far for a walk, and not on the SXSW shuttle route. Ultimately deciding on a Car2Go.  As he got in, he noticed a brand ambassador filling up the car with swag bags.  A friendly young lady named Grace offered him one. On a whim, he snapped her photo and asked if he could ask her a few questions for our blog.  She casually mentioned that their communications team would be a better contact. Within 30 mins, his phone rang. Within two hours, he was sitting down with the CTO, Corporate Communications Manager, and Communications Specialist for an exclusive interview. An incredible first day!

To follow all of the action from Flip the Media’s team at SXSW, you can follow the #ftmsx hashtag on Tagboard.


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SXSW Wrap-up Day 1