How Austin – home to SXSW – stays vibrant with tech and innovation

A growing theme on this blog has been about how to grow a smart and innovative city. Its something we’ve been tackling here in Newcastle as we evolve from our old industrial base to something more vibrant and sustainable.

One model we’ve been looking at is Austin, Texas. Over the last decade Austin was the 3rd fastest growing city in the USA, booming to its current population of 790,000.

Its no coincidence that Austin is home to the famous SXSW festival, part of which is one of the biggest tech industry events in the world. This has led to Austin becoming home to around 3900 tech companies employing over 100,000 people.

Here is a 30 second video from Susan Davenport, senior vice president of the Austin Chamber of Commerce explaining how technology and innovation have helped build a great city.

Other posts on this topic:

My plan for creating an innovative city

How to build a smart city

A glimpse into the future at SXSW and Web 2.0

Over at the Marketing Magazine site, I’ve posted a story called A glimpse into the future at SXSW and Web 2.0 chronicling the latest web, media and marketing initiatives I observed on my recent US conferences trip. There’s some really relevant information for Australian business considering the Rudd government’s recent National Broadband Network announcement. Please give the story a “Thumbs Up YES” if you find it useful.

SXSW 2009 pictorial

The South by South West Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas is a week of great information, meetings, exhibitions and parties. Here’s some of the action I caught this year at SXSW:
Pre-launch drinks in Austin's Warehouse District

Pre-launch drinks in Austin

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Almost free: how to work & play overseas for a month the Web 2.0 way

I am currently in the middle of a month long trip around North America. Its a mix of work and play and it has cost a lot less than you would expect. Why? Because I have used a few clever strategies and a whole lot of web services and technology so that I can work and play and save money.

This post sets out how its possible to work and play overseas for a month or more without neglecting your business or spending too much.

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SXSW Interactive Festival Wrap

South by South West (SXSW) is the most significant event of the US digital and interactive conference circuit. It attracts A-List bloggers, the biggest and best tech companies, ambitious start-ups and thousands and thousands of the brightest minds in the online community to Austin, Texas for an amazing week of information, presentations and evening events.

SXSW is an extremely stimulating and almost overwhelming experience. Thousands of people constantly move around the Austin Convention Centre heading to the various panels and presentations. Multiple events are held simultaneously, making it hard to choose which to attend. Many attendees attempt to check out more than one session in an hour, while others follow one event on Twitter whilst attending another.

For many, the greatest value of SXSW is meeting and talking with others they have only previously known online, or holding impromptu doorway meet-ups with so many keen minds.

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SXSW Day One first impressions

Austin, Texas

The South by South West Interactive festival is underway in Austin and the tech-set crowd had descended from all corners of the globe.

The first thing to try to comprehend is the size of this event. It is massive. Thousands and thousands of the web industry elite have come to learn, listen and speak. Its like Lollapallooza for the Twitter set.

And Twitter is once again a major topic on everyone’s lips. Two years ago Twitter was launched at SXSWi, but this year it is the main form of digital communication for the attendees. Everyone is tweeting their whereabouts, tracking each other down, announcing flash-parties and recording their thoughts and observations.

BlogTalkRadio interview tents

BlogTalkRadio interview tents

Needless to say, Twitter has been pushed to its physical limits and the fail whale has beached itself here a few times already.

The Austin Convention Center is also a massive venue, taking a good 15 minutes to walk from one side to the other. Rooms are jammed with various interactive panels and sponsors mini-events.

There’s an amazing carnival-like atmosphere throughout downtown Austin and everyone is incredibly friendly. They see the SXSW badges and just start talking.

Given the scale of the event and shear volume of panels, sessions and parties, its nearly impossible to work to a plan. Its best to just go with the flow and be very fluid in your thinking. One minute you’re heading to a panel, the next you’ve been invited to a local bar to have a chat with someone.

The SXSW Interactive Festival officially kicked off around noon on Friday 13 Mar, but Thursday night was already in full swing. Once we picked up our badges/passes, here were several pre-launch parties in the downtown area that lasted well into the morning.

Pepsico SXSW Interactive display

Pepsico SXSW Interactive display

Mack Collier told me prior to arriving that the social events are more important than the panels and I’m starting to believe him. You can suddenly find yourself at a restaurant table or bar stool talking to a dot com start up legend, Weblebrity, or social media guru.You can learn more in 5 minutes there than 2 or 3 sessions.

In the last two nights I have had drinks and chats with (in no order, and I will forget more names than I remember): Dave Armano (@armano), Kevin Rose (@kevinrose), Kevin Gawthrope (@gawthrok), Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee), Beth Harte (@bethharte), Heather Rast (@heatherrast), Jeffrey Kalmikoff (@jeffrey), Ken Yeung (@kyeung808), Jason Baer (@jaybaer), Seth from TNT (@mostlymuppet), Leigh Duncan-Durst (@livepath), and Rebecca Caroe (@rebeccacaroe). There are so many more but its hard to keep track of everyone.

SXSW is a mind-blowing experience. Its almost impossible to take it all in and not suffer sensory overload. Its one event every web-focussed business person should get to.