Last week I introduced the first half of our amazing speakers from our Movers & Shapers event. This is my final blog post in this series — please enjoy learning from the second half of our phenomenal speakers!

  • Kyle Flaherty, VP, Solutions Marketing, Rapid7
    Kyle used his time to talk about The New World Order and focused on the threat landscape from a marketer’s point of view. Marketers now represent one of the most visible threat landscapes on the horizon. He kicked things off on a bit of an ominous note: while technology has enabled all of us to work faster and smarter and has brought so many benefits to all of us, the downside the security risks it creates. Kyle reminded us that the bad guys outnumber us, are much better funded, are better trained and are way more motivated to get at your data than security companies are to protect your data. That reality impacts billions of dollars for companies and can sometimes cost lives.  Based on Rapid7’s research, most of the hacks we read about against today’s corporations boil down to one thing: compromised credentials. In other words, we have your user name and password. How do the bad guys get it? through social engineering. Kyle spent a minute talking about the pride that some of us take in our marketing (technology) stack for good reason: according to Gartner, by 2017, marketers will have more budget to spend on technology than CIOs. Crazy when you think about it… But with more technology comes more potential vulnerabilities. Kyle then showed an example of how attackers used technology to attack a published marketing stack along with a little business research to create a fake LinkedIn account for the company’s CEO to ultimately gain access to the company’s website.  So, what can marketers do? 1) Ditch PassWORDS for PassPHRASES. 2) Enable two-factor authentication everywhere you can. 3) Use tools like TinEye for reverse image searches via your browser. 4) To check about the safety of an attachment or URL, check out VirusTotal. 5) Use a tool like Okta for single sign on…  You can check out Kyle’s session right at the the 2 hour 26 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.

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  • Josh Kampel, President, Techonomy
    Josh joined us to talk about the Techonomic Future of Business. The whole idea behind Techonomy as an organization is to understand technology’s broader impact on business and the world in general. To understand that, Josh and others on the team (like Founder and CEO David Kirkpatrick) travel the world to interview business executives about technology’s impact on society. Before joining the Techonomy team, Josh had business experience with two industries facing disruption: first the music business in 1999. Napster began the disruption in 2001, he stayed in the industry until 2004 when he made the move to another industry about to be under siege at the time: newspaper publishing. 6 months after starting, Craigslist burst onto the scene, decimating newspaper classified ads… one of their most important revenue streams. His real-world experience of living through disruption has positioned him well to look at innovation within companies and recognizing disruptive forces and how companies can change to be part of it instead of a business casualty. Josh then walked the audience through examples of disruption where upstart companies forced big, established players to change business models. You can check out Josh’s session right at the the 2 hour 38 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.

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  • Chuck Hemann, Director, Digital Analytics at Intel
    Chuck is another person I have an immense of respect for. He led much of W2O’s analytics efforts when I joined the company almost three years ago. Fast forward to today, and he’s been heading Intel’s analytics’s efforts for the last 18 months. He sat down with our own Aaron Strout to discuss the topic Global Data Supply Chain and its impact on Intel. Regarding Intel’s journey, one of the first steps Chuck took to help move Intel forward was to invest heavily in their marketing stack. The goal for them was simple: to assemble a set of technology tools so they could put marketing metrics into the hands of marketers to let them draw insights from the data for their area of the business. In making that transition, Regarding their marketing stack, Chuck said it’s not the Field of Dreams. For Intel, it was a case of if you build it, they don’t necessarily come. What they quickly realized is how sophisticated the technology is doesn’t really matter. People are the engine that really make things run. To execute on their analytics vision, Intel asked the questions, “Are we measuring the right things? Do we have the right frameworks in place, do we have the right teams in place? Can we do this outside the United States? That led them to remaking many of their analytics’s frameworks, hiring more people with diverse skill sets, standardizing all their reporting and establishing reporting cadences so marketers knew when they would receive insights on a regular basis.  Now, 18 months later, having that infrastructure in place helps Chuck’s team provide marketers with insights information on complex campaigns around the world (like like Gaga’s recent moving tribute to David Bowie during the Grammys). When Aaron asked Chuck to talk more about the importance of people in the midst of so many data measurement tools, he had this to say…  data is only going to get more plentiful, it’s only going to get cleaner and more  accessible. As that technical reality happens, the importance of people in the equation is only going to grow. To that end, Chuck liken’s his team as insights consultants who sit in between the technology and the marketers trying to make sense of all the data. That person’s role is to be the himan face of that data. You can check out Chuck and Aaron’s discussion session just before the the 2 hour 59 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.

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  • Kip Knight – President, H&R Block
    Keep didn’t join us as the president of US retail operations at H&R Block. Instead, he discussed US Marketing and Communications College (USMCC) Real World Case Study that he helped implement for the US government. In other words, he shared details about his efforts and role as a professor in the US State Department. Kip has been a marketer at big companies for more than 30 years. He believes marketing is one of the strongest disciplines we have. And it’s something we’ve seen can be used for good or evil. In 2008, Kip got a call from the Whit House. He was asked to meet with the National Security Council to look at ways to improve the US’s image abroad. He along with two other marketers presented to members of the National Security Council.  At the end of that initial meeting. Kip made it clear that he didn’t think anything they discussed would have any impact on things moving forward. When he was asked for a proposal, Kip recommended assembling a group of marketers from other US businesses with the goal of helping the National Security Council better understand how to communicate with key audiences. They agreed, and that’s when Kip worked to pull together a team to help establish a curriculum that ultimately became the foundation for the US Marketing Communication College. The goal was to assemble a team that reflected world-class marketing thinking made up from professionals from leading American companies to teach US government agencies in a way that would enable diplomats to tackle 21st-century communications challenges. They started the effort by introducing the ABCDE Communication model as a framework for the curriculum they established. A) Audience B) Behavioral Objectives C) Content D) Delivery E) Evaluation. Ultimately, the group established a 1 week curriculum that is among the highest rating series of classes in the State Department. Since 2008, they’ve used 10 US Marketing College Sessions to train over 500 diplomats. Kip then shifted to discuss what he called the ultimate communications challenge: How do you market against ISIS? The team is set to meet to discuss approaches to tackle that difficult challenge. Initial State Department efforts like #ThinkAgainTurnAway have received lots of criticism from the media. It’s not easy. It will take a collective effort from the best minds in the space. Kip asked Bob Pearson on stage. Bob mentioned the upcoming meeting later this week with the US Institute for Peace.  Bob put the call out to US marketers and social media teams.,,, if your company wants to help or even if you as an individual are interested in joining the coalition to assist with these anti-ISIS efforts, reach out to Bob via Twitter (@bobpearson1845) to discuss. You can check out Kip’s session right at the the 3 hour 46 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
  • Jesse Knish Photography Jesse Knish PhotographySanjay Dholakia, CMO, Marketo
    Sanjay joined us to discuss Marketing Automation and the New Era of Engagement. He’s had tons of business experience along his career: from consultant to CEO of a public company to CMO. He loves his current role—as CMO of a company with lots of clients, he gets to talk to many smart marketers with the goal of working to help them make sense of the data streams from their marketing stacks. He learns more from the marketing folks working through that transition. All this data has changed all our expectations as consumers. He referenced Amazon as an example of a company that has moved things forward in a big way. Why? Because they’re the ones who’ve figured out how to use data in a way that serves us as customers. We all know Amazon goes way beyond basic demographic data that some marketers still use today. Example: when Sanjay goes to Amazon.com, his home page is filled with women’s clothing. Why? Because he inly goes there to buy gifts for his wife. Amazon knows that and adjusts his experience accordingly. They could try to sell him millions of SKUs based on demographic data, but they don’t. Bottom line, Sanjay argued that he buys a lot from Amazon.com because they’ve figured out how to become useful. Being useful  or helpful is the new baseline in terms of customer expectations. That’s why it’s something all marketers should strive to do. You can check out Sanjay’s session right at the the 4 hour  mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
  • Jesse Knish Photography Jesse Knish PhotographyBrian Solis, Author and Principal, The Altimeter Group
    Christopher Wilder sat down to interview Brian about his new book, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design. Chris asked him first what he means by “user experience.” According to Brian, a lot of things we do in business today are based on philosophies from the 60s or 70s. And many times we’re measured against those old standards. Brian says experience is human, it’s emotional. An example of getting at user experience: Asking a fellow attendee, “How’s your SXSW going?” When Brian set out to write his book he sought to answer the question: What is an experience between a company and a customer?  While there’s no single answer, Brian defines an experience as a human reaction to any moment. Companies have lots of ways to create moments with a potential customer: marketing information, buying an item in a retail store, contacting customer service, etc. For customers, the experience is really the sum of all of those individual moments. Besides some of those methods being used to create those moments are based on outdated philosophies, the other problem is that all of those moments on the company side are managed by different parts of the business that most like don’t talk to each other. All the tools are there for companies to start to fix that. You can check out Chuck’s session a little over the 4 hour 35 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.

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Matthew Zito, Chief Strategy Officer, Synthesio; Joshua March, CEO, Conversocial

Matthew and Joshua discussed the 4 Stages of the Customer Buying Cycle along with what brands can do from in terms of social engagement along all of those stages. Here are the stages they discussed:

1) Research – Information gathering stage.. may ask friends for recommendations, read Yelp reviews, a person may do basic Google searches.

2) Interaction – This is typically the stage where a customer reaches out to a brand, a merchant, or other customers seeking more detailed information.

3) Purchase – This is the point where a customer actually buys a product from a brand, merchant or reseller. It’s at this point that brands receive the most data about their customer, basic demographic data, etc.

4) Perception – This is the what do you think of the product? phase. It’s where the customer has gone through the purchase, setup or installation process, has formed opinions after some amount of using the product, and may begin to share more detailed opinions online.

Joshua made the point with today’s social tools, brands have the opportunity for social engagement during any of the four buying stages. Matthew reiterated that 80% of the customers who have solid social levels of engagement with that brand or more loyal to that brand. The other bonus for brands is that customers are sharing more buying intent kinds of conversations via social, and many of those updates are public data. Joshua mentioned the trend of public social engagement extending to the private side, where Facebook recently allows customers to reach out to brands privately through Facebook Messenger. Both Matthew and Joshua highlighted Facebook’s now enabling transaction purchase receipts inside Messenger, so customers can now have lots of information at their fingertips when they may need it down the road. According to Joshua it doesn’t matter where a customer buys a product, since they are more than likely social and mobile. That means they are taps away from tweeting a question, able to post reviews, etc. Both Matthew and Joshua recognized the increasing importance of prompt responses when customers do reach out for help. Matthew cited a recent study that shows brands who responded promptly and helpfully consistently had the highest Net Promoter Score (NPS) ratings when they responded to customers within 30 minutes. NPS scores trailed off pretty dramatically the longer customers have to wait. Both also agreed that that 30 minute response expectation from customers is getting shorter and shorter. You can check out the joint discussion session just before the 4 hour 16 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream

 

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We kicked off our 2nd annual Movers & Shapers event (last year known as Geekfest) on Saturday here during SXSW. This one featured several people I’m lucky to call friends. As Bob Pearson mentioned, we chose this list of speakers because many of them are shaping the future of business in this digital age.

Thanks to our clients, partners and sponsors and W2O employees who made today (and our other #SXW2O events) possible. Below are a few highlights from each of the speakers.

  • Javier Boix, Senior Director, StoryLab, AbbVie
    Javier discussed activating a storyline paradigm (see his pre-interview here). When he and the team thought about how to move AbbVie in the storytelling realm, they knew they had to approach things differently. That’s why they created StoryLab.  For AbbVie, StoryLab = Content Development + Media Relations + Digital + Measurement. Tune into the Movers & Shapers livestream at just over the 9 minute mark to see Javier’s session.

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  • Michael Jarjour, CEO, ODH, Inc
    Michael joined us to talk about how Data is Improving Mental Health. He sat down with our own Bob Pearson to discuss Michael’s passion, how we transform behavioral and health. Key challenges in behavioral health are resource constraints and highly fragmented data. Mentrics is a tool that combines ODH’s risk assessment data along with data of the complex care patients to find out which patients are most at risk.  From a data perspective, payers are the most important component. How does the risk stratification process work? Michael explained that the ODH team had worked on the solution for four years. It identifies the high-cost patient population to track cost drivers over a year. The goal is to help health care providers figure out which patients are at risk and provide insights into the kind of treatment that can best affect outcomes. It’s about identifying 1) which patients need the most help 2) what kind of help do they need? 3) How can we help? Tune into the Movers & Shapers livestream at about the 23 minute mark to see their discussion.

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  • Amber Naslund, SVP Marketing, Sysomos
    I’ve known Amber a long time. She’s someone I’ve always had a great deal of respect for. Now even more so after hearing her talk about embracing imperfection. Everyone talks about transparency and authenticity. Amber nails both. She lives and breathes social engagement and analytics. Much of her talk centered around Impostor Syndrome. It refers to “high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as “fraud.” In 2011, she was riding high when Radian6 was purchased by Salesforce, she had a successful book and was well-known for the social engagement work that she was a part of. During her next step is when she starting struggling those negative feelings of self-doubt. Especially as so many of her peers in the social space appeared to be at the top of their game. That period led her to do research on the topic. She quickly found in her interviews that Impostor’s Syndrome affects everyone… men, women, all ages, etc. Even extremely successful people like best-selling author Stephen King. Bottom line, Amber’s currently focused on making this topic as her next book. I hope she’s successful on that front and applaud her for having the courage to share with the folks here at our event.  You can check out Amber’s session at about the 39 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
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  • Ray Kerins, SVP Head of Communications & Government Relations, Bayer
    Ray’s topic of discussion was the Criticality of Intellectual Property. Ray did something I wasn’t expecting. He made a talk about IP pretty lively and engaging. He started his session by acknowledging that most people’s eyes glaze over when they hear about patents and IP. He defined IP as the set of laws that protect individuals and companies who have created a unique product or thing. It’s important to all of us because it protects innovation. Ray cited one of the most difficult aspects of IP is the un-evenness of laws around the world. While those in the United States are decent, several countries outside the US have very weak laws, and in some cases, those laws can be difficult to enforce. Ray is a board member of the US Chamber of Commerce and he’s also a member of the Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC). GIPC’s sole responsibility is to make sure the IP laws around the world help protect innovation created in America. According to Ray, IP creates job. He referenced several reports compiled by GIPC. One such report is the International IP Index, which ranks the world’s countries in terms of levle of IP protection. In other words, to track the places where counterfeiting is the biggest problem. Surprises? Venezuela is the country that currently ranks the highest on that list. India is #2. Another surprise? China currently ranks  17th on the list. Ray attributed China’s going down on the list (improving) to the Chinese government’s active efforts to strengthen their IP laws and enforcing those laws. You can check out Ray’s session just about the 50 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
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  • Michele Skelding, SVP Global Technology and Innovation, Austin Chamber of Commerce
    Michele’s topic was The Next Big Thing? Disruptive Innovation in ATX. Michele has lived in Austin for the last 20 years and has worked in technology for most of that time. She joined the Austin Chamber of Commerce about three years ago with the goal of bringing her tech expertise to the city. Michele mentioned that the average age in Austin was 33. The city has a population of about 1.9 million people, of which 415,000 are students. What’s one of the most important things the city can do to keep those students here? Create jobs that they’ll want to stay here for. As a city, that means we have to be on target with our business benefits. Add it all up and Austin is expected to be one of the fastest growing cities until 2025. Michele ended with a plea for those of us in Austin to get engaged in terms of the future of the city. Along those lines, she mentioned recent headlines where Austin proposed city ordinances are creating barriers for companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in this city. One more thing: Thanks to Michele for making the introduction to Hugh Forrest and making that PreCommerce fireside chat possible. You can check out Ray’s session just about the 1 hour 27 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.

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  • Robert Scoble, Entrepreneur in Residence, UploadVR
    Robert is another person I’m fortunate to know pretty well. Robert’s book Naked Conversations (that he co-authored Shel Israel) had a big impact on me when I was gearing up to take the reins at Direct2Dell back in 2006. Robert’s one of the best in the business about what’s next in technology. Look at his other books as an example. Age of Context focused on how sensors and big data will continue to impact business. He and Shel are currently working on their third book called Beyond Mobile. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality is not surprisingly one of the main topics that book will cover. Fresh off the news that he’s joining UploadVR as their Entrepreneur in Residence, Robert dove right into the topic of virtual reality and augmented reality. He discussed companies like Magic Leap and Meta that will play a part in the future, as well as other established tech companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Google. This technology is already showing up in our world… self-driving cars use sensors and tons of data to map the world around them. Heavy machinery company Caterpillar is already using AR to help train mechanics on repairs. According to Robert, augmented reality (where we interact with virtual objects superimposed on top of real-world objects) is going to have the biggest impact. We’re still 3 – 5 years away from the truly ground-breaking stuff that will occur has hardware gets smaller, faster and cheaper. It’s coming though, and in my opinion, there’s much to look forward to. You can check out Robert’s session at about the 1 hour 38 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
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  • Patrick Moorhead, President and Principal Analyst, Moor Insights & Strategy
    Patrick’s topic was The Future of Healthcare is Closer Than it May Appear. Before becoming an industry analyst, he spent over 20 years in the tech business, focused on things like product management, product marketing and strategy. For 15 years he served on the board of St. Davids’s Medical Center and the Austin Heart Hospital (where he also chaired the board for five years). Besides sing the bureaucracy first hand, he was struck by the number of people so passionate about helping others. He mentioned that we spend over $3 trillion dollars in Healthcare annually. An estimated 90% of that goes toward chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. And an estimated 80% of those could be prevented with better healthcare along with personal responsibility. He also said the biggest issue in healthcare is the disconnect between payment and service. During the session, he called out that Moor Insights was welcoming Yuri Teshler to lead the Healthcare vertical  You can check out Patrick’s session at just over the 1 hour 58 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
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  • Natanya Anderson, Sr. Marketing Director, 365 by Whole Foods Market
    Natanya talked about the Mandate to Innovate, which is a good topic for her given how much she has done inside the walls of Whole Foods before taking on the charter to expand their 365 effort. She touched on disruption and called out Whole Foods’ recent investment in Instacart as an example of how Whole Foods is working with innovative companies instead of against them. Figuring how to innovate inside a big brand was something she struggled with at first. Her light bulb moment came when she spoke at the Foresight & Trends Conference about 18 months ago. She spoke to many people there who were part of innovation groups, or in some cases, even innovation business units. Many of them spent time analyzing trends to help figure out what areas lend themselves to innovation within their respective companies. That’s when it hit her. Instead of thinking, “How do I get that (innovation) job?” She realized the better question was, “How do I make innovation part of my job?” She started by establishing a mandate to innovate for herself. That’s when she starting actively looking for places where Whole Foods could innovate. Then she extended the that intention to innovate to her entire team. She found that some people on her team were more receptive to it than others. The tipping point was when she tied innovation to the team’s goals overall and they worked as a group to figure out how to measure the innovation part of their efforts. Hint: It wasn’t ROI. You can check out Natanya’s session at just over the 2 hour 14 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
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Check back soon to learn more from other speakers and what amazing insights they offered at Movers & Shapers!

 

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Lionel Menchaca currently serves as Director of Corporate & Strategy at W2O Group. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn or reach out to him on Twitter at @LionelGeek!


 

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As I mentioned in my kickoff post, we are hosting a series of blog interviews pre and post SXSW with speakers from our PreCommerce Summit (March 10) and Movers & Shapers Summit (March 12). Today’s interview is with the Kyle Flaherty, VP of Solutions Marketing at security company, Rapid7. Kyle spoke yesterday on the topic why marketers are easy targets for cyber security breaches. To say that it was eye-opening would be an understatement.a - KyleFlaherty

Before we jump into our interview, here’s a little bit more about Kyle. According to LinkedIn, Kyle is a “technology marketing executive [who has] worked with early-stage startups to $1 billion+ high-growth companies changing the worlds of big data, IoT, BYOD, SaaS, open source software, network security, fraud detection, data analytics, marketing automation, and network management. Known for launching high profile technology startups, with four successful exits, [his] passion is to not only message technology and brand an organization, but build award-winning marketing teams that work in lock-step to rapidly produce marketing campaigns that drive measurable results to impact the bottom line.

Now on to the interview:

  1. Aaron: How do you define innovation?
    Kyle: The word innovation is so overused it’s makes me nauseous to even think about the definition. Honestly we must start to think way beyond innovation and start thinking about technology aiding human life; what I call human-driven alteration (well I didn’t invent the words, just the use). For two decades we’ve seen a rise in ‘innovation for innovation’, with technology being spit out that does pointless things like order us more Amazon boxes via a mysterious cylinder cone in the corner of our house. That’s not what I call innovation, it’s laziness masked as technology. The next few years will see a good healthy dose of closure around pointless and directionless innovation, instead a focus will be held on pragmatic uses for technology that will actually make us more secure, our earth cleaner, and our bodies more healthy. That’s what I call alteration.
  2. Aaron: What are you or your organization doing to drive innovation?
    Kyle: Working in security the past two decades I’ve seen my fair share of “innovative” introductions and great new technologies. Yet we are now in an era where we are more insecure than ever. We have all been hit by data breaches, and if you think you haven’t it’s simply because you don’t know yet. One of the reasons is that our industry often times focused from the outside in, building a stronger or smarter firewall, rather than helping to amplify the talents of security pros to make them smarter or more talented — because we all know the attackers can get past the preventive security solutions. I recently joined Rapid7 because they have a vision of creating products that have the human-being in mind, not simply the bits and bytes. Our entire mission is to build technology that restores confidence and control back to the security team, and ultimately back to the business.
  3. Aaron: Who is someone in your industry (or outside) that you admire? Why?
    Kyle: Jennifer Leggio, a mutual friend of ours. Fortunately I met “Mediaphyter” many moons ago when she just happened to sit in on a webcast I was doing for a PR agency about this new-fangled technology called Twitter. Ever since that time we’ve crossed paths and have even been able to do some work together in the security industry. Jen is a rock star in our community and has taught me that it’s not enough to just know marketing, you have to understand the community that makes up security because not only is it truly unique, it will feed your soul. I consider myself blessed to have her as a contemporary and a friend.
  4. Aaron: Where do you see your industry being in 3 years? 5? 10?
    Kyle: In the next few years the security industry will begin to understand that we can no longer prevent attacks, and thus the era of rapid detection, fed by user behavior analytics, will take hold. As we move into the 5 to 10 year frame we will actually see the security teams begin to better mesh with their contemporaries in IT as they understand their shared resource of the data that courses thorough their company and the ability to harness it so that security becomes only necessary for incident response, and IT is now handling the rest. That would be a monumental achievement if it can happen.
  5. What book are you reading right now? How did you choose it?
    Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders. I’m trying to better understand the effect different foods have in my body, not only so that I’m not a big lard ass, but also how it changes my moods, triggers my Psoriasis and arthritis, and more. It’s a fascinating, and often times disgusting, read.
  6. For fun: what three things would you make sure you brought with you in a zombie apocalypse?
    Kyle: Chuck Hemann, Pops, and a bottle of great bourbon.

Thank you Kyle. Good choices for the zombie apocalypse. I’ve heard that that Pops is a really zombie killer.

Our PreCommerce Summit started off our events with a bang. Hard to believe, but 2016 marks the 6th annual version of the summit. We built it around a series of 10-minute Ted-style talks, and rounded it out with a few panel discussions and a couple of fireside chats.

These discussions featured insights from executives and leadership from some of our top clients and partners. It’s a view into what’s next, the technology that’s impacting all of us, how its changing business, as well as other aspects of our lives outside of work.

  • Lord Peter Chadlington, Founder of Shandwick and Huntsworth Group; See Lord Chadington’s preview interview here.
    Lord Peter Chadington discussed global communications trends with our own Bob Pearson. In terms of global trends, Peter pointed out that 50% of the world’s population have just started getting access to the Internet.  Lord Chadlington is someone who’s dedicated much of his work to politics and shared his thoughts on the impact that social media is having on politics. According to research they did in the UK, 72% said social media and the Internet made them more involved in politics. They feel empowered. You can watch Bob’s interview with Lord Chadlington at about 33:15 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Amy von Walter, EVP Global Communications and Public Relations, Toys ‘R’ Us
    During Aaron’s introduction, he shared the news that Amy is now EVP at Toys ‘R’ Us. Amy gave a powerful talk about first impressions. She’s passionate about encouraging confidence in her employees. It’s an extension of her confidence which comes from her experiences overcoming first impressions.  And she’s an expert there, based on her reality of being from South Korea and raised in Minnesota by her adopted parents. She referenced the work of Dr. Hendrie Weisenger’s about the many ways you can build confidence. You can watch Amy’s session at 58:04 in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Manny Kostas, SVP and Global Head of Platforms & Future Technology, HP
    Manny discussed breaking through silos to get into more conversations with customers. He’s a person with unique perspective since he’s been CMO at both Symantec and a division of HP and now he’s responsible for 3,000 engineers working to reinvent HP’s printer business. Manny’s passionate about not imposing our business structure on our customers, which breaks the dialog with our customers. You can watch Manny’s session at about the 1:07 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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Before the first panel, my friend and someone I really respect, Robert Scoble joined Aaron on stage to share his recent news that he will be joining UploadVR as their Entrepreneur in Residence. All the best to you in the new gig Robert. Your early work at your Channel 9 days at Microsoft and you (and Shel’s) book Naked Conversations helped me prepare for taking the reins as Dell’s chief blogger back in 2006, Onward and upward, my friend! You can watch Scoble’s news at about the 1:24 mark in the PreCommerce livestream. Thanks to Jeremiah Owyang for the live pic.

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  • Susan Glasser, Editor in Chief, Politico and Peter Cherukuri, EVP Audience Solutions & President, Politico
    Susan and Peter discussed the evolution of sponsored content. Interesting perspective from the two of them and how they’ve made a new publishing model work for Politico. To do it, they re-invented what it means to be an online news platform in an era where journalistic speed a given in the space. That meant diving deep into new types of stories and experiences to stay ahead of their competition. You can watch their session at about the 2:16 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • David Kirkpatrick, CEO, Techonomy, author of The Facebook Effect and Graham Weston, Founder/Chairman, Rackspace
    David sat down with Graham to get his take on where the cloud was headed. Before jumping into the conversation, Graham took a minute to thanks Robert Scoble for his 7 years at Rackspace. Rackspace is a $2B company who provides cloud infrastructure and integration services for AWS and Azure clients. His company’s still focused on providing “fanatical” support in the midst of a changing competitive landscape. Lastly, David asked Graham about his considerable community efforts in the city of San Antonio and beyond. You can watch their fireside chat about the 2:47 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

Graham Weston-David Kirkpatrick-SXSW-SXW2O

  • Jeremiah Owyang, Founder/CEO, Crowd Companies
    My good friend Jeremiah spent a few minutes getting into the future of Crowd business models. He shared examples of how the collaborative economy is already disrupting traditional businesses and also shared his take on how it would evolve moving forward . Key takeaways 1) Common digital technologies empower people to get what they need from each other. 2) The crowd is becoming like a company—bypassing  inefficient corporations. 3) Like the Internet and social, corporations must use the same digital strategies to regain relevancy 4) This requires a business model change: Product>Service>Marketplace>Repeat. You can watch Jeremiah’s session at about the 4:08 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

Jeremiah Owyang-SXSW-SXW2O

  • Greg McCullough, Senior Director Partnerships, Medtronic and Gail Day, VP, Publisher Harvard Business Review
    Greg and Gail sat down to discuss what’s next in brand/ media partnerships. Gail attributed part of HBR’s success to the organization’s commitment to a goal to rid the world of bad management. That focus also extends to their partnerships. They’re strict about working with their brand, and that’s why they choose to work with limited partners. Medtronic was one of those partners. Their collaboration resulted iYou can watch their session at about the 4:31 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

Gail Day-SXSW-SXW2O

Josh Makower-Nick Beim-PauloSimas-SXSW-SXW2O

  • Becky Brown, VP Digital Marketing & Media Group, Intel
    Becky spent a few minutes discussing The New Digital. Becky reiterated that marketers are all aware of consumers’ aversion to ads—look no further than ad blockers and the fact that they are willing to pay a premium for services without ads. Intel is answering this co-creating with companies like Buzzfeed and Mashable. And now, taking that idea with new ESPN where they integrated technology into the X Games, which allowed both companies to create new kinds of content. And they are building on the success of their online magazine called Intel IQ, where they will introduce original programming next month. You can watch Becky at about the 5:28 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

Becky Brown-SXSW-SXW2O

 

  • Amy Hoopes, CMO, Wente Vineyards
    Amy took some time to discuss how user experience is becoming the new marketing. The family Amy works for has been in the wine industry for 133 years, in the Livermore Valley area of California. They were always good at making great wines. To understand the history of Wente Vineyards, Amy did extensive interviews with the family. Through that research, it was clear that the Wente family had been doing many innovative things, like operating a full-service white tablecloth restaurant that recently celebrated it’s 30th birthday. Amy talked about here SMS strategy: Simplify, Motivate and Share. You can watch Amy’s session at about the 5:43 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

Amy Hoopes-SXSW-SXW2O

  • The third panel of the day, All Hype Aside featured 1) Michael Putnam, SVP Consumer Marketing, AmericanWell 2) Lorie Fiber, Global Corporate Communications, IBM Health and 3) Jeroen Brouwer Director of Marketing, Sales and Business Development, Philips
    Our own Rob Cronin moderated this esteemed panel of guests to discuss how digital health will impact our lives in the future. You can watch the panel discussion at about the 6:20 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

#SXW2O_2016_PreConference Summit-7731

  • Alex Gruzen, CEO, WiTricity Corporation
    Alex discussed the future of wireless charging and how it will impact us with all the smart devices we carry with us every day. When he says wireless, he means it. Their technology doesn’t require a charging pad to be plugged into on outlet. It’s about moving power over a distance. WiTricity Corporation’s technology works with all kinds of devices: from Bluetooth headsets, to laptops and tablets, and event electric cars. You can watch Alex’s session at about the 6:56 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

Alex Gruzen-SXSW-SXW2O

  • Amber Naslund, SVP Marketing & Chief Evangelist, Sysomos
    Amber used her time to discuss the Future  of Analytics: Social Data and Beyond. She started by talking about how much customer expectations have changed. They expect answers in 30 – 60 mins, and they also expect those answers on nights and weekends. She  also talked about how creative design is even more important as a way to reach customers. Then, she discussed the importance of bridging the gap between data scientists and marketers or communicators. Analytics is currently a specialized skillset. But back in the 50s, typing was a job that was done via dedicated employees. Amber argued that data analysis will ultimately become a core skill just like typing did. You can watch Amber’s session at about the 7:10  mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

Amber Naslund-SXSW-SXW2O

  • Shiv Singh, SVP Global Head of Digital & Marketing Transformation, Visa
    Shiv discussed how to open source your brand.  He started with a simple but painful premise: that customers don’t trust your brand. And then he offered examples of how Visa reached out to the startup community for innovative ideas. One outcome: they are opening up the Visa network as an API for developers. You can watch their session at about the 7:20 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

Shiv Singh SXSW SXW2O

  • Hugh Forrest, Director, SXSW Interactive and John Battelle, CEO of NewCo and co-founder of Wired Magazine & The Industry Standard
    This fireside chat was a blast. John interviewed Hugh on the past, present and future of SXSW. See my earlier blog post here for a much more detailed summary of that lively discussion. The interview covered a lot of ground. My favorite quote from Hugh? “TED is this finely curated meal. And that’s wonderful. [SXSW] is a 24-hour all-you can eat buffet, and that’s wonderful at times too.” You can watch Hugh Forrest’s interview at about the 7:40 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

Make sure to tune into W2O Group’s Movers & Shapers event.

 

Austin means music, tacos, and innovative new ideas (AKA “weird”), and our SXW2O events definitely incorporate all of these. But when it comes to great local music in particular, our Austin office employees are passionate fans. To make the perfect local playlist, we asked these local music experts to curate their favorite tracks from Austin artists.

spotifyCheck out the Geekaque playlist on Spotify here.

 

We’re also beyond excited about our 2016 SXW2O artists (some local, all awesome) we’ve lined up for our events:

  • At our annual PreCommerce Summit Reception, we were lucky enough to hear some mellow tunes from The Autumn Defense, a side project for WILCO band members Pat Sansone and John Stirratt. Thanks to our premier sponsor Bayer for bringing them down to Austin!
  • Texas’s “original recession era string band” Hot Nut Riveters provided some Southern Hospitality at our Digital Brunch, led by Guy Forsyth.
  • We’re especially excited for tonight’s Geekacue lineup featuring Black Pistol Fire and Red Bull Select band Not in the Face, both of which cnall Austin home. Email info@w2ogroup.com for an invitation!
  •  lionelLionel Menchaca – Director, Corporate & Strategy
    Artist: Willie Nelson, Song: Whiskey River
  • How long have you lived in Austin? Hard to believe, but I’ve been here just over 25 years.
  • What is your role at W2O? I work with our team to help clients implement digital tools in everything from internal communication and collaboration, external communication and issues management, and how to empower employees through advocacy programs.
  • Why did you pick this song/artist for our playlist? It’s Willie. He’s a Texas legend who calls Austin home. I chose that song because it’s the one that makes me think of Willie more than any other. There’s a reason why he uses it to start the set of his live shows.
  • #WhyAustin? So many reasons. The great live music scene, the cool outdoor options, great events like SXSW, Austin City Limits Music Festival, the food: Franklin, La Barbecue, Fonda San Miguel to name a few favorites, and the people.
  • Favorite Taco: Hard to list a favorite, but Taco Deli is my go to place for tacos. Hard to go wrong there.

darron

Darron Davis – Art Director
Artist: Shapes Have Fangs, Song: Dinner in the Dark

  • How long have you lived in Austin? 9 years
  • Why did you pick this song/artist for our playlist?: This album reminds me of the time I volunteered for SXSW in 2010. I saw them play at a tiny venue on Red River called Beerland. They were insanely loud and enjoyable.
  • #WhyAustin? Austin is a progressive city where you can still carry a pocket knife without getting side-eyed.
  • Favorite Taco: The Smoked Brisket Taco at Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ

angieAngie Gette, Senior Director Strategy & Insights
Artist: Wood & Wire, Song: Anne Marie

  • How long have you lived in Austin?: 8.5 years
  • Why did you pick this song/artist for our playlist?: Tons of energy and pure folk spirit.  Love seeing this band live. Check them out!
  • Favorite Taco: Migas from Veracruz- can’t believe how good they are!

colleenColleen Hartman, Group Director, Social Commerce
Artist: Tameca Jones, Song: Hot and Bothered

  • #WhyAustin? For me personally? As a child, I spent a lot of time each summer with my grandparents in Dallas. They took me all over Texas and loved the unique culture. After living many places in my adult life including a stop in Waco home to Baylor University, my family unanimously wanted to move to Austin. As a then W2O client, when the opportunity came to join the agency, I was thrilled especially with the opportunity to move to Austin. The rest is history with my new “forever hometown.”
  • Favorite Taco: The steak taco from Veracruz All Natural’s food truck. It’s hard to eat other tacos once you’ve had anything from Austin’s best taco spot. (Migas and fish tacos are amazing too.)                                                                                                                    

bob pearson___
Bob Pearson, President, W2O Group
Artist: Black Pistol Fire,  Song:  Suffocation Blues

  • How long have you lived in Austin? We’ve lived here for ten years. I told my daughters when we moved here that when we reached ten years, we could start to call ourselves Texans.  In our case, we say we’re “Jersey Texans”, a rare breed.
  • What is your role at W2O? I spend most of my time with clients discussing what is important to their business or working with our teams to talk through how we build or refine our models. The role is President, W2O Group. My mission is to ensure our clients build unique advantage and succeed and our team members at W2O learn and grow professionally every day.
  • Why did you pick this song/artist for our playlist? Black Pistol Fire is symbolic of Austin. Originally from Toronto, now splitting time between Canada and Austin.  Austin just has a magnetic draw for innovators to head down here and never leave.  And, I love rock ‘n roll and these guys know how to have some fun.
  • #WhyAustin? I came here to work at Dell and our family fell in love with Austin. I love how supportive the community is of each other, whether you are an entrepreneur or you have fallen on hard times.  Austin is a city with a soul.
  • Favorite Taco: There is a small stand one block from our office behind a building that has amazing breakfast tacos. Few know it is there. Small stand. One woman who runs it. Amazing tacos and the hottest sauces around.

On the annual springtime migration to Austin, our clients, partners and friends—without fail—take one look at the super packed SXSW Interactive schedule, get excited, get overwhelmed and then proceed to have nasty flashbacks to first year course selection at university. Well, with deep gratitude to my esteemed colleagues Kristen Grant and Melissa O’Hara for their SXSW sleuthing skills, we’ve tried to take out some of the guesswork.

The team waded knee deep through the SXSW Interactive Health & MedTech stream of events to find what we hope will be some of the golden nuggets. Just think of us as your team of guidance counselors, here to help you pick your major, minor and maybe a couple electives.

But before we get to the list, I want to highlight our own MDigitalLife team who will have a standing presence at the SXSW Health & MedTech Expo. They will be showcasing how we can help you understand and leverage the online healthcare ecosystem, having mapped the digital footprints of over 700,000 stakeholders worldwide. Be sure to stop by and visit them as you make your way around the sessions.

Now, let’s get to our recommended sessions. Each link takes you to the relevant page on the SXSW site where you can add the event to your schedule.


Friday, March 11, 2016


2016 SX Health & MedTech Expo

Time: 10:00am-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriot, 110 East 2nd Street

SX Health & MedTech is an integral part of SXSW Interactive, brings together many of the conversations being discussed at SXSW – not to mention that everyone has a personal relationship with health. Look for the 2016 event to expand the number of exhibitors, broaden and deepen the discussion topics, and make it even more accessible for the SXSW community to participate in the conversation.


Saturday, March 12, 2016


Value Revolution: Transforming the Health Business

Time: 9:30am – 10:30am

Location:  JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd St

This panel will explore the groundbreaking solutions to the problems that have driven the system to the breaking point, along with specific regions and ecosystems that are making those solutions real.


Apps and Better Medical Outcomes: Real Solutions

Time: 11:00am-12:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

This panel will discuss cutting edge mobile solutions that help with communication among caregivers, educational or job re-entry, organization of medical records and independence


Virtual Health: Is it Real or Just Fantasy?

Time: 11:00am – 12:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd St

Experts will speak about a number of topics including the historical legislative and policy initiatives that have hindered and promoted the use of virtual health at the state and federal levels and the rapid development of technology that is enabling these platforms to provide improved access and quality driven outcomes.


A New FDA: A Partner for the Digital Future

Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, MedTech Stage 110 E 2nd St

Leading this charge is Bakul Patel, Assoc. Director for Digital Health at the FDA, who will provide insights into the FDA’s current and future plans for regulating digital health and answer those questions you were afraid to ask.


Rare in Common: Building Rare Disease Communities

Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

This session will explore the potential and impact of these digital communities with rare diseases in common from the point of view of multiple stakeholders: the people facing rare diseases themselves, companies dedicated to developing medicines for them, and thought leaders in rare disease communications.


Virtual Physicians: The Future of Healthcare

Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd St

Join us to explore the revolutionary role virtual humans may play in your healthcare future! Part of the IEEE Tech for Humanity Series.


New Prescription: Mobilize Patients’ Communities

Time: 3:30pm-4:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Hear from the President of Seton Medical Center Austin and CEO of Rallyhood, who created an innovative program to mobilize patients’ personal communities that aide hospital recovery.


Digital Health and Outcomes: Where’s the Evidence?

Time: 3:30pm-4:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, MedTech Stage 110 E 2nd St

This panel, moderated by BuzzFeed’s Stephanie Lee, will explore how digital health companies can use clinical evidence to succeed through the lens of a company that has commercialized its outcomes (Omada Health), a company that validates emerging products (Evidation Health), and an investor that evaluates hundreds of companies each year (Rock Health).


The Future of Medicine: Where Can Tech Take Us?

Time: 5:00pm-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, MedTech Stage 110 E 2nd St

From the prospective of a leading physician, scientist and innovator who is Chair of Medicine at Singularity University, this talk examines rapidly emerging, game changing and convergent technology trends and their potential to change the face of healthcare and the practice of medicine.


Are Medical Devices and Systems Hack Proof?

Time: 5:00pm-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd S

As clinicians increasingly rely on computers vs. common sense, and medical devices become increasingly vulnerable to security breaches, it’s time for new dialog on trust and security for Medtech.


Sunday, March 13, 2016


2016 SX Health & MedTech Expo

Time: 10:00am-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, 110 East 2nd Street

Look for the 2016 event to expand the number of exhibitors, broaden and deepen the discussion topics, and make it even more accessible for the SXSW community to participate in the conversation.


Telling Health Stories with Interactive Storymaps

Time: 11:00am-1:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 402-403 110 E 2nd St

This interactive workshop will use Esri’s storymapping technology and teach participants how to find health data, combine different data, and display them through interactive storymaps that create unique, holistic depiction of personal and community health. Bringing your own health data is encouraged!


Revolutionizing Med Education to Transform Health

Time: 12:30pm – 1:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204  110 E 2nd St

Experts on the front lines of this revolution will discuss how medical schools are changing, what this means for students, educators, patients and the community, and how technology and innovation will help create physician lead in the evolving education landscape.


Hacking for Healing: MedTech & Chronic Disease

Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Four experts will discuss their platforms, research, and deep experience to give chronic disease patients new ways to think about managing their health — shifting from precision medicine to precision prevention.


Imagining the Future of Personalized Medicine

Time: 3:30pm-4:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Jennifer Darmour, wearable tech expert and designer, David O’Reilly, leader in digital medicine, and Alan Levy, veteran innovator of specialty pharma products, debate the best path forward toward more engaging and personalized healthcare and lay out future possibilities that will astound you.


The President’s Precision Medicine Initiative

Time: 3:30-4:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, MedTech Stage 110 E 2nd St

The Precision Medicine Initiative, unveiled by President Obama in January 2015, is a bold new cross-government initiative to build the technology, data and policy frameworks to catalyze new insights and therapies so that every patient can have individualized, tailored treatment.


(Video) Gaming the Healthcare System

Time: 5:00-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, MedTech Stage 110 E 2nd St

Games, video games in particular, have shown a much more significant contribution to healthcare by providing a connective community and therapy to both physical and cognitive impairments, as detailed by our expert panel. Come play!


Millennials in Medicine: Good or Bad for Health?

Time: 5:00pm-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd St

This panel of leading millennial physician-innovators will offer a provocative prognosis for the future of US healthcare and debate the net value of physicians disrupting rather than providing healthcare.


Deadliest Catch: New Cancer Diagnosis Approaches

Time: 5:00-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Biomarkers are recognized as a critical tool for bringing new drug candidates to market and driving personalized medicine. Now, this groundbreaking science provides a powerful new opportunity to detect and prevent lethal cancers and save lives.


Monday, March 14, 2016


Wearables: The Powder Keg for a Health Revolution

Time: 9:30am-10:30am

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd

Join Garmin, a global leader in connected fitness and wellness technology, and Validic, the healthcare industry’s leading digital health platform, as they discuss how wearable technology innovation and adoption is setting the stage for a healthcare revolution.


Rethinking Healthcare Through Design Thinking

Time: 11:00am-12:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd S

This panel will feature a nationally recognized health design leader to lay out the landscape of problems facing healthcare, and he will demonstrate how creativity and design can address – and have addressed – those challenges.


Consumer Reports: What’s Our Health Data Worth?

Time: 11:00am-12:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Hear solutions for balancing individuals’ right to privacy with profound opportunities to serve the public good, advance science & innovation, and achieve a more effective health-care system. Takeaways include ideas for new regulations, systems, and best practices, plus actions we can all take to manage our valuable health data more responsible.


CDT/Fitbit: Ethics and Privacy in Wearable Research

Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Through a visually engaging presentation, the presenters will offer details on the project goals, methodology, findings, and analysis, as well as present the final guidance recommendations.


Wearables in Health: In Theory and in Practice

Time: 3:30pm-4:30pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

In this dual presentation, Dr. Sam Volchenboum will speak to where we’re at and where we’re headed regarding the challenges and benefits of using wearable data to inform treatment and clinical trials. Dr. Ray Duncan of Cedars Sinai Hospital will share the practical hurdles, insights, and success stories of integrating wearable data with EMRs at one of the most connected health systems in the country.


Tuesday. March 15, 2016


Tech in the Golden Years: How Tech Changes Aging

Time: 9:30am-10:30am

Location: JW Marriott Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

In this panel, SXSW goers will gain a fresh perspective on emerging tech in senior healthcare from an often unheard generation at SXSW: a baby boomer. HomeHero, Heal and PillPack will speak on the need for quality caregivers, physicians and easy access to medication, while the aging senior can share his own perspective.


We the People: Healthcare and the 2016 Election

Time: 11:00am-12:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Join Jane Adams, Washington insider & Senior Director of Federal Affairs, Johnson & Johnson, & Lauren Chauret, Partner at PTV Healthcare Capital, as they discuss the 2016 election, its implications on the healthcare system & show you how to come out on top!


Inhale and Exhale: The Future of Health Data APIs

Time: 3:00pm-4:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

A generation of startups are taking on the enormous task of building simple, portable APIs for health data. These companies are building solutions that will finally bring about the interconnected health system that we are all desperately waiting for, and could hold the keys to cracking open the health IT market.


Fixing the Patient Behavior Change Gap

Time: 5:00pm-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 203-204 110 E 2nd St

This panel explores why behavior change is so difficult, even when it’s in our best interest, and how new technologies and smarter design can help us solve the largest problem in healthcare tech — behavior modification and engagement.


Improving Physicians’ Understanding of Patients

Time: 5:00-6:00pm

Location: JW Marriott, Room 201-202 110 E 2nd St

Based on case study data, participants at a recent health app design challenge developed a FHIR-compliant application that intuitively communicates the patient’s status to any interested party.


Of course, while SXSW sessions can be hit and miss, we hope that this curated list of recommendations helps you navigate the maze of SXSW and have a better overall experience at SXSW. And if you have other recommendations or feedback on our shortlist, please be sure to let us know in the comments below.


Learn more about W2O Group

Out of all the great speakers that took part in W2O Group’s 2016, PreCommerce Summit, the fireside chat between Hugh Forrest, director of SXSW Interactive Festival and NewCo CEO John Battelle was one that I personally was most excited to hear about. Though it’s huge now, it didn’t start that way. Beginning a few years ago, it surpassed the music festival in terms of attendees—a trend that continues in 2015 and probably beyond.

Hearing the humble beginnings (Interactive started as the SXSW Multimedia festival in 1994… anyone rememeber CD-ROMs? Heh!) from Hugh’s perspective to what it’s grown into now (Hugh expects about 35,000 will attend Interactive this year) was worth the wait in my book. He covers a lot of the history and the evolution of the festival. And maybe next year we can expect a single ticket for all SXSW? And BTW, Mr. Robot fans can check out the Ferris wheel(!) on 4th and Congress.

If you want to watch John’s interview of Hugh, tune into the #SXW2O livestream at just about the 7 hour 40 minute mark.

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Here’s an edited summary of the Q&A between John and Hugh.

Q: When was the first year of SXSW Interactive?

A: The Music part started in 1987. In 1994, we added SXSW Multimedia because we thought multimedia was the future back then. With CD-ROMs, there was a lot of potential there, wasn’t there? 🙂

Q: In 1994, how many people attended?

A: That first year, we combined it with the Film part, so it was SXSW Film and Multimedia. If you counted all the volunteers, we had about 1,000 attendees combined. We thought at the time it was a good first showing. After that, we split it into two separate events, one for Film and the other for Multimedia. In the startup world you have concept known as the Valley of Death. For startups that survive, it’s usually a period of  about a year to 18 months. We had about a 10-year Valley of Death, where we were really struggling to find our voice, to find our market to understand what we were doing. The reason we survived during that 10 years was  of the success of the SXSW Music event. It was paying the bills during that time. If we’d have been a standalone event, we would not have survived that difficult period.

Q: During that period, did you have a lot of difficult meetings where people thought. Maybe this multimedia thing isn’t working. Did they ever think: maybe we should just stop doing it?

A: Many things keep me humble. This was one of them. I remember an above the banner headline in the Austin American Statesman from 1998 that was something like “Excitement Coming to Austin: Music, Film, Rodeo, Multimedia!” No disrespect to the Austin Rodeo, it’s a cool event. But we were slightly below that. In terms of meetings, it was more me wondering to my boss, why are we doing this Multimedia thing? It doesn’t make any sense. We can’t find our audience. The Music festival brings the rockstars from all over the world. We’ve got this film event that brings in movie stars, and all I’ve got is a bunch of geeks.

Q: When did it tip?

A: Certainly the biggest tipping point was 2007 with Twitter. But, we started to see a little bit of an uptick in growth in 2004. A keynote speaker that year was a guy named Jonathan Abrams from Friendster.  I had seen him on a late night TV show, and I thought this guys kind of interesting, let’s try to get him for SXSW. He turned out to offend about half the audience. That’s a common theme in many of our keynotes.

John: I remember in the early keynotes, those people in the audience were really quick to tell you if they weren’t pleased with what you were saying.

Hugh: Are you saying that from personal experience?

John: I’m saying it from watching it happen to someone I interviewed onstage. I don’t remember all the specifics, but that person answered a question and got hisses and jeers from the audience.

Hugh: It’s a tough crowd, not like this one… Jonathan’s keynote in 2004… when he offended some people here coincidentally or not, that was about when Friendster hit it’s peak uaage in the US. I think it is still popular in Asia. But that was our first real foray into social media. Who could have known in 2004? I mean, in retrospect it makes sense, but we didn’t know back then that social media was going to be such a big deal, so much a part of our lives. Many things contributed to our eventual growth after 10 years of non-growth. I would say that startups and social media are two of the biggest things. Again, particularly Twitter in 2007 [was the big turning point]. The irony of the Twitter story is Ev and Biz have always credited SXSW as the place they launched, but the fact is they actually launched about 6 months earlier. Thanks to both of them for that.

John: I know I wasn’t there that year, but I was following what was going on, somehow, before Twitter… maybe e-mail. Everyone was talking about Twitter. I knew it, because I knew Ev, but it became a big deal here…

Hugh: Yes.

Q: So, how many people are copmong this year

A: Probably about 35,000 total.

John: So about 35x growth, with most of it coming in the last 10 years?

Hugh: We were lucky enough to experience a hockey-stick level growth from about 2004 – 2014. It leveled off at that point simply because we really hit capacity in Austin. There were some years where the growth numbers were crazy. On the one hand you’re happy after not growing, after struggling so much for so many years. But it’s just as mystifying [to think] why are we growing now when we couldn’t grow before?  Now, it’s the challenges of growth, of scale, of trying to retain the user experience that helped growth is very significant in and of itself.

Q: What year did the marketers show up?

A: You should ask these guys in the crowd… they’re the ones who know.

Q: The startups obviously caught on at some point. Was there a tip to that piece?

A: There wasn’t a Twitter-like tip there, but again, Twitter just changed things so much for us. More startups wanted to come to SXSW to be like Twitter, more venture capitalists came looking got the next Twitter. Branding and Marketing people wanted to come to discover the next big thing before their competitors did. Twitter was 2007. 2009 was Gowalla… remember them? And 4square actually launching the same day at SXSW.

John: Yeah, it was like a duel for the location-based services with the local favorite, less highly-funded Gowalla.

Hugh: Right. And Gowalla is in the digital graveyard at this point. What’s interesting here and even going back last year to Meerkat is the products, apps, services, startups that get the most buzz out of SXSW are the ones that help people digest SXSW. Twitter got so much use because people used it to find which parties their friends were going to, where they were eating breakfast or lunch, what panels they were going to… it helped the crowd digest a large event. Same thing with 4square and Gowalla… and Meerkat. You can broadcast you’re in a session that’s great or horrible. It’s simple, but it can be complex. If you want the most buzz at SXSW, figure out something that helps people better digest the event.

Q: Do you see anything this year that is an emerging possibility to break out the way those did?

A: It’s interesting on the eve of their one year success at SXSW, that Meerkat announced that they were pivoting, essentially changing direction, changing business models. Facebook Live is certainly doing a big push here, and it’s essentially an updating of that type of app. Again, we’re seeing more functionality with mobile devices that take advantage of increased broadband in terms of personal broadcasting. I think that if something breaks out, it could be that. We were surprised as anyone that Meerkat got so much buzz at SXSW. It was a perfect storm for them. I remember the Apple Watch press conference had been on Monday before SXSW. People were using it there, it got featured on Product Hunt. It had some buzz going into the event. It kind of broke all the rules that we thought had become rules in the sense that it didn’t have a whole lot of money, was a relatively small startup, and all the sudden it got huge traction out of the event. The common wisdom at that point was that SXSW had grown so big… to rise above the noise you have to have a huge budget, it’s impossible to do. But again, something that hits that sweet spot that helps registrants better absorb, digest or discover the event is what popped. Who knows if that will happen this year?

Q: How has Interactive grown compared to Film and Music and is it the muscle that’s driving the business as much as Music was before?

A; Interactive is the biggest industry portion of the event in terms of people buying badges. The tables have turned around from 15 years ago. Part of that growth came from people who were buying badges for Music started buying badges for Interactive to understand how they could navigate the change in the [music] content industry. Over the last 15 years, geeks have become the rock stars. That narrative of Mark Zuckerberg dropping out of Harvard, creating a startup, getting crazy rich… that so much powers the startup ecosystem, the startup mindset of people much younger than us doing cool stuff out there.

Q: Has Interactive has kind of consumed the film and entertainment industry?

Hugh: Is this your Marc Andreessen moment where you say software is eating the world?

Q: I notice you have a Convergence Track where you’re sewing the two together. So people who have both (Film and Interactive) badges can go to both?

A: Yes. We have more and more convergence stuff that tries to bring these industries together. The idea being that 25 years ago,  it was easy to tell the difference between Music and Film, and this weird thing called Multimedia. Now, years later it is all so interwoven and blended together. We argue, discuss converse within our staff: if you have a session about a YouTube or Vine star. Is that Interactive because they’re using technology? No it’s film because they are the film stars of 2016. Or it’s Music a song that way. These lines are completely blurred at this point.

Q: Will it come to the point that you just sell one ticket to the whole deal?

A: That’s a pretty good idea, John.

Q: So will we hear about that more next year?

A: I’m saying there’s a lot of good ideas that come out of this event on March 10 right?

Q: What lessons do you have for marketers or brands who are looking to make the most at SXSW?

A: We’ve seen lots of interesting, crazy, fun, weird promotions at SXSW over the years. This year it’s the Ferris Wheel on 4th and Congress creating the buzz. But the things that will create the most buzz with this audience. the visual trend setters, the forward thinkers, the people with huge social media followings  are things that help people better absorb the event. We’ve been lucky to have automobile sponsors like Chevy and Mazda. The thing they do best? Provide rides to people. That solves a problem for people since it’s so difficult to get around. The program was called Catch a Chevy and they provided free rides to people. That’s where they got the most buzz out of the event.

Q: Without naming names, I’ve seen some [brand] activations that seem a bit off… do you or a team approve how marketers get to activate?

A: We’ve taking a much more active role here.. in the wake of some activations that weren’t quite right.

John: Can you give us examples?

Hugh: No, there are too many people tweeting in here. I don’t want to do that. But we do try to give brands guidelines to help them be successful here. As the event has gotten bigger, we know there is more noise. Now, rising above that noise is always a challenge. It’s harder and harder for a brand or startup like Meerkat to gain traction. A story that I still love is that when foursquare launched when we thought location-based apps were the next big thing, the promotion that Dennis Crowley did was he drew a four square with a piece of chalk outside the Convention Center. He was playing foursquare with people.  I mean you’re playing four square with the founder of foursquare. It wasn’t reaching huge numbers of people, but it was reaching people who could create buzz about it. It’s harder to do that now since we are more strict about brands using chalk on the sidewalk, but…

John: Admit it. This year, you would have kicked Dennis off the sidewalk.

Hugh: I like Dennis. I wouldn’t kick him off. Maybe others.

Q: What people find most valuable are the vast number of get-togethers that happen all over town. So much good stuff. What’s your point of view? Is there an official view toward the unofficial side of SXSW?

A: We are much more aggressive in terms of trying to control unofficial events. That’s mainly due to safety, since we take safety more seriously than some of the pop-up events do. As organizers, we try to bring those unofficial things in. But, most attendees can’t tell the difference between what’s official or unofficial. Attendees know, I went to Austin, had a great time at SXSW, went to a party, met great people, I made connections, I got business opportunities out of it, it was a worthwhile experience. It’ s a cops and robbers game. As soon as we bring them in, other unofficial things come up.

Q: SXSW really lights up the city.

A: It does take over the city. That’s a good thing for a lot of people. But lots of people don’t like this week because it’s a huge traffic disruption. For many years, some will tell me, “I’m not a huge fan of SXSW, but I rent my place out via Airbnb that week, so you paid for my vacation. There’s a thriving under-the-radar economy there.

Q: Lastly, tell us the story about President Obama speaking here:

A: We have been working, cultivated relationships in the White House, particularly in the Obama administration, for many, many years. There have been speakers from the White House who have participated in panels, other speakers who’ve moved onto the White House. We’ve had pretty strong context there. There has been interest in previous years, but the timing didn’t quite work out. This year it did work out… I will say that the White House was very easy to work with throughout this process. There was very positive conversations. It wasn’t confirmed until we announced it last week, so we were sweating it out. I’ve said before that in the State of the Union address in January this year, the president mentioned Austin, at one point, while talking about startups.

Q: What’s President Obama going to talk about?

A: He’s going to talk about 21st century civic engagement. That geeks should go to Washington D.C., help reinvent government, help make it more efficient and effective. I think it’s a really good message for SXSW. We’ve pushed community good social causes for a while, and this fits well into that. That said, we also know a lot of the audience isn’t particularly political and believes that the government doesn’t understand technology all that well. They’ll be somewhat skeptical of this message.

Questions from the audience:

Jessica Federer, Global Head of Comms and PR Bayer Healthcare Animal Health:

Question for John: Are we going to ever see NewCo Austin together with SXSW?

A: We avoided SXSW. I’ll tell a story. I thought in 2007 or 2008, I noticed marketers were coming to SXSW when I was with Federated Media and we were doing events. One of them was called Signal. I actually called it Signal SXSW. Big mistake. I had Marissa Mayer come and asked other people to come a day early. It was kind of like the PreCommerce Summit. I reached out to Hugh. We worked it out. I changed the name to Signal Austin. Ever since that time I was one of the unofficial events and I was making such a bad mistake… Fortunately, I got pulled into the tent. From that point on I made sure I got Hugh’s permission and that I didn’t schedule anything around SXSW. Now, NewCo Austin will happen in July.

Rohit Bharghava, CEO & Founder, Influential Marketing Group

Question for Hugh: With so much activity in terms of content sessions, are you looking at the TED kind of model of making video stream recordings available?

A: We do record audio of the sessions and make them available as podcasts after the event. We’re doing more with livestreaming. TED is this finely curated meal. And that’s wonderful. [SXSW] is a 24-hour all-you can eat buffet, and that’s wonderful at times too. Presentations and panels are great, but ultimately what people come to events to meet other people, make connections, have face-to-face conversations that happen outside the panels, at the bar, happy hour. Panels are just the hook to get people in and to market the thing.

As I mentioned in my kickoff post, we will host a series of blog interviews over the next two weeks with speakers from our upcoming PreCommerce Summit (March 10) and Movers & Shapers Summit (March 12). Today’s interview is with the Associate Director of the Borlaug Institute, Julie Borlaug. Julie will be part of a panel called “Future of…” at our PreCommerce Summit on Thursday, March 10.a - JulieBorlaug

A little bit about Julie… She is the granddaughter of Nobel Peace prize laureate and father of the Green Revolution Dr. Norman Borlaug. She is an advocate for innovation and technology with an eye toward ending hunger and poverty. She takes pride in continuing the Borlaug legacy and strives to inspire next generation Fighters.

Now onto the interview:

  1. Aaron: How do you define innovation?
    Julie: I believe innovation is the constant desire to create better systems. The more out-of-the–box and creative the better.
  2. Aaron: What are you or your organization doing to drive innovation?
    Julie: Personally, I am advocate for the agriculture sector and speak often about the need to drive innovation as well as support and fund it. Educating a public far removed from agriculture is a priority in order to gain their acceptance and understanding.
    In regards, to the Borlaug Institute, we are fortunate to take the best research and technology from Texas A&M, as well as our private and public sector partners and create self-sustaining projects in developing countries to further their agriculture systems. We work both with high-tech and low-tech innovations.
  3. Aaron: Who is someone in your industry (or outside) that you admire? Why?
    Julie: Of course, I will always admire my grandfather for his passion & never-ending fight to end hunger and poverty through agriculture and innovation. Additionally, Bill and Melinda Gates. I realize you asked for only one but I do not think you can mention one without the other. Because of their commitment to agriculture, the public, governments and other foundations are finally recognizing the important role agriculture plays in creating stable, healthy, educated and food secure societies.
  4. Aaron: Where do you see your industry being in 3 years? 5? 10?
    I hope that agriculture will not have to continue to fight the uphill battle against the anti-innovation & anti-science movement. This anti- backlash has blocked critical innovation from reaching those most in need. Innovation in all sectors is a must including agriculture. It helps create more sustainable & resilient farming systems, and a safer more nutritious food supply.
    Additionally, we will see more start-ups and young people involved in agriculture and high tech/data science that will help create a more sustainable system. Synthetic biology will be accepted without the concerns surrounding GMOS.
  5. Aaron: What book are you reading right now? How did you choose it?
    Julie: I am reading an advanced copy of Roger Thurow’s Frist 1,000 Days: A Crucial Time for Mothers and Children – And the World. It’s the 3rd book in a series in which Roger explains the complexities of national and international agriculture and the flight of small-holders farmers. These are compelling books that everyone wanting to understand agriculture and why it is so critical need to read.
  6. For fun: what three things would you make sure you brought with you in a zombie apocalypse?
    Julie: I would just bring Chuck Norris.

Thank you Julie. And maybe the best answer yet on what to bring to the zombie apocalypse. We look forward to hearing more from you on the future of agriculture at our PreCommerce Summit.

It’s SXSW Eve, so we thought we would feature one of Austin’s up and coming entrepreneurial couples this evening.  Bryan and Amelia Thomas decided to blend virtual world creativity and real world play to found a company called PopUp Play.  If you ever buy presents for kids, you’ll be interested in this company.

Here’s a brief Q&A between myself and Amelia and Bryan.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your company?

From Amelia: PopUp Play began with a conversation I had with some friends.  We were talking about our favorite toys as children, and I remembered the “Flying Phone Booth,” a shipping crate my sisters and I turned into a spaceship. Over the next year we refined the concept as we talked to people who had young children.  It was the enthusiastic response from these parents that pushed us to make PopUp Play a reality. So, we knew the business concept was really attractive to prospective customers.

What gets us excited is that kids can experience the joy and self-confidence of bringing their creations to life and playing with them. Taking a digital design and then interacting with your life-size creation is an experience previously reserved for adult engineers, architects and designers. We have brought that experience to kids.

Q: What are the most important learnings as an entrepreneur that could help others as they start their companies?

Building any kind of company will involve an entire community.  Friends, family, former co-workers, strangers, we could have not gotten this far without the help of countless people who have donated their time and money to make PopUp Play a reality.

Create a lean business canvas as soon as possible and review it regularly.  Early on, it will force you to ask all of the hard questions about your business.  As you build your business refer back to it regularly to see whether your assumptions have changed and to keep you on track.

Openly share the idea.  This is great advice from Guy Kawasaki, in his book “The Art of the Start.”  Sharing your idea with people you trust and respect will result in a huge amount of feedback that will make it better or change your direction entirely.  This value far outweighs any potential cost of someone “stealing” your idea.  After all, ideas are free, execution is where the value is.

Q: Tell us about your main product.  How do children interact with it?  What do they like?

PopUp Play enables kids to design and build their own toys.  Our first product is an experience where kids, ages 3-9, design a custom playhouse that we then manufacture exactly to their specifications and deliver a few days later.  Kids are able to easily set up their playhouse, decorate it and then play inside their creation.

The experience begins on an interactive design app called the PopUp Play Build Lab.  Kids select from options like a house or castle.  They place structural components like towers, windows, doors and roofs.  Then they decorate their creation with graphics torches, dragons or fairies.  At the press of a button they can order their creation.  We deliver their creation a few days later as a life-size playhouse.  Then the play experience continues when the kid creators decorate and color their playhouse and play massive games of make believe inside their creation.

Kids love that they can take what they are seeing on their tablet and play with it in their living room.  It’s a new way of thinking that kids otherwise don’t have access to.  When a kid sees this structure in real life that they created on their iPad, the sheer amount of joy on their face is remarkable.  The phrase “mind blown” might have been created for this moment.

Q:  When you were a kid, what were your favorite toys?

We already talked about Amelia’s favorite toy, the Flying Phone Booth.  Bryan’s favorite toy was a bicycle.  He loved the freedom it gave him to explore and go on adventures.

Thank you Amelia and Bryan, you’re building a very cool company and Austin is proud of you!  We wish you the best of luck.

 

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