Since its inception in 1987, South by Southwest has grown from a music and media B2B conference to an entire pop-up town, virtually taking over all of downtown Austin for two weeks to spotlight creatives and innovators from so many industries. This year, SXSW Interactive — a standalone destination — is bigger than ever, but there’s still some head scratching about what it actually is. The short answer: a place for tech visionaries to confer and spread ideas. Considering it launched in 1994 as an “open house” with zero keynote speakers and pretty crappy attendance, it’s attracted keynote speakers, like Malcolm Gladwell, Elon Musk, and the founders of Twitter, Spotify, MakerBot and so, so many more. To navigate this year’s conference from afar, here are five we’re most excited about.
Bonafides: grew his father’s liquor store from one location to a $3m business before investing in Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Uber…he strikes gold almost every time, and his “Ask Gary Vee” YouTube series offers bite-sized insights into his incredible instinct. Known for calling social media a “cocktail party” where brands need to speak to customers casually. His book #ASKGARYVEE: One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness comes out March 8th.
Bonafides: launching rewardStyle at 23—the world’s largest monetization software, turning blog and social media product snaps into serious cash—as in, $1billion in global sales last year. Also, stellar and beautiful Instagram feed.
Find her: Friday from 5-6pm here.
Bonafides: founder of Photo Ark, a multi-year photo documentary project with the goal of preserving natural habitats. He’s a frequent NatGeo contributor, in addition to lensing for Time, Life, Newsweek…basically any magazine that wants to turn a news story into a striking moment. Beyond seeing his work, you can hear him on NPR, NBC Nightly News or CBS Sunday Morning.
Expert in: illustration design and focus in the workplace
Bonafides: challenging herself to create a new piece of art every day for 100 consecutive days. But Adobe’s in-house illustrator isn’t just a creative mind; she’s charged with strategically creating a sustainable illustration business for the tech behemoth. Her book I’d Rather Be Short is to be followed by her second, The Roommate Book. She’ll be talking about prioritizing, blocking out digital and social noise and creating.
Bonafides: founder of Bēhance, a network of web-based portfolios bridging the gap between makers and companies who want to hire them in 2006, making him an early arriver to the digital marketplace of creative services.His Q&A at Southby is all about his experience working with start-ups and how interface might actually matter more than the technology underneath.