SXSW: Telstra's Adam Good finds SXSW is the "new" Cannes

13 March 2013

To be honest I have lost track of what day it is and while I sit here to write this blog I can see the "Keep Austin Weird" slogan hanging from the wall. It’s all over town and I feel this reaches far beyond a marketing campaign.

Austin reflects a friendly, accepting culture of artistic and individual expression that maintains the city as a vibrant and eclectic creative centre that I’m positive is fuelled by the SXSW festival. It’s such a great place.

So here are some more highlights.

I went to a talk by Scott Cook Innovation and Leadership in the Agile Age. Scott started his career at Procter & Gamble, where he learned about product development, market research, and marketing. He has gone onto to form a number of successful web companies and businesses and has a net worth of $1.1 billion.

Scott spoke about how the path to game changing innovation is only possible by radically changing an organisation’s approach to leadership and decision making. He said moving a company from politics and PowerPoint to decisions been made by hypothesis and leadership. To get there he said the company must embrace the conducting of experiments. He said forming a hypothesis, testing it quickly and allowing experiments to drive decisions will exact positive change in the companies. His slides can be viewed here.

I ventured out of Austin central city and the convention hub to the Long Centre to see Pete Cashmore, CEO and founder of the popular blog Mashable and his morning program called the MashShow event.

He his guests spoke about the internet, its history and the fact the world loves to reconnect through images, stories and sometimes, cats. The topic of particular interest to me was the rise of native advertising, better known as promoted tweets and sponsored stories. They spoke about their newest native ad unit called Social Lift. The product is a natural extension for the company, which adopted a new responsive design across its desktop and mobile sites. The keynote video can be found here.

At the end of the day I was invited by Jeff Goodby, co-founder and co-chair of San Francisco agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, to go effectively ‘off Broadway’ to his pop SXSW event at the Driskill Hotel. Love this hotel!

This event was not on the SXSW schedule but I have to say it was fabulous. Jeff brought together Livia Tortella, chief operating officer of Warner Bros Records, angel investors Aileen Lee and Bing Gordon, Ideo’s Paul Bennett, Lucas Film’s Ivan Askwit and Damian Kulash, lead singer of OK Go, who played an acoustic set at the after party,

The get together was an exclusive, candid discussion moderated by Goodby entitled “So When The Hell Do You Sleep?”.

Within an intimate, personal setting, each member touched on how they approach their creative career and when they know they are on a good thing. Like all things by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, it was beautifully done.

I have known Jeff for a while and I sat next to him by complete chance on the flight Dallas to Austin earlier in the week. Goodby believes SXSW is the "new" Cannes. He feels "SXSW is about the future, Cannes is about the past." With the belief that the key is to fail quickly, at SXSW he is "looking for failure. You find failure everywhere here," he said.

Not sure I can write anymore blogs. It's time to come home. Maybe a reflective piece for the magazine is all that's left in me! My last SXSW tweets can be found at

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