Complete Immersion at South-By

Posted on March 22, 2011 by Hayley

Due to a recent injury, I’ve been forced to take a little break from heli skiing. Of course, I am devastated, but, on the plus side, this gave me a chance to do some other things with my time during winter for once. A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine suggested I visit possibly the world’s most influential festival in music, film and everything- the-internet, none other than SXSW (pronounced south-by-south-west), or just ‘south by’ to the indoctrinated.

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Here we are in Austin Texas (not real Texas, we are told).


So, I hopped on a plane, jetted out to Austin, Texas, couch surfed with two cool, amazing locals who fortuitously lived just 2 blocks from the epicentre, and experienced ‘complete immersion’ with the 20,000 other attendees. There is no other way to describe South-by, and I expect Burning Man has a similar impact.

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A Young Entrepreneur being interviewed from Hipmunk (Ashton Kutcher invested in them)

I could not have imagined the enormity of the event, in terms of both the volume of people, the interesting engagements we shared, nor the amazing overlay on such an exciting, vivid, and totally cool town that Austin is.

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Even the police are cool in Austin

Not to be cliché, but I met so many interesting, and friendly people, passionate, and doing really interesting things in their part of the world. I have never seen such a high concentration of i-everything, and Steve Jobs look-alikes , nor learnt so many ‘in vogue’ terms. I had no specific objectives other than to network, and learn about the possibilities emerging now on the internet, and boy, was I indulged. There were no less than 30 sessions of panels, presentations, workshops, films, book readings happening simultaneously at any one time, to immerse in.

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Art Installation at SXSW

I watched startups run by practically teenagers, pitch in the competitions that launched companies at SXSW like Foursquare and Twitter and even met Ashton Kutcher at one of their parties where I wasn’t meant to be, but was.  Then of course, come 3:00pm each day and you had the other tempting alternative of the copious happy hours, and parties being hosted by savvy sponsors. I don’t think I have quite ever seen so many places so generously offering free drinks and food, all competing for the attention of this influential, thought leader crowd.

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The infamous free beer and whisky tent kicking off at 3 ish most days.

I met and shared my passion of heli skiing and my business- Total Heliski with many people, gained many good suggestions for business development, and generated much interest, that I left inspired.

These are exactly the people who will love the rush of heli skiing, and who I can’t wait to introduce this amazing experience to.

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Party Town of Austin

However, compared to South-by, it’ll be a complete reverse immersion. I mean, it would be a total get away from the rest of civilization, engagement with nature rather than technology, spending a week getting to know an intimate group, rather than a mass-meetup, float in powder and to be surrounded by sheer beauty of the wilderness of mountains rather than hanging around the cool urban canvas of Austin. But I am certain the impact of a reverse immersion on the creativity on this cool crowd would be similar.

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