The 22nd annual South by Southwest Interactive Festival starts in Austin, Tex., on Friday. Around 33,000 Interactive badge holders, who ponied up $1,295 for access to the five-day tech conference — will crowd into the Austin Convention Center, the hub of daytime activity.
Luring them in: More than 1,000 panels and sessions from more than 2,500 scheduled speakers, including Twitter cofounder Biz Stone, who tackles “Creativity and Redefining Success” during his session on Saturday; former Google chief executive officer Eric Schmidt, leading a panel entitled “How Innovation Happens” on Monday, and Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, driving the seemingly more concrete discussion, “Bitcoin: What It Needs To Succeed.”
Media companies hosting events in their own spaces include Yahoo, which takes over Brazos Hall March 14 to 21 for previews of its three original series premiering this spring: “Community,” “Sin City Saints,” and “Other Space”; music showcases from Jhené Aiko, Omarion and Ty Dolla $ign, among others, and talks with editor in chiefs Joe Zee, David Pogue, Paula Froelich, Kerry Diamond and Michele Promaulayko. Hearst brings its programming to the JW Marriott from Friday to Monday, where panels include Elle.com editor Leah Chernikoff moderating a women shaping tech panel with Danae Ringelmann, founder and chief development officer of Indiegogo, Danika Laszuk, vice president of marketing at Jawbone, and reporter Nellie Bowles of Re/code; Cosmopolitan executive editor Leslie Yazel talking wearables with Sandra Lopez of Intel, and Hearst Magazines Digital Media president Troy Young chatting with Wieden+Kennedy’s Colleen DeCourcy on ad content and creativity in the digital age (at the Austin Convention Center). With success stories like Twitter and Foursquare — both of which launched at the tech conference in 2007 and 2009, respectively — start-ups will be on the hunt for the green from investors and the buzz from media.
This year also marks the launch of SXStyle, the festival’s first fashion retail/lifestyle hub. The companies hosting talks on fashion and tech include Fashion and Beauty Monitor, which partnered with the “Brain Bar” at the W Hotel, where editor Sarah Penny will host a virtual panel on Sunday with Pernille Bruun-Jensen of Netbase, Carla Buzasi of WGSN and Matthew Eberhart of Bloomingdale’s; styling app Covet and French Connection, which will explore mobile marketing, and Decoded, which is hosting a “Mentorship Hub” with Swarovski and Simon Property Group at the JW Marriott, where panels include execs from ASOS, Topshop, Gap, Neiman Marcus, Kate Spade Saturday and Spring. Simon will also launch a start-up competition to discover companies whose innovations will enhance and transform the retail ecosystem.
After the daily daytime sessions, the geek-chic set network into the wee hours at shindigs around town, including Umbel’s Interactive Opening Night Party with a performance by Spoon on Friday night, Crowdtap’s soiree on Saturday featuring MisterWives and White Panda, and the closing party on March 17, headlined by TV on the Radio, Ludacris and DJ Z-Trip.
While techies speculate on the next big thing — and perhaps drop by the robot petting zoo at the JW Marriott — two sure-to-be popular apps at this year’s fest are the recently launched Uberpool and Lyftline, for on-demand carpooling. The competitors are allowed to operate legally this year, thanks to a recently passed city ordinance that no longer prohibits ride services, a welcome relief for revelers who struggled to find cabs during last year’s fest.