SXSW Day 2: Wait, did I not even go to any panels?03.14.11
I don't really know how that happened. Before I went to sleep on Friday, I laid out for Saturday all the panels I wanted to see (and some even overlapped with each other.)
Stu and I (Signpost's CEO) and I get to the conference center early and start wandering around. It's totally bizarre but I again run into another ex-Googler. I suppose I should stop being surprised but it is strange to be at a place, that you've gone independent of others, where a reasonable number of people know you. Karen is one of the few Googlers I still know (amazing how much attrition there has been after only 4 years) but she's still going quite strong. It's funny when I think about it -- but I remember when she first started Google's various blogs. It really wasn't a particularly glamorous task and now it's probably the primary way Google publishes information about itself and there's 80(!) of them - astounding. Goes to show what can happen when you just do stuff.
We then meet up with one of his friends and somehow end up at a house party in some (presumably) suburb of Austin because we had to drive there. The party was for a company called Klout -- I actually don't know what they do (but will look it up later; I'm so lame when it comes to tech. My old boss, Adam, once asked me after he had taken two years off if I ever worried I would be perceived as "stale bread". My response? "I'm not afraid I'll be perceived I'm stale bread, I'm afraid that I'm actually stale bread." He joined Etsy shortly thereafter.
The house was awesome -- just a really well designed and modern look and apparently they only paid $1,500/day to rent it (even split among 5 people, still not as economical as booking a hotel in advance -- but to have a venue to house parties and everything else, that's kind of an unbeatable price.) Oh, but just to show how savvy they were -- it was $1,500/day but they didn't even pay it -- they got a sponsor to pay it, Dos Equis to donate beer, and I forget what other freebies they bargained -- but all in all, they threw an awesome party and didn't have to pay for it. Pretty slick. The guys from Klout seemed cool too. I mentioned this yesterday, but again, there are startup founders EVERYWHERE! Good luck to these people. It's probably actually a good thing for all these founders that there are so many other founders because they can all help each other -- but yowzers.
By now, it's late afternoon, I still haven't seen any panels, I'm starving, and a small group of us break off. Lindsey poses a question, "Mexican or.... Spaghetti Warehouse?" Spaghetti Warehouse!!! I'm all in on that one. I think the group was surprised by my enthusiasm. Interestingly, a wedding celebration was being held there while we were there. And someone from our group ordered from the kids menu which was kind of awesome. The waiter asked him if he wanted apple sauce. By the way, if you order from the kids menu, it comes with ice cream. In a to go container.
This posting is really not meant to be a blow by blow of my day. But the short of it is that literally, I spent an entire day here and effectively didn't even have to be here in the sense I didn't even need a pass. But I had heard this -- that the best part of SXSW is getting a chance to randomly meet all these people and so that's been lots of fun. Oh, I'm missing all the NCAA tournament games which is mildly distressing. Fortunately, Princeton beat Harvard @ Yale (don't ask) after losing to Harvard @ Harvard just last weekend. They're now in the tournament. No jokes about them getting crushed in the 1st round -- when you're in, you're in, and you never know what may happen! Even if it is against Kentucky.
I will close by adding 3 random thoughts:
1. Stu got connected up to a super cool dinner party from the folks from LearnVest. I sat next to the founder of BirchBox -- they've gone from 0 to (many thousands) of subscribers who pay $10/month for a monthly selection of cosmetics samples (which they get for free from the manufacturers.) The math is amazing. They have a large customer base who pays in a recurring revenue stream and $0 cost of goods sold. What am I missing? Apparently nothing. Accel and First Round funded them.
2. FourSquare Party -- we next went to the FourSquare party. Something weird happened to me. When I first started picking up (what I consider) to be really hot women -- my body would physically lock up a little. The first time it happened was when I picked up a bartender at a bar in Los Angeles called Saddle Ranch. It never happened to me before. On some level, it must've been nerves -- but even though I mentally was just fine (and still managed to number close) it was such a weird sensation. That has basically diminished to it almost never happening anymore -- but from time to time a small smidgen of it does happen. I felt a little bit of it before we entered the FourSquare Party. No idea why -- I didn't even know who was inside or anything like that. The only thing I can figure is that lately I've been in a lot of warm situations where I have some social proof (and even here I did too since I was with a group) -- but maybe there was a part of me that was like, "Oh -- maybe you'll have to do cold approaches again or try to build instant social proof and then do cold approaches."
3. Finally, I have to close with a super awkward situation. We're waiting outside the FourSquare party and not terribly certain what was going on. I chat up this cute girl standing next to me -- we're maybe 30 seconds into the conversation when Alexa (the founder of LearnVest who organized the dinner of women entrepreneurs that we were at -- yes, we are guys but still got invited :) ) -- she starts telling the bouncer who was part of her group. So this girl I'm talking to realizes that I'm part of it and says something like, "If you could get me in, I'd be very appreciative."
Now, this is a disaster. While I did think it was a bit forward for 30 seconds of interaction (but she did ask very nicely), I literally met Alexa earlier in the evening. I can't ask for that favor for someone I just met. And how to explain this situation to the girl I just met without sounding ridiculous, I don't know. I really wanted to minimize any awkwardness but had absolutely no idea what to do. I should've said something like, "I'm really sorry, I just met them myself." Oh well, lesson learned. Stu witnessed the whole thing and said he felt bad for me when it happened -- then he wanted me to re-open the girl when we saw she got in later. I can only imagine how badly that would've gone :)