In Beats + Bytes by Nue Agency

I just returned from a few awesome days at SXSW.

I had a blast workshopping new ideas, seeing old friends, meeting rising stars, and connecting with colleagues and clients. We generated a heap of new leads and heard about what’s next as we head into a pivotal year of technological advances and global transformation.

It’s tipping point time in tech. The world is changing and tech is razor focused on changing it for the better. SXSW still has “it,” although “it” is different now. “It” is much more manageable. “It” is much more contained. But “it” is still completely taking over downtown Austin.

The conversations ranged from tech’s ability to cure cancer (feels very possible!); to AI and it’s true use cases; to the expansion of self-driving cars; to functional wellness and the blue sky of tea culture. I went deep on expanding successful business models to reinvent education. I watched the CEO of Beyond Meat and the founder of Theragun tell their stories and share their thesis in an intimate setting. There was brilliant dialogue about Blockchain and how it pertains to crypto, plus lots of fresh talk about companies building for the new spacial audio, AR/VR, and the metaverse. A fundamental, generational divide has developed between Web2 to Web3.

The group chats were white hot, but it wasn’t the same gross era of FOMO driving hot ideas and shiny founders being funded on the spot. We’re all coming off a cultural correction and, with the froth gone, the market feels smarter now. This year was about ideas exchange and panels that actually drew crowds. Gone are the days of 3D Oreo printers and Lady Gaga Doritos vending machines. Tech felt completely separated from Music for the first time.

The best activation I saw was from the Delta Sky Lounge. I love a sky lounge and a nice reprise on a long travel day. I called the Delta Sky Lounge “the Soho House of every airport” for years. Clearly, others feel the affinity, too. The lines were down the block…for medallion holders only. There were no performers or any type of ancillary draw, it was just fans of the brand. Inside felt like “newstolgia” at its best. There were posters from the glory days of commercial air travel mixed with promos of new technology that Delta is bringing to the future of flight. And the merch was fire (don’t @ me). Shouts to ’47 Brand on the hat collab and Team Epiphany for making it feel truly cool.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the iHeart Podcast Awards. Podcast culture had a big presence at SXSW and it was smart for iHeart to bundle it up with an award show honoring the hottest, most relevant players. Mixing and mingling with Shannon Sharpe, Bobbi Althoff, Jay Shetty, and Prof G felt more relevant to me than, say, a VMAs afterparty. These stars are dominating our “ear waves” at this very moment.

Beyond SXSW, Austin continues to amaze. It feels like a mecca of health and wellness with great food and local commerce to boot. SXSW did to Austin what Art Basel did to Miami, but the onus is always on the city to expand on the boom. Austin really managed the pandemic well and has reached a new peak, even by its high standards. It’s never a bad time to get weird in the 512.

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Also published on Medium.