This post continues our series on SXSW as each fellow shares their highlights and reflections. Read about Jake’s here and Dan’s here. And stay tuned for more about our week in Austin, TX!
There’s so much I could talk about from our six days in Austin at SXSW. The talks, the tech, the swag. I mean, the President was there, people. But what’s sticking with me is the energy that buzzed just beneath the surface all week. It’s something I suppose you could call ‘startup energy.’ Or ‘innovation energy.’ Or ‘I’m jumping before I’m totally sure my parachute is working’ energy.
We’ve sensed this energy at every conference we’ve attended this year, from the MI2 Thinking Differently Forum to the World Diabetes Congress. And we definitely felt it while hosting tables at SXSW’s Invest for Health event to talk to attendees about a couple of the solutions we’ve been pursuing during the ideation phase (pictured above, photo credit: Leatt Gilboa). But try as I might, I haven’t quite been able to put words to that energy until now.
Enter Brené Brown. Brené is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She’s most famous for her TEDx Houston talk in 2009, The Power of Vulnerability. Her other areas of expertise include courage, worthiness, and shame.
So why was Brené Brown giving a keynote at SXSW? And what does she have to do with the energy we’ve sensed at all of these conferences?
As she does in one of her books, Brené quoted Theodore Roosevelt during her talk: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
It’s obvious now that the energy between all of these entrepreneurs, healthcare providers, and designers comes from being in the arena, face to face with complex challenges and increasingly high stakes. Healthcare innovation requires stepping into and staying in that arena. Our team feels it all the time. Diabetes is a messy, complex issue, and, frankly, it takes a bit of gumption to believe we can make an impact.
But we think we can, so we stepped into the arena in a big way at SXSW. In hosting tables at Invest for Health, we had the chance to put our concepts and our rough prototypes in front of healthcare professionals, investors, and other entrepreneurs. Of course, we’ve talked to tons of people about our ideas, but something about having a table and prototypes and flyers made it feel so…real. I won’t say there was ‘dust and sweat and blood,’ but that doesn’t mean we didn’t learn a lot about ways we can stretch and grow each idea. It was a simultaneously humbling and exhilarating experience—and one which we’re hoping to replicate as we start to look for pitch competitions and other ways to start sharing our work with the world!
This blog will, of course, be a great way to stay up to speed as we wrap up our journey through the ideation phase and move toward iterating and implementing one idea. Stay tuned for some exciting announcements about the road ahead!