From the moment we touched down in Austin and were greeted by a bustling sea of plastic-rimmed glasses and ironic facial hair, the saying “Keep Austin Weird” finally came to life. To say that SXSW is a “festival” doesn’t really encompass the full experience. It’s more like a mecca of all things creative and disruptive for movers and makers across the full spectrum of arts and sciences.
I think this kind of juxtaposition is what makes SXSW a really incredible place. The Interactive Keynote Speaker this year was Jennifer Doudna, who discovered and pioneered CRISPR gene editing research. To see someone so scientifically distinguished speak on the same stage as Mark Cuban and the Game of Thrones cast is a strangely wonderful experience. Normally, I would have to go to a highly scientific biology or engineering conference to hear Doudna speak or to a elite film festival to hear Justin Baldoni and Rainn Wilson. But, at SXSW, the beautiful celebration of the commonality of all things inspirational brings these names to the same space.
A lot of SXSW reminded me of Where Good Ideas Come From, one of the HFA pre-readings. Author Steven Johnson emphasizes the importance of horizontal liquid networks and how coincidental meeting of ideas and simmering in those environments can cultivate slow hunches and, ultimately, serendipitous discoveries. At SXSW, I talked to entrepreneurs disrupting food through new forms of protein over nachos at the WeDC House, I met mobile app developers while waiting in line to meet Grumpy Cat at the Viceland Bus, and I got to hear Wagner Moura, from the Netflix show Narcos, speak about Latinx inclusion in the film industry. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to listen, share, dance, speak, and sing our way through SXSW this past week and I hope to bring some of that energy and life back to HFA as we wrap up ideation!
Read other fellows' reflections on SXSW here and here. And stay tuned for more!