25 lessons on design, technology, content and culture from SXSW 2015


The mobile web is now capable of beautiful fast interactive animation that was once only possible in desktop browsers or in native mobile applications. Since iOS 8 launched nearly 80% of smart phones support WebGL, the technology that makes this possible.

Check out beautiful touch-responsive and motion-responsive mobile demos here

Contrary to popular belief, sometimes adding friction to an experience can provide value for you and your users. Lumosity, a brain game company, has found that a slower, more informative on boarding experience, for example, results in lower initial product trial but more qualified users that receive higher lifetime value for both.


By adding e-commerce services into their applications, bold messaging apps like Japan’s Line and China’s WeChat are trying to prove that messaging is actually a better interaction method than the URL bar for many services. They’re having wild success internationally turning their messaging apps into platforms, and Facebook is expected to follow suit.


As the dynamics of the workplace evolve, we need to think of wellbeing as a human right. Mobile has created the 24 hour workday, pensions are disappearing, more and more of our time is “at work”. So we have to enjoy what we do, and we have to be empowered to have a healthy work/life balance.

We need to redefine the success metrics of capitalism: 1] financial success, 2] pro-social impact, 3] joy at work. You need all three to succeed. In an age of full information availability, the next generation will expect nothing less from the where they work and brands they support.

Biz Stone talks about the new success metrics of capitalism | Photo: Tim McAlpine

When it comes to personalizations, what people do is much more important than what they say. Netflix starts by making some assumptions based on your age, gender and geography, but making decisions based on users actual streaming habits is much more useful overall.

You need to know exactly what you’re testing for or you’ll make the wrong decisions. Adding a prominent customer service number and a quick cancelation button hurt many of Netflix’s performance metrics, but are critical to its brand. Making Netflix Kids a different, lighter interface instilled confidence in parents that it was a safer environment.


“Mobile phones are the hyperlinks of humanity and most information is still locked inside people’s heads” is Biz Stone’s product thesis. It not only explains his startup choices Twitter, Jelly and Super, but also suggests the inspiration behind the latest messaging revolution. It also represents Google’s mobile challenge.


Decide the story you want to tell first and then decide what format is best for it. There’s no golden rule in content length or format; people will give you their attention if its great. ESPN, for example, will utilize everything from long form articles and documentaries to Snapchat clips to share the right story.

You need to consider the “fluidity of platforms” in today’s media landscape. You can leverage different platforms to tell different aspects of a story, and you have to expect your content to be cut up and shared across different platforms. Late shows are paving the way in planning TV for social media.


The social impact of Uber is a story no one is talking about. Uber has created over 300,000 jobs worldwide. In communities where it operates there is a decrease in DUI’s. It’s reducing parking congestion and road congestion. High risk populations like teens and elders are beginning to rely on it.

Disruptive companies take on big challenges. Uber isn’t just disrupting cabs, it’s disrupting frustration. In that context, it’s easy to see how the “Uber-ization of everything” is inspiring companies in many industries.

Today’s Millennials think of cars as a utility, not a social statement, which changes their value. 97% of cars are sitting unused at any one time. Transportation has been ignored as a vertical for disruption for too long.

It’s Uber’s world, we’re just living in it | Photo: Uber Facebook

Crowdsourced security programs like the ones Facebook and Google implement to pay hackers for finding software vulnerabilities are proving incredibly valuable. They’re creating a regulated criminal market that gives alternative job options to hackers.


Evernote launched a physical product marketplace to sharpen its brand positioning, create a lifestyle around its brand, and create a profitable business. Its products are all abut merging the physical and digital workspace. Impressively, just as many non-paying Evernote customers now buy its marketplace products than paying customers.


Meerkat represents the next wave of video and that’s why everyone’s so excited about it. Meerkat is quick and easy to use, smartly taps both public (Twitter) and private (app/phone) social graphs, offers the right mix of vanity and engagement, and delivers reliable high quality video feeds. Personal broadcast has been tried many times before, but no one has ever gotten it so right. It has the ability to disrupt news and media in advance of the 2016 political season.

“Meerkasting” a party at SXSW | Photo: Anthony Quintano

For a long time Moore’s law was the only path to a happier customer, but now design and user experience are just as critical. Mobile was the inflection point for design in tech because mobile made tech for everyone, and increased dramatically how often we interact with tech; we use our phones over 150 times per day.


The keys to innovation are ubiquitous broadband and mobile connectivity, diversification in funding of ideas through platforms like Kickstarter, and diverse teams with varied points of view working together. “The most innovative thing we will recognize of the last 200 years is all of humanity finally being able to come to the table together.”


Bitcoin’s important breakthroughs are a] being able to define a finite number of digital copies, enabling them to maintain value b] create decentralized marketplaces that can be leveraged to exchange all sorts of values, from energy to file storage, and c] to transfer currency immediately and without fees.


Culture is becoming more and more global. Content travels across borders. Not all content needs to be customized for different regions.


When trying to reach Millenials, mobile is the first screen, not the third. MLB thinks about how the next generation will engage with sports in social and mobile applications. What content is engaging and shareable on the go. Thinking that lead to its new show with Will Ferrell and HBO.

You need to think about telling stories directly on platforms, not just driving traffic. In one month BuzzFeed generated 18.5 Billion impressions on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, but only 421 Million clicks back to its website. If it only creates and values links it wastes massive amounts of attention. BuzzFeed’s BFF team is completely focused on producing content for outside BuzzFeed.com.


Sex and money are both taboos that we don’t want to talk about but open dialogue is critical to improving relations around both. Co-presented by entrepreneur Cindy Gallop, who gave the TED talk Make Love Not Porn, and VC Arjan Schütte, who invests in financial tech serving underbanked populations. They share the believe that, when it comes to sex and money, most people are confused about what is vice and what is virtue, and it often results in money flowing the wrong direction for both.


Comics have always been about tackling big important issues through the philosophy “indirection is the key to art.” Whether it’s race relations, gender equality, gay rights, or government surveillance, Marvel movies always have a political agenda. The first issue of Captain America featuring Captain punching Hitler in the face; it was 9 months before Pearl Harbor and so controversial the writers needed police protection.


La Barbecue’s beef rib is not to be missed. More people visit Stubs and IronWorks for convenience, and Franklins if they dare, but make your way to La Barbecue and enjoy one of the best beef ribs you’ll ever find without the intimidating line.

On the left, a 1.5 LB beef rib from La Barbecue