DAY 1 @ SXSW 2017

3 Things Worth Putting On Your Radar From Today In Austin

SXSW 2017 officially kicked off today. Day 1 typically is a preamble to the weekend where the panels and talks start to really ramp up. It’s forecasted that 38K people will be in attendance, but you can tell from the lighter lines and foot traffic that quite a few have yet to arrive. Here’s a quick recap of the the biggest stories from today and what to expect in the next couple of days:

1 Focus on AI

There’s a distinct focus on artificial intelligence this year with almost 50 talks, panels and sessions devoted to the subject and dissecting it seven ways to Sunday — analysing its impact on everything from changing consumer interaction with brands to customer service to security to future ethics issues. The big talks on the issue are still to come and we’ll be watching this space closely.

Even conference organisers got in on the AI and chatbot app with the integration of Abby the chatbot into the SXSW app. Abby provides recommendations for talks based on your selected list of favourites as well as give you reminders of upcoming talks in your schedule.

Meet Abby, your personal assistant at SXSW

2 Gender diversity in tech is a theme in this year’s talks

Women in tech has been a big topic in the media this year both positively and negatively. The desire for better representation of women in technology and digital has been reflected in a large number of women keynotes, speakers, and panelists.

TFQ’s Girl’s Lounge is running again with a strong lineup of panels and talks over the next 3 days. Here’s a nice Facebook Live interview of two of the women who will be speaking and participating in several of the events at the Girl’s Lounge — Fidji Simo VP of Product at Facebook and Tali Rapaport VP of Product at Lyft.

We’re greeted immediately by a street team promoting the house when approaching the Austin Convention Center this morning.

3 Notable Absentees From The Big Tech Players

Quite a few companies chose not to activate at SXSW this year. This list includes Facebook, Snapchat, Spotify, AirBnb, Funny or Die. Even Uber and Lyft are nowhere to be found.

No Spotify House in 2017… sad.

The assumption is that the big tech companies have chosen to focus more on niche business and tech Q1 conferences. The lack of street presence from big tech brands signals another shift as companies such as Spotify, which are now doing more “highly curated, private events” targeted to specific influencers with potent social media followings, rather than big public concerts that most anyone can attend.

“What we’ve maybe lost is some of that over-the-top spending — the spring break-style free-for-all. The marketing has changed.” — Jennifer Sinski, founder of

The numbers support this viewpoint with roughly 100 fewer sponsored events from last year (from 450 in 2016 to 350 in 2017).

We’ll keep an eye on this space to see if any new activations from the big players pop-up this week.

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Written by Mathieu Dauner

Associate Strategy Director, White Agency

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