Yeah, yeah… SxSW was a few weeks ago, but I still had to report on what was such an unreal experience. This one may get long, but hey, so was the weekend. [Note: This is a bit more life-streaming than I usually do, but hopefully my “pro tips” will help this be somewhat educational - at least for SxSW n00bs for next year].
In my classic, pre-flight style, I had a ton of stuff to get done the night before I left, so I obviously went to bed at 3AM… when my flight was at 7:30AM. Pro tip: Not the best way to head into SxSW.
Still made my flight and ended up next to Jonathan Fields, an NYC blogger/author/entrepreneur. We had a great conversation and lucky for me, Jon rented a car so I had a ride to downtown Austin along with Charlie O'Donnell and my new buddy Evan Bartlett. Catching a free ride isn’t in and of itself a big deal, but I point it out because it would’ve been easy to say “I’m going to check into my hotel and grab a nap,” but I knew SxSW was special and the best way to experience it was to go with the flow. It worked wonders all weekend. Pro tip: Go with the flow.
We rolled through the Austin Convention Center and before I knew it, I was running into people I knew. It became the theme of the weekend - the “irony of diaspora,” as I liked to call it. Sure, I met people from all over the USA, but I mostly met people from NYC whom I’d never met before (and consequently we became best friends because we were in Austin together. I also got to hang with NYC friends who I don’t get to see a lot because we all work so much. Fun times with all).
Friday ended up being a pretty chill day as everyone was still rolling into Austin, but I was lucky to catch up with my friends Chris and Brendan from Wistia who sponsored a Mixergy interview session with Gary Vaynerchuck. Amazingly, I couldn’t really hear Gary (I know, right?), but I did get to finally meet his brother AJ. Great dude who hooked me up later in the weekend. Pro tip: When you get someone’s contact info and say “let’s hang out later,” follow up!
Saturday got nuts, quickly. Started off at the Group.me Grill (THANK YOU Group.me for the grilled cheese… and beer Pro tip: There are free food trucks everywhere - I only paid for food late night - Chicken'n'Waffle Tacos anyone?), but quickly caught up with some buddies and commandeered a Chevy Volt to take us to the Klout party. Think of this as an off-campus party in college, held by the cool juniors at their awesome house. Dope band, great setting and better people. Nice work Joe Fernandez and crew.
Saturday night got fun with the Hashable VIP party (really well done, not crazy crowded and lots of quality people - especially Team Shelby mentor Rachel Sklar!) and then (I think) the 500 Startups party. Either way, I had a t-shirt made just for SxSW that said “I recognize you from Chat-Roulette” so I was making friends wherever I went… sort of. ;)
I’m not sure, but Saturday night may have also been the night of late night snacking - Korean BBQ Tacos, Chicken'n'Waffle Tacos and then Short Bus subs. Yeah… good eats in Austin. Huge thanks to my hometown buddy Suzy Jackson who actually had cash. I owe you!
Things are starting to get blurry here, but Sunday I think we hit up the Dogpatch Labs HQ (thank you Matt Meeker for letting us hang out and stash our gear during the day!). Pro tip: Don’t plan on going back to your hotel during the day unless you’re a baller and have one nearby. Just pack light.
Then, I made sure to hit up the NYCxSW demo-thon. Great to see such an awesome turnout for NYC. At some point, I think I hit up the Conduit Pool Party (which was baller - nice work Emily Gannett - thanks for having us!). I continued onto the Barbarian Group Party (and snuck into the VIP thanks to my friend Matt Raoul who gave me the right name to drop) and wandered around solo until I found more NYC people! Pro tip: VIP = free drinks. I only paid for drinks one night all weekend.
I tailed behind some friends from Bloomberg to get into the Google Party (amazingly they let me in as I stuffed my face with pizza). Surprisingly good party, Google: a photobooth, a great 80’s cover band and fun people. Who says big companies can’t dance?
For whatever reason, I bounced and started wandering solo when I got the heads up about the Vayner Media wine party from AJ (thanks again, bro!). As fate would have it, I was literally a block away and was lucky to roll into the party before the crowd. Said what up to AJ and Gary and before I knew it, the place was PACKED with people. To this day, I am still amazed at Gary’s ability to rally the people. Dude’s like an instant “Super Swarm Badge.”
So what happens in a crowded club, with a bunch of your best buddies, and everyone’s reppin’ your startup? You obviously start dancing on top of the booths like you own the place… fun stuff. :)
If that photo looks blurry, it’s because my iPhone was drunk by osmosis. Thanks to all my dance-party buddies: Sam Rosen, Jeremy Fisher, Kathryn Minshew, Suzy Jackson, Joe Lallouz, Aaron Henshaw… We closed that place down and hit up the SimpleGeo party where I ran into my Uber buddy Ryan Graves, Shai Goldman, and some dude who’s invested in a couple startups, but of course didn’t see the host Matt Galligan, despite running into him in the street every other day I was there…
THANK YOU GROUP-ON FOR MONDAY’S FREE BRUNCH. Without it, I may have died… or had to pay for food (unthinkable).
I planned on attending a bunch of panels on Monday, and then missed all of them. It’s not that I didn’t want to learn, it’s just that I honestly knew all the learning from the panels would probably be available online later, so my time was best spent meeting people. And for the record, no I didn’t have business cards, yes I did use Hashable, and yes it was a great way to do it.
Monday afternoon, Team Shelby hosted some outdoor beers at the Cedar Door. We had a great turnout - Vin and the Yipit crew, Marissa Evans, some of the Hard Candy Shell crew, the famous Trevor Owens, Dustin Dolginow and more. Thanks for coming everyone! Sorry that I ran out of t-shirts, but I’ll get some to you in the next batch! Pro tip: Do get really nice startup shirts made, but don’t forget girls’ sizes!
No dancin’ no huggin’ - official Team Shelby gear.
Cedar Door was an awesome venue. I really recommend this place as a great spot to chill outside away from the madness. Thanks to our buddy Chris Kurdziel for planning all this for us and for Kristin Maverick for giving us the idea. Pro tip: Small startup? Plan a small event like this and really connect with people.
The big finale… Monday night brought me to the big Hashable/Group.me/Spin party. I wasn’t in love with playing ‘bouncer’ at the beginning of the night, but I had to help my buddies at the door. Everyone wanted in! I’m glad they were strict though, because the result was an awesome party full of great people.
Obviously a dance party broke out and raged until close. I tried to make it to the Hilton Lobby for the infamous “backstroke,” but alas, I was too late. So at 4:30AM, with little else to do, I caught a cab to the airport for my 6:30AM flight, passed out next to Nihal for a couple hours and before I knew it I was back at TechStars HQ. Startup adventures FTW.
Huge thanks to Joe and Bryan for trucking it down to Sx with little more than Shelby t-shirts. Together, we made a ton of contacts and told everyone we could about Shelby. So much fun repping a product you believe in… and muggin’ for the cameras like a boy-band. :)
Final pro tip: If you’re into tech, fun and meeting awesome people, go to SxSW.
More thanks: Scott and Alex at Artsicle (for the rides!), Francisco (for making a dope Shelby logo!), Dustin (for letting me stash my stuff in his car!), Kristin Maverick (for a heads up on what to expect), Chris Paik (for the Post 2AM Group.me!), Whitney Hess for recommending the 512 IPA at Cedar Door, Andrew Mitchell (for picking up the cab ride from EWR to NYC!), and most importantly thanks to Hashable - Yavo, Emily, Jane, Oz, Sklar et al (for bringing me along as a Hashable Evangelist!).