Dan Hough

Some things I learned at SxSWi 2013

Published 18 March 2013 in London, UK

With a suitcase full of free t-shirts, free cups, free stickers, free packs of doritos, free advice and free spirits, I return to the homeland.

The Queen will be delighted with the influx of business cards from CEOs and Heads of Product, and the makerbot-built guitar picks that I am definitely going to use at gigs as a talking point.

But what did I take back from “South-By” which can’t be weighed in grammes or ounces, but only in some difficult-to-explain measure which probably got its own buzzword this week? What did I learn?!

1. Take the Bad with the Good

I wrote a post about this while I was at the festival.

I met two people this week who are very well-respected in their fields. They are both powerful, well-loved and in-demand for their time, thoughts and opinions. They are both inspirational people.

I told them both about an idea I have been mulling over for a long while. It isn’t a low-cost, low-risk idea I can spin up over a weekend, but more of a high-cost, high-risk idea in an industry which has been saturated for a while but welcomes new recruits all the time.

One of the people loved it. This guy was someone I hugely respect and have a lot of time for, whose presence online I follow and whose speeches and acts of social activism inspire me.

The other guy thought it was terrible. This guy was somebody respected by thousands for his thought-leadership and successful entrepreneurism.

They both had their own reasons for thinking the idea was great or terrible, but I took advice from both and tried to think of ways to channel criticism into something productive.

I knew this was a good thing to do anyway, but I learned it again here, and felt the emotional rollercoaster that goes along with that learning.

2. Everyone is doing the same things

If I see one more social discovery app I think I’m going to cry. The truth is, many spaces are insanely busy at the moment. It’s difficult to get into many of them and yet people keep trying.

Apps have their various niches and different types of user experience which both differentiate themselves.

The key thing though, as with any social app, is adoption - and I can’t see how they many of them can successful in the long-run without the massive adoption needed to take it to the next level.

3. There’s more to Silicon than the Valley

As somebody in tech who works in London, obviously I know that Silicon Valley is not the only tech ‘cluster’ area.

From the outside of the US it’s easy to think that when a tech company is born, it’s born in or moves immediately to the Valley.

There are many other tech hubs in the United States: Las Vegas; Portland; New York City. I met folks from various startups, from all over the country. I always thought that if I moved to the US, I would have to go to San Francisco. I no longer believe this.

The US is full of opportunity, all over the place. I was particularly impressed by all the work being done in Las Vegas. It’s great!

4. There are many people like me

I am an ambitious developer who wants to make a bold move into unknown territory and do his own thing, and reclaim some time - and I am not the only one. There are loads of people like me. I met a few, they are good people.


It was a genuinely inspiring festival, and I’d recommend it to anybody who is into tech, entrepreneurship, or honestly - just wants to have a good time. Though, it’s a little pricey just for the latter.

Heckle me on Twitter @basicallydan.