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South by Southwest Festival Profiled

Aired March 16, 2013 - 14:30   ET


JOSH RUBIN, CNN PRODUCER: Once a year people from all over the world come to Austin, Texas, for what's become the Super Bowl of interactive technology. For the next half hour, CNN is bringing you the South by Southwest festival. Join us as we talk to scientists, actors, filmmakers, and musicians and all the early adapters who seek what's next. The annual South by Southwest festival is where tools developed in Silicon Valley and elsewhere are turned into the culture of today.

BIJOY GOSWAMI, BOOTSTRAP AUSTIN: Technology by itself doesn't give you anything, makes you go faster, better, so on and so forth. But with culture it supplies the meaning and purpose of why you use a piece of technology.

MELISSA PIERCE, RVSX.COM: This is like a mecca. This is a place to go you can pull it all in and where all of these disparate interests are all together. You can soak it in. It is a place that gets you, gets all of your pieces.

HUGH FORREST, SXSW INTERACTIVE: South by Southwest interactive is a five day celebration of creativity in the technology space, so it is a great place for digital creatives to meet and connect and get inspired with new ideas.

ALEXIS OHANIAN, REDDIT FOUNDER: For a few days to be inundated with people think ago long the same lines and come from very different places all over the country. That's cool.

PHIL CAMPBELL, CELLAR54.TV: It is the most constructive week of like-minded individuals. It is a week of refreshment and also of partying like it is 1999.

SEGALL: Pitching, partying, it is all part of the South by Southwest culture. And it's all kicking off at Capital Factory in Austin, Texas.

JIM SHERHART, FILETRANSPORTER.COM: The transporter is the world's first social storage drive.

CHRIS SLAUGHTER, LYNX LABORATORIES: This produces 3D content just as quickly and easily as a camera. So this is the type of content used in video games, special effects, architecture, and design every single day.

JOE SAAD, CHEFHANGOUT.COM: is a destination to take cooking class from the comfort of their own kitchen at home. We have two dozen chefs that teach cooking classes.

JOSH BAER, CAPITALFACTORY.COM: Southwest has this incredible event, but if you want to get noticed, it is really hard. It is hard to get noticed in all the crowd. For a startup, they can be part of this huge crawl, this huge party, and get some exposure and meet people and have a presence in South by Southwest.

ROBERT SCOBLE, TECH EVANGELIST: This is refreshing. I am getting energized by being around people building really crazy things. When you have 2,000 people here going around town looking at startups, there is something going on here.

OHANIAN: What it brings and originally was before all of the nerds ruined it was that it was a celebration of the arts, of music, and eventually film.

YANCEY STRICKLER, KICKSTARTER CEO: It is interesting how the center of culture shifted from the arts to tech.

BOBBY PHOBIA, BOBBYPHOBIA.COM: We get to see in a very closed environment what technologies will work. To know what it is like to get 10,000 iPhones in a square mile, every network dies instantly.

REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R) CALIFORNIA: People want to tell you about the future. You can learn about it here and then you can appreciate it more.

SAM DECKER, MASS RELEVANCE CEO: At the end of the day it is a gathering, a gathering of like-minded individuals trying to figure out what is necessary.

PHOBIA: It is what things might look like and in the next three or four years.

RUBIN: This year South by Southwest isn't about apps or twitter or four square. South by Southwest is about things like crowd funding, 3D printing, private space exploration, big ideas, culture shifting ideas.

SEGALL: Welcome to South by Southwest where the hot new technology is moving beyond the smartphone to something physical, something real, something you can put your hands on. It's all part of something called the maker's movement.

Is this going to make a more efficient economy if we're able to printout things at home accident, build things on our own as opposed to going to stores and purchase them?

BRE PETTIS, MAKERBOT FOUNDER: When you are a consumer buying something getting made far away and put on a boat and a truck or a train and then kept warm in a store. When you can make things yourself, you need them, you make it, it is just in time really making.

SEGALL: So this is a 3D printed record. JESSE HARRINGTON, AUTODESK: We're look at our 1-2-3 iPad app. And this lets you sketch out a creature, texture him, sculpt him, anything you want. We had a program 1-2-3 design and everybody walk add way with something that looked similar and everybody has their own unique feel to it. There is good volume to it. I think the maker movement comes from that need and the desire to really own the objects around you.

PETTIS: We're in a great time where the software and the hardware and all just connects up to make this great 3D ecosystem so that you can make things simpler than ever before.

BRIAN MEESE, ROCKET HUB CEO: Now that social media is in place, the social funding movement is just starting to happen.

SHERWOOD NEISS, CROWD FUND CAP ADVISORS: It really came into being with what's happening on websites like Kick Start, and people are using that for helping people with ideas in the creative space get funding for projects.

STRICKLER: The fundamental question isn't will this make money, it is, do I like this? It is a much lower bar that allows many more things to happen and so it dramatically shifts what is possible.

NEISS: What we realizes is as entrepreneurs that the money being raised in crowd founding platforms is the same type of capital used to fund startups and small businesses.

JASON BEST, CROWD FUND CAP ADVISORS: So it allows entrepreneurs for the first time to be able to solicit publicly via their social networks for investment in their company, from anyone.

STRICKLER: As a society, we are more connected now than we have ever been in human history. Communication through social media platforms is highly leveraged and basically free.

BEST: This is a formalized, scalable, and transparent financing mechanism. We have seen hundreds of millions of dollars flow through the crowd founding platforms and we really ain't seen nothing yet.

NEISS: This is huge. This is disruptive. This will forever change the way startups and small businesses are funded.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: It used to be known as the little festival that could, but it blossomed into a premier festival of its kind. It is music, film, and technology blended into one in Austin, Texas.

It brings in all sorts of different movies and great bands and just good people.


TURNER: South by southwest used to be known as the little festival that could. But it blossomed into one of the premier festivals of its kind because it is music, film, and technology all blended into one in this cool city of Austin, Texas.

OLIVIA WILDE, ACTRESS: I am just a South by Southwest whore.

JAKE JOHNSON: Or the queen of South by Southwest.

WILDE: That's better.

JOHNSON: We'll say queen.

WILDE: We also have stars like Olivia Wilde who are not only hocking her film but she's created an app.

I will tell you, it is fantastic. It is an alternate news source that we launched. So imagine a platform like the "Huffington Post," but every time you read an article, instead of just leaving you feeling hopeless, we give you a way to participate and become active.

I love this festival because I love this city. This festival brings in all sorts of different movies and great bands and just good people.

TURNER: I understand when you guys were shooting you went to a place to eat and you had a hot dog called the Anna Kendrick?

ANNA KENDRICK, DRINKING BUDDIES: Yes. That was trippy. Get this, it had been like the Keira Knightley, the Britney Spears, and the Jennifer Garner. So I am like first of all, that's amazing. And so when I went in and I took a picture with the owner and signed my hotdog thing so now they can't change it anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's on the hot dog?

KENDRICK: It is spicy, I guess.


KENDRICK: They always rename them. It is called mighty hot.

TURNER: It's really becoming a-list destination for film. We had people there premiering films like Steve Carell and Jim Carey, "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone." None of are you good magicians.

STEVE CARELL, ACTOR: No. We learned a few. Weds to kind of look like we sort of knew what we were doing. So there are a few things, a few card things, coin things.

JIM CAREY, ACTOR: Pick a card.

TURNER: I interviewed Jim Carey before. You know going in you never know what's going to happen. You just have to buckle up and go for a ride. And we had a bit of a ride.

CAREY: Is that your card?


CAREY: Is that your card?


CAREY: Is that your card, is that your card, is that your card?

TURNER: Throw them all up.

CAREY: Is this your card?

TURNER: You're not good.

CAREY: Is this your card?

TURNER: That's what you get when you interview Jim Carey.

It goes to show some of the star power that comes by South by Southwest.

RUBIN: It is not all big Hollywood movies here at South by Southwest. You can't get this many geeks together in a room and not expect a couple of films on topics that are close to their hearts. Alexis Ohanion, founder of Reddit, has one particular topic he loves about the rise of everywhere else. Alexis and a company named Nimble Bot joins forces to travel the country and produce a documentary about the rise of texting in places you wouldn't expect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We find out how the heartland has become a silicon prairie representing America's new Internet economy.

OHANIAN: So the reason why it is Silicon Valley is because basically a bunch of in other words got wealthy and started investing in other nerds who also did well who invested, and the cycle continued. The startup communities everywhere else haven't matured for nearly as long. In another cycle you will see really comparable startup communities because now all of these other areas have had the time to mature and really just be awesome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This bus tour started out of a casual conversation. Wouldn't it be cool for the sake of getting on a bus to have a bus and then take it to a bunch of cool places? As I think we all know all the innovation on the Internet does not come out of Silicon Valley.

OHANIAN: I have had plenty of portfolio companies make the pitch "We're going to stay in -- insert not Bay Area and not New York, because we're from there." We have a direct pipeline of talent because of the universities they graduate from, they know about us because we're the start up in town and we can hire two for one, sometimes three for one. When it makes that much economic sense as an investor I am like high five, see you in Des Moines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has to be easy for people to communicate and transcend geographic boundaries and easy for people in one state to work with people in another state. I think we'll look back 20 years from now and view this as the way that many, many new companies and communities reinvent themselves. To really see downtowns that were once pretty much abandoned or five, ten years ago were abandoned that are now being repurposed and rejuvenated and it is just like that was not necessarily supposed to happen, and yet it is happening and it is happening all over.

OHANIAN: Although the Internet is not a magic wand to save the world instantly, it will enable all the awesome people to be awesome in a way they couldn't have before simply because something as stupid as access. And I just want to see more good stuff in the world. I want better startups and non-profits and better politicians. And now those people who otherwise may not have been able to can.


JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: One of the great things about a democracy is there is a constant aging out. There is turnover built into the system if not by losing elect elections, then by retirement and death. And I do think the generation that did not understand the web at all is largely aging out.

I am fascinated and have written a lot about the intersection of technology and politics. Politics hasn't been subject to the kind of disruptive technology transformed every other industry from banking to the music industry. Politics has resisted. Politics will not be able to continue to resist. The clear lesson of political history is that politicians who master new technology succeed.

FDR used radio more effectively with his fireside chats and JFK was the first president to master television, something that Reagan was able to do more so because of actors training. And in the Obama campaign they were able to make quantum leaps in '08 and in '12 through the social media and online engagement. Any politic with half a brain or focus on the future understands that technology is a driver of across the board.

SEN. JERRY MORAN, (R) KANSAS: It was a real wake-up call to Washington, D.C. That was a bill expected to pass. It was kind of teed up and scheduled to be on the Senate floor. And, wow, the tech community engaged.

OHANIAN: It was a reaction to a false narrative that the entertainment industry put forward and continues to try to at least that it was Hollywood versus Silicon Valley. It was really Hollywood versus America.

SEN. MARK WARNER, (D) VIRGINIA: There was a valid reason behind that, how we make sure we don't have intellectual property theft. The problem was it wasn't drafted with enough technology knowledge that it kind of went over the edge in terms of potentially interfering with basic freedom.

ISSA: Techies in Washington are something that everyone wants to say they listen to that they feel with, but often they don't really have a seat at the table. You can love technology but then will you take the time to understand it?

OHANIAN: We have to have this conversation on an ongoing basis not just when the tech community wakes up and says oh, my gosh, Washington will mess something up.

ISSA: It is a matter of helping our elected officials connect the dots between like the right to privacy in the physical space and the right to privacy in the digital space, because trust me if T.J. and the rest of the founding fathers had the foresight they would have specified that. The Internet did not exist back then and the rights to privacy absolutely should, too.

It is one of the challenges in California, the regulatory environment says now you have a great idea and how ready to go to market. Are we the smartest place to go? One of the signs that California has a problem is they're not building fabrication plants for intel in California. They're building them in Oregon. They're building them in Arizona and they're building them here in Texas. The expansion of California companies like Hewlett Packard into the Austin area says that the California dream is in trouble. It is not dead. It is in trouble.

RUBIN: Silicon Valley remains the undisputed capital of tech. But everybody is gunning for king of the mountain. This February Texas Governor Rick Perry threw down the gauntlet and CNN's Dan Simon was there.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rick Perry's Texas throw down began with a 30 second radio ad.

GOV. RICK PERRY, (R) TEXAS: Building a business is tough. I hear building a business in California is next to impossible. This is Texas Governor Rick Perry, and I have a message for California businesses. Come check out Texas.

SIMON: California Governor Jerry Brown immediately dismissed the spot and the media.

GOV. JERRY BROWN, (D) CALIFORNIA: You take a little radio ad and all you guys run like lap dogs to report it. It is nowhere. It's not even a burp. It's barely a fart.

SIMON: Governor Perry's answer was to buy a plane ticket to the West Coast. What is really is, is an all-out war for jobs as the nation's two biggest states each try to grow their economies by attracting business. Brown brushed aside his fellow governor.

What do you think of governor brown's response?

AARON MCLEAR, FORMER AIDE TO GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: It is disappointing. I wish the leaders of the state took the issue more seriously.

SIMON: Aaron McLear worked for a former California governor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, and is advising Perry, who may have plenty of ammo.

MCLEAR: We have the third highest unemployment in the country. CEOs say it is the worst place in the country to do business.

SIMON: Still, Perry is likely to encounter resistance, especially from Silicon Valley. Ruzwana Bashir is the CEO of the hot new travel Web site called Peek.

RUZWANA BASHIR, CEO, PEEK: Those of us who want to build big technology companies don't see anywhere else but California to be.

SIMON: But Perry has his sights on other industries, including Hollywood, where a lot of film production already left the state. His visit there seems fitting for what is becoming a high political drama.


RUBIN: Austin is a great place to be all the time. We have a good time while we're here, and the breakfast tacos are delicious.

South by Southwest could never grow to where it is now without being located in a place like Austin.


BAER: It is the time when Austin is put on a pedestal and the rest of the world is watching and comes here. South by Southwest shines a very bright light on all of the creativity in Austin and that creativity happens year-round. South by Southwest could never grow to where it is now without being located in a place like Austin where they're very creative people to inspire the growth.

FORREST: The creative spirit of Austin is what attract it is creative people to South by Southwest from all over the world, people like Melissa Piers and her band of filmmakers. Welcome to RVSX.

PIERCE: We're trying to create an experience. One, we love making ridiculously silly videos together. It is a real peanut. The world's largest peanut.

FORREST: The idea was to take a group of strangers connected only through social media, bring them to Chicago, stuff them in an RV, and drive over 1,000 miles to Austin.

PIERCE: We go through them like these people are incredible and why don't we invite them to come on the bus with us. We want to make cool stuff and hang out with great people. And of course we want to get paid along the way. So we make sure to set up a few gigs at south so we can get paid for filming.

ROGER KEAN, RVSX.TV: I am doing what I like to do while out having an adventure with everybody else.

JOHN ANDREYO, RVSX.TV: We can share the whole experience through pictures and words and video and sharing and it is all about people and the experiences they get to have.

BAER: They've also leveraged their digital footprint to get sponsors. PIERCE: We're on Twitter, Facebook, on this, that, and trying every new thing. So we can say we will drink your wine. We will play your games. Send us your app. Let us show the world this. We will do all of these things and we'll tweet about it. We'll Facebook it. We'll make little YouTube videos for it.

RUBIN: Meeting friends, sharing experiences and making money. It's a big part what South by Southwest and Austin are all about.

BAER: Austin is a great place to be all the time. In some ways the picture you get can be misleading because it is so crazy and so busy and so much going on. But the rest of the time it is still Austin.

RUBIN: High above Sixth Street with a bird's-eye view of the festival is the center of the startup scene. Welcome to Capital Factory. It is a business that creates other businesses. It is like your office but better.

BAER: Capital Factory I think serves a couple different rules. The most important is being a center of gravity and a nucleus for the startup community in Austin.

RUBIN: Inside is a shared workspace where entrepreneurs join forces to build new companies. It is filled with programmers, marketers, mentors, and dreamers.

LLOYD ARMBRUST, OWN LOCAL CEO: If you go to the valley there are about 25, 30 different locations where people meet and talk about things. But in a place like Austin there is not enough mats, so you need a place like Capital Factor to make those conversations happen.

RUBIN: The people that work here all share a common interest, an idea that building Austin is a team sport and the best way to win is support your teammates.

ARMBRUST: You have design companies that focus on design and experience companies that focus on user experience and marketing company that is focus on marketing, and we all work together.

RUBIN: The message of South by Southwest is that in this new hyper-connected world no one has to go it alone. In Austin, and in South by Southwest, we see a glimpse of the future. Hopefully you will like what you see.