Immigration, Barbecue and Snoop Dogg

29th March, 2014 No Comments Blog

Together with a handful of other members of the technology community, I attended SXSW this past weekend in Austin.  It was my second time at SX; I went two years ago and was still recovering last year.  A lot of people have asked me, many with skepticism, why I went.  At the same time, it seems as though many people who started attending SX before I did lament the changes that the event has undergone; they say it has become too corporate, too big.  This year, major brands of all types (not just technology) inundated the Interactive portion of the conference, that’s true.  And I can’t speak for bygone days of SX because I didn’t attend until 2012.  But I think explaining why I went is best accomplished by describing the bookends of my last day in Austin.

The first event I attended on Sunday was a lunch.  Between the long night on Saturday night (and Sunday morning) and the time change (talk about bad timing), I was pretty proud of myself for my on-time arrival for this 1:00 event.   It was a round table discussion for about 40 people hosted by Steve Case, co-founder and former CEO of AOL, on the subject of Technology and Immigration with Becky Tallent, Speaker John Boehner’s lead staffer on immigration policy.  Given the event (SXSW) and crowd (mostly technologists), you can imagine that most of the people in the room were of a more liberal political persuasion than Ms. Tallent.  Even so, the discussion was respectful while lively, and I came away a firm believer that Ms. Tallent and her boss have a firm grasp of the immigration issues facing the technology (as well as other) communities, and that they are working in good faith to address those issues.  Thanks to my friend Andrew Rasiej for the invitation, to Engine Advocacy, Steve Case and the Partnership for a New American Economy for putting it on.

The last event I attended, after the overwhelmingly well-attended ff VC Massive party, was a party at Stubb’s (excellent barbecue with a great venue to boot) hosted by PayPal and others.  My friend Jed Katz and I decided to see how bad the line was to get into this event, knowing it was expected to be sold out.  Thanks to good timing and Jed’s foresight in finding a way to get us on a “list” at the event, we basically walked right in.  Less than an hour (and a delicious pulled pork sandwich) later, we were in the relatively modest crowd (I’d say 1,000 or so) when Snoop Dogg took the stage.  It was a fitting way to wrap SX, seeing a number of friends at the small concert and enjoying Texas barbecue.

So, perhaps I should lament the corporate logos that were in abundance at the concert, or the long lines at so many events.  But I’ll take any day that starts with a wonky policy discussion with a crowd of bright, well-meaning people and ends with a group of friends seeing a headliner music act at a (relatively) small venue.  And those days are what SX is about to me.

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