Blog : Festivals and Conferences

Back-to-Back SxSW Innovation Awards

Back-to-Back SxSW Innovation Awards

With 6 or 7 successive South-By-Southwests under my belt, you’d think it’d just be a case of back on the bike for another round of fast-pedaling, fast-talking and slow-food.

But after last year’s yellow brick road – a featured talk to a 1200-seat room, dozens of interviews punctuated with conversations for USA Today, The Street, Innovation Crush, SxSW Live and Fox Business, and the SxSW Innovation Award for Project Daniel, I thought this year would be more like warming up fridge-burned pizza in a microwave – a real mix of hot and cold.

KOTEK-2 copy.jpgI couldn’t have been more wrong. Though the pundits prefer to proclaim each year THAT year when the festival jumped the shark, over-run by bands, brands and brisket – in SxSW’s 30th year, the SxSprawl to 73 sub-fests perfectly suits my split professional personality.

Between SxSW Film, SxSW Interactive (& SxCreate), SxGood, SxSW Comedy, SxSW Health & MedTech Expo and SouthBites, I got a direct-to-vein, deep-dive dose into the world/s I choose to inhabit.

To fit that expression, SxSW 2016 gave me way more than it took. I:

KOTEK-4 copy.jpg– Distributed our print film magazine at SxSW Film and the Austin Convention Center;
– Delivered a presentation to hackers, makers, parents & kids on the subject of teens who are bettering the world (and making beaucoup bucks) with innovations made from accessible technologies;
– Sat on and moderated a “How to Social Good” panel with founders of 5 for-profit companies (including Dell, Bombas and CharityCharge) which impact lives;
– Attended a private dinner with the Mayor of Austin, folks from Paul Allen’s Vulcan, from Reaction Housing and others from Austin’s start-up and VC communities;
– Co-Hosted another dinner with TEDx reps, Singularity University’s CSO, legendary designer Mark Rolston, 2x Sundance winner Ondi Timoner, Oscar winner Barbara Kopple, A.I. wizards and other heroes of mental acuity;
– watched panels that celebrated girls in technology and bands that build apps to give voice to the disenfranchised during times of crisis;
– Lunched with PR people I love;
– Researched the latest in the medtech space for a start-up I’ve joined;
– Experienced IBM’s Watson in ways that made me want to trick it, take it home and cook it breakfast; and
– Devoured Gus’s World Famous Hot & Spicy Fried Chicken more times than any nutritionist would recommend be consumed by anyone other than the inimitable Elvis Presley.

And then there were the meetings. And the meet-ups. And the kilos of coffee with honey to soothe a voice I must’ve left somewhere in the overhead luggage lockers over the Pacific Ocean.

KOTEK-8 copy.jpgBy the time the SxSW Interactive Innovation Awards rolled around, I thought sitting up back with Sx’s kick-ass staff was the best plan for an enjoyable low-key night ahead of my plane ride back to California. And as the opening comedians cracked gags about the night Ed Sheeran crashed on their couch, I was lulled me into a false sense of security.

When the 2nd category came up, “Awarded for the best new way to connect and communicate with others,” and my team’s project announced the winner, my reaction to winning back-to-back innovation awards morphed from a burst of the usual Aussie expletives to the exhausting realization that I’d now have to run the full length of the function hall to reach the stage in time to deliver a 140-character acceptance speech. I mumbled something about “collaboration being the key to meaningful innovation,” something about “pursuing our passions and identifying others who’ll help us pursue our purpose” then snaked my way to the airport, and onto a plane just as Big Boi, St, Lucia and Biz Markie got to the Sx-stage for the official closing night send-off.

If last year paved the road, and this year saw it gilded, I only hope I can live up to the hype in 2017 and deliver something that might again be worthy. Because, when it comes down to it, it’s always fun when you do work that matters.

I originally wrote this article for Campaign Brief – to see the original, click here:–.html