SXSW 2011 - Gaming, Causes And The Lean Startup

This is a guest post by Jude Ower, founder of the Play Mob, our guest correspondent out at SXSW, Austin, Texas. Jude is an expert in social games for social good and a serial entrepreneur, based in London, UK.
SXSWAnother year, another SXSW. Once again Hugh never fails to impress the captive audience with a cutting edge line up of thought provoking and inspirational speakers. Themes this year had 3 consistent threads at the show; the 'game layer', causes and the lean start up. I found it encouraging that we are all looking at ways of how we become more resourceful, how do we give more and support the global community, and at the same time, how do we do this and have more fun!
JapanAt the show we even managed to raise a whopping $50,000 for Japan via collections and text donations. In the same week games giant Zynga also showed a great example of how we can raise funds via other sources of media and audiences and created charitable objects within game City Ville.

I ran a session with Zao Yang who is the original creator of Farmville before his company was acquired. By Zynga. Our panel covered the theme of games for change - how we use games to engage an audience to make changes in the real world. A lively discussion was moderated between myself and Zao by Brynn Evans. As part of our session we wanted to show how we use current digital tools to do good in the world. During our session we had the audience tweet as much as possible using the hashtags for our session and the person with the most tweets won 100 trees. Not 100 trees delivered to their door, but they got to pick 1 of 4 projects to plant their trees.

Our winner picked Madagascar and very shortly there will be 100 trees planted for this person, all because they tweeted.

This mix of media was prevalent in talks, and also how we engage an audience. Guy Kawasaki gave a brilliant talk on how to make your product 'enchanting'. Jane McGonigal spoke of how we an use games to 'level up' in our lives and how we repair reality, as it's currently broken. Jane is the Director at the Institute of the Future and gave brilliant stats around how replay around 3 billion hours of game play per week, but we need 12 billion hours of game play if we a to even scratch the surface of solving some of the worlds most pressing issues! Eric Ries and Steve Blank gave a brilliant and packed talk about running a lean start up using agile product development techniques and getting in front of investors fast. If you have not read these guys blogs, I highly recommend them! Within this talk, the founder of Meet Up said by reading Steve Blanks blogs and books, this changed their business to be what it is today.

The keynotes were mixed and all thought provoking. Felicia Day, actress/director/producer and creator of online show The Guild, spoke of how she made the show a success on a shoestring and favours. Now it has millions of viewers and networks not only wanting the show (which she is not going to give up) but also seeding ideas on how we leverage other platforms and think outside the box to get in front of a massive audience and build a fan base.

Blake Macowskie, creator of TOMS shoes, one for one (for every pair of TOMS shoes bought, a child in a developing country also receives a pair of shoes. He spoke of his journey and how it began, from his apartment and how he begun receiving orders of much bigger than the stock he was holding.

He has now sold over 1 million pairs of shoes, and has his next product, which is a secret, launching on June 7th 2011.

The fascinating thing about the other 2 keynotes, Christopher Poole and Seth Priebatsch is that they are both very early 20s. Yet have products and backed by VC funding, in a similar way to the Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook effect. Both barely out of high school, they came onto the stage with confidence, previous track records of speaking at other events such as TED, and were like, well, Rockstars. This is something I noticed as another theme, not just at the show, but in the US as a whole.

Being clever and technical, sometimes known as a geek, is truly admired. Geeks are cool. Geeks are Rockstars!

This got me thinking about the whole entrepreneurial landscape in the US. It is encouraged, not just by schools but also by peers. Maybe this is why we are seeing the US as a hot bed of start ups, a boom of VC support and a place where failure is praised and not discouraged. I think the world has alot to learn about this behaviour. Wouldn't it be great if next year at SXSW the main stage also had Rockstars from outwith the UK?

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