SXSW Recap

by Pulak Mittal on March 14, 2013

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“Hi, I’m Pulak, this is Dave, and we run the two biggest college hackathons in the country.”

Pretty good intro, right? My friend Dave Fontenot goes to the University of Michigan, where back in February he led MHacks to surpass PennApps as the largest college hackathon in the country. Rather than be bitter, I took it in stride, and this past weekend we tag-teamed off of each other to meet some of the luminaries in tech who were in attendance at SXSW.

LTR: Dave McClure, Founding partner of 500 Startups; Raj Vir, organizer of MHacks; Dave Fontenot, director of MHacks; me!; Kathleen Warner, organizer of HackPSU

Dave and I with Dennis Crowley, Founder/CEO of Foursquare

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, SXSW was absolutely amazing – the most enjoyable weekend I’ve had as of yet. I attended some extremely interesting talks and panels, tried out some amazing new products (like the Boosted Board electric longboard!) and rocked out at some extravagant parties (Twitter’s and Foursquare’s were particularly great). But the true value of the experience – and I suspect that this is something that others have figured out, though I’m still on my way to fully realizing it – was the people I got to meet and spend time with.

Of course, having conversations with Dave McClure and Dennis Crowley about college entrepreneurship, Google Glass, hackathons, and crowd funding were amazing. Getting insight from some of the most well connected individuals in technology about topics near and dear to my heart was something that I could get almost nowhere else.

But even beyond meeting those who I would refer to as celebrities, I also met countless aspiring entrepreneurs. Almost everyone I talked to was working on his or her own startup, or at least a project on the side. I heard some ambitious projects to fix healthcare, to revolutionize the college educational experience, to take college marketplaces off of Facebook, to replace email, and just about everything else under the sun. If I was looking for an early-stage startup to join, I could have found an idea and team I liked in about three hours of talking to people on the first day of SXSW.

What made SXSW particularly special for me was the group of students I hung out with the entire weekend. Interact ATX did an awesome job of picking the top student entrepreneurs (or entrepreneurial enthusiasts like me) from across the country. I made and strengthened some incredibly valuable connections, pulled three consecutive all-nighters just by conversing with others, and came out of the weekend reenergized (as if I need it!) about where this industry is going in the next decade.

If you ever have the opportunity to attend South By, or a similar tech conference at this scale, do it. I’ll be back next year, no question. There over 30,000 attendees this year, and I only got to meet about 100 of them this time around – thousands to go!

That wraps up my posts on South by Southwest. Hope y’all found them interesting! Make sure to check back (or subscribe by email to the Modis blog) to keep hearing my thoughts on the awesome world of technology!

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