This March, creatives and entrepreneurs from all over the world flock to Texas for the annual South by Southwest® Festival (SXSW®) to share and discover new ideas. The city is buzzing with excitement. Behind the curtain, heaps of staff are hustling to ensure the quality of the events. One of them is Scott Wilcox. Heading the SXSW Innovation Group, he combines the means of technology and content to export the festival experience to a worldwide audience.
Hi Scott, thanks for taking the time in the midst of SXSW. What have the past few weeks been like for you?
Scott Wilcox: As you might expect, it’s a big run-up to the event. Up until a few weeks ago, it was non-stop work. Most of our personal lives go on hold while we are busy tweaking the details of the event. But I’m fortunate to work with a lot of talented people. There is so much energy and passion – it’s a lot of fun. When April finally rolls around, everybody gets to catch up on sleep and life, before brainstorming and ideating starts for the next season.
You helped launch the SXSW Innovation Group about two years ago. What are you working on leading up to the festival?
Scott Wilcox: We are a small group within SXSW. Our work is about ensuring the fluidity of the festival and allowing people to experience the most engaging and relevant content. A number of features we created were just rolled out as part of the SXSW Go mobile app. We are also really excited about our new chatbot Abby, a conversational interface on social media.
What was the biggest challenge or roadblock this time around?
Scott Wilcox: Definitely too few hours in the day (laughs).
Where are we most likely to bump into you during the festival?
Scott Wilcox: I spend a lot of time behind the scenes in our technology control areas. We also have a studio where we host live streams with a great selection of guests throughout the festival. We are producing around 40 hours of live video content during SXSW.
The SXSW schedule is packed with everything from comedy and arts to political talks and panels. Will you have time to check out some things yourself?
Scott Wilcox: I really want to listen to a talk by Dean Kamen, a prolific inventor who is pushing the area of regenerative medicine. The tech side of health is personally fascinating to me. Also, I am looking forward to a conversation between Kim Deal of The Pixies and Steve Albini, who notably recorded Nirvana and The Stooges.
Last year, you were on the jury of the smart urban pioneers idea contest at the me Convention in Frankfurt. Start-ups from all over the world got to pitch their ideas for a better urban future and for making life in the city easier. What does an idea need to stick with you?
Scott Wilcox: You want to be able to sense the way it is going to impact people’s lives, like proactive entrepreneurial solutions to climate change. I am particularly attracted to ideas that tackle big problems in unexpected ways. Those are some of the things that are near and dear to my heart.
The tiny cube of smart invites visitors to engage and network with international Daimler experts. What is your advice for people seeking exchange about ideas they may have?
Scott Wilcox: Number one: Ask a lot of questions. There is such a combined wealth of knowledge here. The person behind you in line at some event may be an experienced founder or serial entrepreneur. I understand it’s tempting to seek out specific people while in Austin, but the reality is that the people who can most help you on your journey might be standing right next to you. This element of the unexpected discovery is what SXSW is really about.
In Austin for SXSW? Stop by the sparkling smart fortwo disco ball installation at the corner of 6th and Trinity.