What you can’t miss at SxSW 2016

Por Beto Bina (*)

This post is for people that are going to SxSW, need a little help to create their calendar and to find the best panels. I’ve looked at all interactive events in the SxSW app during my subway ride, favorited the most interesting based on subjects and people, and organized in topics. I also love the weird and prioritized them.

I learned a lot. I hope it will be useful, and you make it through the end. Have a lot of fun. See you at SxSW 2016!


Always important, defining and questioning the near future. Subjects as theTheory of Media Evolution with Lerer (founder o Thrillist), The State of Media and Tech, The Sharing Economy, The Future of Retail and New Maker Models are looking at the next business models.

It’s becoming clearer how digital is also disrupting old business models approached on The Coming Fight for the Front Door and Creation and Investment with Josh Kushner, founder of Oscar, the health insurance start-up transforming the healthcare industry.

Big companies and advertising agencies are also questioning their models with Why Agencies Are Investing, Software as an Agency, Brand-Startup Partnerships IRL and the evolution of social media on From Social Networks to Market Networks.

On Demand is sharing their success through Grocery Delivery (Instacart and Whole Foods partnership), as well as How On Demand Changed Our Lives.

The Startup Struggle Is Real and a dose of inspiration with An Honest Conversation with Yik Yak, Stewart Butterfield in Conversation with Farhad Manjoo (CEO of Slack), What I Learned from My Million-Dollar Pay Cut andWeird Startups from Japanese Universities are also welcome.


I really don’t want to use the word viral, but that’s exactly what this section is all about with #Movements: When a Hashtag Breaks the News, The Science of Virality, How Cultures Grow and don’t miss Nick Law (CCO at R/GA) on When #LoveWins: How to Sustain a Viral Movement.


Or whatever you want to call it… This subject is approached on LEGO Group & Cartoon Network, Building Future Fans, Dev. Evangelism: Building a Community of Advocates (with people from Venmo, VentureBeat, Braintree and Twilio), How to Cultivate Online Brand Ambassadors and The Building Blocks of Community with Product Hunt.


Many interesting discussions on the current state of consumers as Gen Z: The Most Influential Consumer, Understanding Average: The Inertia of Culture, Date-onomics, The Human Algorithm, The Psychology of Persuasive Products and, I loved this title, Our Dubious Database of All the Dutch.

Also, Behavioral Change only panels. Honestly, this is such an important subject with high influence on digital products and services that I though would see more. So, don’t miss Designing Behavior Change at Scale andHacking Human Behavior for Good with a bunch of interesting people.


After watching Behavioral Change and realizing how vulnerable we’re, I recommend watching some of those: Talk About Time: Why We Fail at Work-Life Balance, The End of the Work-More Culture, Why Happiness Is Hard and How to Make It Easier (with Andy form the great Headspace Meditation App) and Celebrate the Process of Getting Things Done, a nice project with a piece of art every day.


I intentionally added this three pieces together as they have the power to make big changes. Things like how the White House use technology onUsing Tech to Solve Big Challenges, Cryptography and the Fight for Free Speech, Building the Perfect Country (and why GDP alone do not convey ‘best’ in today’s world), How Cyberfeminism Shapes the Future of Marketingas well as The Latino Millennial Vote (with Voto Latino founder) are all using politics to make a huge impact in our culture.

Moving to finance with Beyond Banks: The Future of a Fully Banked World, and discussions about Bitcoin and Blockchain with Anarchy to Establishmentand The Next App Platform?, together with The Singularity and the Question of God are in their own unique way high influencers of change.


How cities are using data, community and technology to solve big problems are approached by Mayors on Better Living Through Data and Evidence,Cities Unlocking Impact, Tale of Two Cities: Challenging Urban Disparity andBootstrapping Your City’s Innovation Ecosystem.

Also, beautiful initiative and stories like KASITA on A Micro Solution to a Giant Problem: Urban Housing, Microshelters on Building Funky-Ass Dwellings and how sensors are being used to create smart cities on Citizen Science: Sensors and the Environment.


The future of cities depends on mobility, and Self-Driving cars are definitely main topic, the most interesting in my opinion are Texas as a Self-Driving Car Case Study, How Self-Driving Cars Will Remake Cities, Autonomous Vehicles and the American City and Autonomous Vehicles Are Here. But Are We Ready? (with the head of business for self-driving cars at Google).

Other really interesting approaches to Mobility are The Future of Urban Transport (Bolt Motorbikes), Aerial Cable Cars, The Future of the Non-Flying Auto Industry (a sharing economy approach), The Connected Car as a New Marketplace, Looking Forward to Rush Hour (mobility trends), Smart Cars, Smarter Cities (City planners) and Beyond Traffic: The Emergence of a Connected City (with a US Department of transportation).


One of the most interesting and crowded subject. Difficult to pick a favorite, I recommend you to spend some time to at least one of those brand endorsed Wearables: The Future Isn’t in Measuring the Past (Under Armor, Garmin and more), There’s a Gadget for That: Are We on IoT Overload?(Nest, Google and more).

But a bunch more that I’m, probably injusticed, putting together: Wearables in Health: In Theory and in Practice, Virtual Reality: Streaming, Discovery and Monetization, Is Your Fridge Judging You? Tales from the IoT, Reality Check: VR and AR in Workplace Design is Here and Robots and the Internet of Everything (with the Chairman of iRobot),

And a few more specific with Getting ROI on the IOT: How to Make a Business and to make it clear the effort: Hardware Is Still Freakin’ Hard!


One of my personal favorite because of the power of impact and the lack of personal knowledge. So let’s learn with: IBM Watson, Can AI Systems Really “Think”?, Injecting Machine Learning Everywhere, AI and Your Shopping Habit, Big Data and AI: Sci-Fi vs Everyday Applications and Testing Your (Artificial) Intelligence


Strongly connected with AI, not just because it’s also my favorite, but because we’ll see many AI connected with human engagement to deliver a personalized in scale customer experience. The most interesting in my opinion are: Get the Message! The Rise of Conversational UI (with Chris Messina), When Success Means an Always-Vanishing Customer,Programmatic Advertising in the Age of CX and Data Defeats Truman: How CRM Will Elect a President


Strong approaches for one of the most sensitive subjects: Gaming the Healthcare System, Bringing New Life to Old Health Tech, What’s Our Health Data Worth?, Rethinking Healthcare Through Design Thinking andThe Future of Health Data APIs

Connected with health, but focused on Neuroscience you have: Pimp My Brain: A Crash Course in DIY Brainhacking and The Brain Electric: Merging Minds and Machines


I hope in the future I don’t have to create a specific category for this, and sustainability becomes ubiquitous and transparent. For now, keep your eyes on how these people are using data and technology to social good:Designing Collective Action for Global Development, Scalable Innovation for Social Good, Clean Water Through Crowdsourcing and Nanotech, Harness Data Science Superpower for Global Good and Weird Weather and Climate Change,

Many companies are also incorporating the subject and sharing their experiences on Can Companies Be Activists? (Starbucks, Mother, Dermalogica and Ryot), Media: The Key to Driving Social Impact (Pandora, LInkedIn, AdCouncil and Kik) and A Generational Challenge: Improving Nine Billion Lives (NYTimes, 3M, ILO and Nature Conservancy).

Focused on the food problem, its waste and how to embrace a sustainable diet: How Do We Get Billions of People to Eat Less Meat?, Disruption at Every Stage of the Food System, How Data and Innovation are Helping Beat Hunger and What a Waste: 40% of Food Discarded, 49M Go Hungry. Unfortunatelly, I haven’t identified any of the big fast-food chains discussing these topics


This is the most hyped section, with the most impactful professional roles and titles like Making Epic Sh*t (with the Google VP engeneering, advanced technology & projects), Make Magic, Not Mobile Apps (with people from Pinterest, Uber and OpenTable), Contextual Clues and App Engagement(Google Dir. of Product Management), Designing Happiness (Disney, SoulCycle and others). Also, AirBnB people on Why Empathy Isn’t Enoughand Designing Experiences Offline and Online. And, with the behance co-founder, Insights on Building Great Digital Products.

You should see John Maeda on Design and Tech Report, and also Combining Contextual Clues and App Engagement (Google Dir. Prod. Mgmt), Closing the Knowledge Gap with Cognitive Design (New Media Strategist for the City of New York, responsible to launch, Subtle Interfaces: Designing for Calm Tech and more art focused with Tomorrow’s Museum: Designing Engaging Experiences, Art for All: A Look at The Art Assignmentand Using Art and Innovation to Illuminate Injustice.


Difficult to categorize ‘content’, it’s sort of ubiquitous, but I’ve listed the ones more ‘format specific’ and, like the above section, some hyped people asWhy GIFs? (Giphy CEO), Livestreaming Is Bigger Than You Realize (Chief Strategist at Twich and the Coke head of global gaming), 360 Storytelling in VR (Google Mgr for VR and GoPro Mkt Mgr), Breaking Down Borders Between TV and Online Video (Viacom, Vimeo and Hollywood Reporter),Brand Stories on Periscope and Meerkat (people from BMW, Mashable, GE and GSD&M), Video 2026: Innovation, Ubiquity and More Slow-Mo (Adobe UX) and Wikipedia: Beyond the Encyclopedia (with Guy Kawasaki).

If you work with a specific format that isn’t listed above, have a look at The Rise of Digital Comic Book Geek Culture, Indie Film and the Death of the Theatrical, Ephemeral Now: How Streaming Changed Listening (audio),Taking it to the Streets: Digital Gets Physical (digital display) and Instagram and Snapchat Content: The New Hustle (social media).

Also, you can’t miss the rock’n roll chef Anthony Bourdain and other interesting stuff as Ed Saxon: The Power of Story in a Digital Age (respected producer), Immersive Content: The Future of Storytelling (O2 films, amazing company from my beautiful country: Brazil), Stories of Purpose: Driven Companies and The Confidence Game: The Power (and Price) of Stories.


Subjects that are becoming more popular, with as many panels as any other subject, where kids are wishing to learn and where the future relies. I personally would love to learn more about Brain Prosthetics: A Chip to Restore Your Memory, Collaborative Biohacking, Robot: Man’s Best Friend,Hack You: The Digital Human, Androids and Future Life (Ozaka University) and to discover what NASA, NatGeo, Pwc and Reddit have in common on#SCIENCE: A Revolution in Science Communication.

And if you, like me, never met an astrounaut that’s your chance: Surviving the Red Planet, Discovering a Planet Like Ours, Astronaut Ron Garan,NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, Mars One: Humans on Mars in 2027,Next for NASA, Occupy Mars or also have curiosity about water on Oceans vs Space: Which Is Really the Final Frontier? (Google Lunar).


Many panels were difficult to categorize, and that’s awesome as the future isn’t really categorizible. So, If you get to this far end, you are brave and deserve a prize.

Here are some of the most weird and probably most inspiring panels at SxSW: Believing Is Seeing: Tech+Attitude Trumps Blindness,Communicating Secrets at CIA, Using Technology to Help Liberate North Korea, How Video Introduced Me to the Deaf Community, Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: Unmaking Monsters, You Are Here: 3 Little Words to Address the World, Burning Man: From Free Play to Innovation Science (with IDEO, Burning Man, Oxford U and the National Institute of Play), Fuck No. Shit Yeah! Damn Right? (best title ever), and, to finalize… Yes, Brazil is crawling but making it happen: Rio ’16 Preview.

I also have my humble presence on the mentorship program. Unfortunately, or fortunately, my session is full. But I’d love to connect with as much people as possible, learn about any things I’ve missed on this article and what is your favorite weird panel.

(*) Beto Bina é Associate Director na R/GA New York.