SXSW 2023: The Biggest Takeaways

The days in Austin passed in a blur at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW)! After five days full of inspiration, impressions, networking, and exchange of experiences with the CURAZE travel group and many other great people, our Co-Founder Claus Schuster put together his impressions and biggest takeaways from this year’s festival

by Claus Schuster | 21 Mar, 2023
SXSW 2023: The Biggest Takeaways

The Biggest Headlines of 2023:

🌍 Sustainability

💻 ChatGPT

🌈 Diversity

Workplace Revolution

While there has been an increase in sustainability related content at SXSW, unfortunately, the topic has not yet fully reached the population and companies in the USA.

1) Sustainability Has Caught Up (and with Room to Run)

Top guns, like Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia, are a huge help in bringing more attention to the topic of sustainability and filling the halls. Additionally, there were many different lectures around the topic of the Circular Economy. An exciting headline was “Don't Mess with Our Home Planet: Run + Repair + Raise a Glass.” Patagonia was also the sponsor for this event at SXSW.

It would be great if SXSW were to set itself the goal of having more influence on what kind of waste is produced in the surrounding area and how the event can be made even more sustainable. For example, beverage vending machines for refillable SXSW water bottles would be possible? Also at the Expo, it would certainly be interesting to specifically attract start-ups and other suppliers as exhibitors for the event. At this year's SXSW Expo, there was at least one start-up with biodegradable cutlery already. Keyword: #circulareconomy

While there has been an increase in sustainability related content at SXSW, unfortunately, the topic has not yet fully reached the population and companies in the USA. On our boat tour, we had actually asked to do without plastic plates and cutlery – needless to say, what we received instead of reusable dishes was less than thrilling. And on our flight home, the airline could certainly make improvements in the amount of waste produced at meal times.

2) ChatGPT

One statement that got us thinking is the comparison made by our guest speaker Mary Gray: "It is dangerous to release software that is not yet "tested". Unlike in medical research, there are no limits or at least guidance."

The presentation of Amy Webb was also impressive and inspiring, in which every year she presents the current tech trends. Exciting here was, among other things, her view on ChatGPT 1, 2, 3, and as of today 4. It was interesting to learn that the estimated costs of an average chat with ChatGPT = $ 0.02 – 7 times that of a Google search query.

In addition to ChatGPT, biases as well as Multicloud Systems, AI Systems, Data (from opt-in to data-sharing), AISMOSIS, Industrial Metaverse, and much more were covered. "Optimistic" and "Catastrophic" scenarios show that it is up to us what we make of the possibilities.

Here, as always, many questions remain unanswered: How do we deal with biases? How do we take people – old and young –  along with us? How do we make sure that ChatGPT is not abused? How do we find enough people to implement it?

3) Along with Sustainability and Digitization, Diversity is One of the Most Important Topics of Our Time, and We Need to Bring Everyone on Board

It was pleasing to see that diversity was addressed in a conspicuously positive way at SXSW and that it was lived in a motivating manner. Among other things, the organizers made this topic an essential part of the event, both in terms of content in the program, the spaces, and in the line-up of sessions.

Unfortunately, no matter which German "travel group" we came across in Austin, the quota of women here was only between 10 and 30% – apart from Deutsche Bahn. All over, however, the quota at SXSW was seemingly balanced.

We, ourselves, were able to inspire five women to join our tour. None of the cancellations were due to family reasons (e.g. children) – a large part of the possible female participants had already made other commitments.

Question for thought: What is the reason that fewer women than men accept the offer or set other priorities, even if the same number is respectively invited?

4) Workplace Revolution

Whether the topic of workplace revolution was already so present before the Corona crisis is hard to remember. This year, there was a huge range of presentations and the SXSW Pitch featured start-ups around the topic of the future of work. One of the winners was even a German start-up from Berlin! The other finalists included gigaroo from Austin, lyga from São Paulo, Reach Pathways from Chicago, and Yourco from Indianapolis.

Food for the Brain

At no other event is the range of topics and talks so broad. In addition to many other facets, such as the international audience or the "set up" with lectures and areas throughout the city, this is what makes SXSW so interesting. From digitalization, tech, diversity, sustainability, to socio-political discussions or future topics such as "Future Cities", there is something for everyone and everyone is given the opportunity to think outside the box.

Preserving our democracy is a major challenge. Nancy Pelosi's appearance was, therefore, an important highlight of the event. Compared to the World Economic Forum, it reaches a different, but highly relevant audience at SXSW.

What Will Happen to SXSW in the Future? How Will It Change?

More and more high-rises are being built between the small houses on Rainey Street and on the former action packed areas. Corrugated iron "shacks" that helped shape SXSW with their simple charm are disappearing. Companies such as Amazon Prime are increasingly moving out into the surrounding area, outside the city, which leads to losing a lot of time traveling between events. Detached from the fact that it is not really sustainable if you have to drive with Uber from one location to the next.

Discovering SXSW with the CURAZE Group

As Co-Founder of CURAZE, the exchange with others is an essential building block for a successful SXSW in Claus’s eyes. That's why CURAZE takes a group of entrepreneurs, investors, and corporate executives to SXSW every year. Once again this year, a great group of people joined the tour to SXSW.

It was inspiring to see what events were attended by the participants, and the team at CURAZE would like to thank all of those who contributed to making this SXSW trip so special. From the many contributions in the WhatsApp group, the daily dinner recaps, to the boat trip on Lake Austin and the sundowners on the terrace of the Moonshine Restaurant, it was a pleasure to travel with such an incredible group of people.

See you in 2024 Austin!



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