South by Southwest is one of my favorite festivals; you meet so many new friends and have a great time while doing so. However, if I was a startup CEO, I would think twice about going there. If a startup CEO decide to go, she or he, should really plan well, or see the trip as a weekend vacation trip to charge batteries. With that said, if done right, a startup can get a lot out of the festival as well – startups like twitter, foursquare and tinder are all known for utilizing the festival as a platform to accelerate growth.
With SXSW around the corner (and with us throwing a small invitation only meetup together with Kahoot – more info below) we thought we’d reach out to SXSW veteran Johan Brand, CEO of Kahoot, who has also managed to really leveraged SXSW to get a lot of visibility and connections for his company. Here, Johan gives us tips to get the most out of the event.
Creandum: To get the most out of SXSW, how should you prepare?
Johan Brand: Well, It comes down to the painful, old fashioned way of doing research by digging through the event app and so on. I always try to schedule two key things I really want to see per day, and then ad-hoc around it. For instance, find one interesting talk during the day, ad-hoc around it, then one social thing for the evening.
I try to pick one thing that’s relevant for business and then one thing that just sounds interesting to me. For example, last year I went to a talk called “How to fly a horse”, which ended up being about innovation and how it happens. The year before that I saw a talk by two philosophers on what you can learn from the Unibomber, which was also different and really interesting. So don’t be afraid to branch out.
One thing – good locations seem to get the good events. If you go to the main places there will be something relevant on, there’s a correlation between the venue and what they’re able to host.
And then for the evening events I like to find a comedy thing, or a good meet up. I don’t like the brand events – the problem is that there’s just people there for the free drinks and massive parties. I prefer drink-ups or a place you can socialize – I go to SXSW for business and the chance to meet new connections.
Creandum: So once you’ve arrived, what’s your game plan then?
Johan: We’re very focused by our user group this year, we’re bringing in some of our users and meeting some people in the education space. We’re not planning on “taking over SXSW” but it’s a good excuse to talk about your brand, meet key influencers, and hopefully get someone to write blogs about it. When we launched Kahoot, getting key influencers onboard really showed results.
This year we’re launching Kahoot Team mode, something that lets groups take Kahoot quizzes together. We decided to launch it at SXSW because it’s something that can also be adapted into a bar, kind like as a pub quiz, so it’s something that fits for the events we’re throwing.
Creandum: You’re not planning on taking over the event, but a launch gives you something to talk about?
Johan: Yeah, it’s super hard to launch a product at SXSW. Compared to launching Periscope or Meerkat, which are festival oriented, there’s a lot of noise. What we did last year was launch our “ghostmode” function, which allowed us to speak to people and challenge each other in Kahoot [through the ghost mode, which allows people to compete each other without being in the app at the same time]. With Team Mode we can do something similar.
But to get the most out of SXSW – if you don’t have any money – I would go in and be good added value to others, introduce them to people, and try to give new contacts the most you can.
If you add value to them, they’ll point you out! I’ve been in audience of keynote from someone I was talking to, and they’ve pointed towards me and talked about us. In that way, we were able to sneak Kahoot in! If you’re interesting then maybe people will mention you.
Speaking of getting the most out of SXSW, Creandum and Kahoot are hosting a small invitation only meetup on Saturday. If you are going to SXSW and are interested in joining the meetup – shoot over an e-mail to email@example.com and he’ll let you know if there are any space left as well as providing you with more information.
— Creandum (@creandum) March 3, 2016