SXSW Interactive is one of the biggest tech and start-up conferences of the year. It's also overwhelming. Here are our must-see sessions.
From left: Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup; Amber Case, co-founder of Geoloqui.com; Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn; Ben Silbermann, founder of Pinterest.
If you're anything like us, you're incredibly excited for South By Southwest, but you're also a bit overwhelmed. The Interactive portion of the conference, which runs March 9 to March 13, features hundreds of sessions, thousands of speakers, and tons of shows, company announcements, start-up competitions, launches, lunches, and the occassional brisket breakfast taco.
There's so much to do at SXSW that no matter how outstanding your planning skills are, there's no way you're going to be able to catch everything. It's not uncommon for VCs and entrepreneurs to use SXSW as a backdrop for business deals or publicity stunts, and just stay away from the convention center—where the festival's keynote speeches and headline panels are held—altogether. But we at Inc.com really like SXSW's breed of thought leadership—and think if you're going to Austin, you should make a real effort to soak in some of the smart stuff. Here, we've distilled five of the official events you really shouldn't miss. Now, by no means is this list complete. The full schedule can be found here, so check it out, and weigh in below on what you think we've missed. And check back throughout the weekend at Inc.com/SXSW for updates.
1. Amber Case(Sunday, March 11, 2 p.m.) Case, who is a co-founder of Geoloqi.com, and one of the 2012's SXSW keynote speakers, will present her speech on the "Ambient Location and the Future of the Interface," a must-see for any software engineer, Web start-up CEO, or really anyone interested in how people interact—and will interact in the future—online. She also has one of the coolest job descriptions we've ever heard: cyborg anthropologist.
2. Eric Ries(Friday, March 9, 5 p.m.) Ries, the author of The Lean Startup, will explain "the new science of entrepreneurship," with insights gleaned from his best-selling book. "The Lean Startup approach fosters companies that are both more capital efficient and that leverage human creativity more effectively. Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, it relies on "validated learning," rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of counterintuitive practices that shorten product development cycles, measure actual progress without resorting to vanity metrics, and learn what customers really want." Ries shared his scientific method for launching profitable companies with Inc. magazine in our October issue.
3. Ben Casnocha & Reid Hoffman(Saturday, March 10, 11 a.m.) Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, and Casnocha, an author and entrepreneur, will present "a new blueprint for managing your career." The two wil discuss some the "best practices of some of the most successful start-ups on the planet (such as PayPal and LinkedIn), and how these strategies can be applied to your career -- no matter your industry or job function."
4. Billy Chasen, Jesse Kirshbaum, Seth Goldstein (Tuesday, March 13, 12:30 p.m.) Chasen and Goldstein founded Turntable.fm, one of the hottest music start-ups on the scene today, while Kirshbaum founded Sound Ctrl, an event platform for music and digital media. The three will discuss the future of the "social music experience" and running a successful start-up.
5. Ben Silbermann (Tuesday, March 13, 11 a.m.) Silbermann, the founder of Pinterest, which has seen explosive growth in the last year, will explain how he became the guy behind the fastest-growing social media service on the Web in a Q&A with entrepreneur/investor/blogger Chris Dixon. Silbermann rarely does interviews, so ready your Twitter thumbs: this is a sesion where anyone could break some news.
Bonus: Check out actor Rainn Wilson (The Office) on Saturday, March 10. Wilson, you may not have known, is also an entrepreneur. He founded SoulPancake with his son, and though we're not exactly sure what his speech will be about (something about "art, philosophy, creativity, and spirituality," and helping people "explore what it is to be a human") we're sure it will be a happy diversion.
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CHRISTINE LAGORIO-CHAFKIN is a writer, editor, and reporter whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Village Voice, and The Believer, among other publications. She is senior writer at Inc. @Lagorio
ERIC MARKOWITZ reports on start-ups, entrepreneurs, and issues that affect small businesses. Previously, he worked at Vanity Fair. He lives in New York City. @EricMarkowitz