J. Brian Anderson is an associate with the Innovate Indiana Fund. The $10 million fund, managed by the IU Research and Technology Corporation, provides pre-seed and seed stage equity capital to support development and growth of IU-affiliated startup ventures in new technologies.
After making my second trip to Austin, Texas for the annual South by SouthWest (SXSW) interactive business, music and film festival, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the deep representation of the Midwest at the conference.
No matter where I went, I was running into dozens of Midwesterners whether I was joining our friend Kristian Andersen founder of Indianapolis design firm KA+A at a Crawfish Boil, or randomly running into fellow Hoosiers now at iSocket in California, catching up with Cincinnati Brandery graduates Nick Tippmann (IU) of Nibletz and Michael Bergman of MyRepp or generally associating with well over 60+ Indiana representatives including Matt Hunckler of VERGE and Social Reactor, needless to say they were everywhere.
The outside consensus was in, the Midwest is more than just well on its way to becoming a technology ‘hot spot,’ even Entrepreneur magazine knows about Indiana and our startup and business friendly environment. Without prompt, even coastal residents recognized the tech and startup environment that the entire Hoosier community has worked hard to create in its backyard. I believe this is due to the cascading effects of the ‘wins’ the state has experienced because of highly successful technology-enabled content and channel marketing companies like ExactTarget and Compendium, social platforms like Raidious and search engine ChaCha, as well as recently IPO’d First Internet Bank founded by entrepreneur David Becker.
(This list is entirely too long to do everyone who deserves to be mentioned justice… apologies)
Back to SXSW — It’s tough to describe what the interactive portion of the event is really like, perhaps it’s like a frantic, caffeine fueled, 24/7 intellectual blitz of bright people and new ideas. Imagine New Years Eve for technologists… for 5 days straight.
What were the major themes at South by Southwest this year?
- Hardware: Google Glass & ‘The Talking Shoe’, $2500 consumer-grade 3D printing, Leap Motion visual hand recognition ‘mouse.’ All these amazing hardware/software combinations are officially upon us and this is only the beginning of Act 1
- Ambient/Location aware takes the next step: Services like ‘Google Now,’ Foursquare, and Highlight - make mobile productivity, discovery and finding new friends easier than ever – there is an absolute critical mass in this category even if there is still uncertainty about successful business models.
This years themes would not be reality without highly portable computing, deeply personalized data, a new hardware interface (or way to collect data) and a unique user interface, in fact without all these innovations there could be no innovation like Google Glass. What good would the MakerBot 3D printer be without an open user community sharing ideas and designs as well as a moderately inexpensive piece of manufacturing hardware? While web software has exploded over the last 20 years, to push beyond the traditional laptop, new interfaces and hardware are being employed in brand new environments. It’s the combination of disparate technologies at the edge of interaction that creates unexpected and often disruptive value. Easier said than done, no question.
As important as hyper-focus is to developing deep expertise, SXSW really showed that tech leaders are great because through experimentation and collaboration they are able to invent new category-defining technology. Only together can we allow our individual arithmetic knowledge to achieve geometric power and audience where we meet our environment.