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The Buzzword Of The SXSWi Festival Is Monetization

Anyone remember the dot.com crash? When the speculative bubble of the late nineties (inflated largely due to the advent of the internet) popped with a cataclysmic bang that shook the financial world like a terrier does a rat? In the days after March 10, 2000, when the “oh no” factor became biblical, economists scrambled to figure how just what the heck went wrong.

Confidence in technology was high. So high, that investors would hurl money at any startup business prefixed with an “e” or suffixed by a “.com”, gambling that the rate of exponential technological growth would buoy their invested premiums. Traditional business models and established concepts such as the P/E ratio (price-to-earnings ratio) were thrown out with the bathwater.

Like a rowdy classroom of teenagers been told to “settle down” by a stern schoolmaster, real businessmen advocating sound, practiced business models began to apply themselves to the realm of internet commerce. One of the chief words they would bandy is “monetization”, which describes the adaptation of assets that are not producing revenue into ones that do. This is particularly applicable to the current status of growth in apps for smartphones and websites looking to gain a foothold in today’s crowded marketplaces.

You’ll notice that many apps have a free version to be downloaded as a taster. The problem most developers battle is balancing the line between what features are free, and what aren’t. Too many resources and features offered for free negates the purpose of the paid upgrade. Too little, and the consumer doesn’t acquire enough information about the product to generate a confident purchase.

Publishing On The iPad

On March 12th, Apple started the iPad pre-order sales for the iPad, which was coincidently (or not) the first day of the South by Southwest Interactive festival. The entire weekend technology attendees were asking, “Are you getting an iPad? Did you pre-order yet?” Beyond the tech geeks, the buzzed about new product is raising questions in a number of industries. Today in a panel entitled “Could the iPad have saved Gourmet? The (New) Future of Magazines” the panel explored the impact new technology is having on publishing.

New media experts Rachel Sklar, the Editor-at-Large for Mediaite.com, and Jacob Lewis, CEO of Figment-a mobile platform for reading and writing young-adult fiction, took the audience through a great discussion of how advertisement-sponsored media will need to evolve in order to survive. The magazine industry is currently in crisis. In the last three years over 1500 magazines have folded. Gourmet magazine’s close rocked the industry, as the marketplace didn’t foresee that an institution like Gourmet would fail. Growing news readership on the internet in combination with a weak economy has left publishers scrambling to adopt new strategies and new mediums to survive. Mobile publishing is a whole new ballgame. We will likely see a lot of trial and error in how content is shared but the future is bright for those who have interesting content.

Partying and Networking at SXSWi 2010

When I first started wandering the halls of the Austin Conference Center at SXSWi 2010, I had no idea about the parties. No one had told me about them, I wasn’t particularly interested in them, so I didn’t really think about them.

Then last night happened.

After the combination of block party beers in the Trade Show and a robust Fireman’s 4 at the Web Award show, my step had certainly become more choreographed. I then headed to the Palm Door for a mixer. So this is what they mean by “networking”, I thought to myself as I stumbled up the steps and through the entrance. Unfortunately, I had work to do, so, after briefly chatting with a few people, I found a quiet corner, plugged in my laptop and started hazily tapping away. After an hour or two I finished up my tasks, put away the tools of my trade and wandered back into the huddled masses to demonstrate the nubile wit and pronounced social swagger that invariably accompany my inebriation.

Business Social Media Competitors at Microsoft BizSpark

Today kicked off the first round of events for the Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator at SXSW sponsored by Elance. The BizSpark Accelerator was setup to showcase emerging technology companies through a format of a two-minute presentation followed by Q&A by three of the most tech savvy experts in the business. I attended the Business Social Media presentation where eight companies pitched their websites, applications and digital services to land one of three spots in the finals.

Out of the highly competitive field I've chosen to highlight two of the competitors – MobileRoadie and GuruStorms.

MobileRoadie. Quality Android and iPhone apps customizable for anyone.
MobileRoadie makes it easy for anyone to "create a high quality app on the iPhone or android in 20 minutes." Applications are fully customizable and allow the owner to update content in real time. Applications include updates from RSS feeds, Twitter, YouTube and other popular social media sites already baked in so it's easy to update information from across the web. MobileRoadie even offers an option for users to buy music off of iTunes directly through the app. In addition to a great experience for their customers, app owners gain knowledge about their fan base through the use of analytics on how customers interact within the app and overall app performance. MobileRoadie is an easy to use, informative tool that brings anyone's business or brand to the mobile world.

To date, MobileRoadie is already heavily adopted in the entertainment and music industry, especially after the launch at last year's SXSW Music conference. Word spread about MobileRoadie's popularity among top entertainment brands and soon leaders in other industries wanted iPhone and Android apps built for them- including churches, athletes, restaurants, hotels, conferences and bloggers. The company took note and expanded their reach across different industries. Today MobileRoadie's client list includes Taylor Swift, Madonna, the Beer in Hell movie, blogger Taryn Southern and the Golden Globe Awards, just to name a few. The company's dedication to delivering quality features and focus on creating solutions for emerging mobile platforms has well positioned them for great. For more information, visit http://mobileroadie.com/.
 
GuruStorms. Using the world's best and brightest to brainstorm answers to your complex questions.
GuruStorms provides "The world's experts at your fingertips." They are an Austin based company that offers a unique crowdsourcing solution by recruiting some of the world's top talent to solve answers to complex questions. Users log onto the website and choose a prize amount up to $5,000 to reward the experts for finding a solution to their problem. The company's key benefits is giving users the opportunity to access and collaborate with some of the best minds in technology to find a solution. GuruStorms is geared to bring a new meaning to crowdsourcing by using the best of the crowd, not just the available.

GuruStorms current list of experts include Sam Decker, Marc Nathan, Jonas Lamis and many more. GuruStorms is a part of Melior Technologies which is a company specializing in the fusion of ecommerce and social networking technologies. GuruStorms is the second of the company's unique brainstorming sites that use crowdsourcing to generate great ideas, and to reward their online communities. For more information, please visit http://www.gurustorms.com/.

Although only one of the companies will take home the Business Social Media prize, all competitors in the field have really exciting outlooks on the future of business tech. Make sure to check out SpredFast, Daily Grommet, HyveWorks, KnowEm?, Mobspot, and PitchEngine for some great examples of business innovation.

Check back tomorrow for coverage of the finals of the Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator at SXSW sponsored by Elance.

The Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator Finalists

The second annual Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator is a two-day competition where companies in four categories compete for thousands of dollars worth of prizes and, of course, the prestigious SXSWi Conference recognition.

The four categories are Innovative Web Technologies, Entertainment Technologies, Business Social Media, and Personal Social Media. A spokesperson for each of eight new companies in each category pitch their business to a critical panel of internet business luminaries who grill the representatives mercilessly about the advantages, benefits and shortcomings of their product. I was quite surprised at how aggressive the panel was. But such rigor is probably the best option, because it at least keeps the interviews entertaining.

Sponsored by Elance, Microsoft BizSpark, Level 3, Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, and .BIZ Domain, the whole idea is to uncover and promote creative new ideas and talent in each category.

I attended the Innovative Web Technologies and Entertainment presentations, which ran concurrently with the two social media categories.

Gary Vaynerchuk’s 7 Secrets of Social Business

A large crowd welcomed Gary Vaynerchuck Monday at his lunchtime keynote at Monday's SXSWi conference. Some people know him as the wine guy and others just as @garyvee on Twitter. For anyone that hasn't heard of Vaynerchuck, he is a New York Times bestselling author, WineLibrary.tv video celebrity and owner of the Wine Library, an online wine retail store

Vaynerchuck became a wine expert after reluctantly joining his family run liquor business and soon found passion by equated it with his childhood passion of selling baseball cards. In 1997 he launched an online retailer under the newly branded name: The Wine Library. Wine Library TV was launched 9 years later and branded Gary as "changing the wine world" with a more low key approach to a traditionally stuffy industry. By utilizing the social web, he started with constant interaction on blogs and forums then expanded connections and consumer reach through Facebook and Twitter. The Wine Library grew from $4 million to $60 million in revenue, branding Vaynerchuck as an expert social marketer.

Four Hour Book Signing

Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Work Week, spent some time hanging out at the Elance SXSW tradeshow booth to promote the idea of outsourcing your life. Ferriss is the poster-child for outsourcing tasks to specialized talent in order to obtain a short workweek. Ferriss is a huge advocate for cutting down the number of working hours by utilizing websites like Elance, but when it comes to his followers, interaction with them is a task he refuses to outsource. The original timeslot he agreed to for the signing of the new edition of his book was one hour. The turnout to meet Ferriss was larger than expected. After the first hour, the line still curved across the entire Tradeshow floor. Ferriss, a dedicated supporter of his fans, wanted to personally greet everyone in line. After, coincidentally, 4 hours of book signing Ferriss had to cut the line short to get to his next event.

The 13th Annual SXSW Web Awards

Drawn by the promise of free beer and food, I headed over the road from the Austin Convention Center to the Hilton hotel 6th floor ballroom for the annual SXSW Web Awards. The place was packed with people who'd found similarly selfish inspiration well before I did. I really need to start twittering, or tweeting, or whatever you call it, fourspacing, and all the other socially connective technologies that define the fast-paced, modern lifestyle I somehow appear to have neglected to immerse myself in.

The Future of Green is Zero

SXSWi is the place to find out what tomorrow holds in the technology, film and music industries. Innovations in these huge fields raise questions about how they will impact other movements. Today I attended a panel on the future of green to see how the technology and interactive space are positively influencing sustainability. The core focus of the panel was on Zero waste. Zero waste is the concept of producing the same, if not more, energy than you consume. The idea of consuming less energy felt a little out of place at a conference scattered with recharge stations and swag bags loaded with paper waste but everyone has to start somewhere.

Tim Ferriss Gets to Hang Out With Me

I wondered how long it would take one of the people lined up around the block to ask Tim Ferriss, author of the New York Times bestseller "The 4-Hour Workweek" when he was bringing out the 3-hour version. Because that was also my initial question. Fortunately, I managed to edit myself before I blurted it out. Thus, I feel entitled to thumb my nose at the person that did.
 

I turned up at the Elance booth this afternoon for Tim's book signing, and the people were already lined up around the block. With a nod to the Elance crew I set up shop behind the man himself and speed read his book. You can see my ear in the pic. I know, I should have read it earlier but that's the advantage of speed-reading, right? What an amazing story. Tim basically travels the world, creating businesses and outsourcing the work requirements through the internet. Genius. And judging by his reception at the SXSW Interactive Trade Conference, everyone else thinks so too.

The ideology behind "The 4-Hour Workweek" is minimizing one's personal physical baggage, exploiting travel deals, and committing to mobility in both career and lifestyle. By the use of Elance, Tim is able to hire people around the world to complete his work requirements.

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