This week was the first-ever SXSW conference in Las Vegas. With about 1,500 attendees, many SXSW alumni said this is how the early days of SXSW Austin felt.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, led the first keynote and shared his vision for revitalizing downtown Las Vegas through the downtown project (http://downtownproject.com). He spoke passionately about shifting away from ROI into measuring and optimizing return on community, and return on luck (building an environment in which a Steve Jobs can meet a Steve Wozniak and create a business).
Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, led the second keynote. He spoke about the vision of America Online back in a day when nobody saw value in being online. His main takeaway is that the USA is prosperous because of entrepreneurs; His main plea is to get involved in the current political discussion on immigration reform because the USA must remain able to attract and retain smart motivated entrepreneurs in order to stay prosperous.
Outside of the keynotes, the future of work was a main theme for many speakers. The buzzword that joined all the crowdfunding/crowdsourcing/outsourcing sessions together was "meritocracy." Work is becoming more on-demand with quick ramp-up and ramp-down. Like cloud computing makes online products more approachable while still being able to scale, the new paradigm of work makes new ideas more approachable with the ability to scale out the business as necessary. We need to quickly determine merit in order to quickly and flexibly scale out, and this drives us towards a meritocracy.
The sessions were great fodder for the real purpose of SXSW: making connections. I'm happy that the inaugural SXSW Las Vegas was able to attract interesting speakers and attendees. Great success.