Experiments, Courtship, and Unicorns at SxSW V2V
Here in Las Vegas last week, the most interesting thing going on had nothing to do with flashy casinos, but with startups interested in putting a dent in their universe. SxSW V2V, held every summer in Las Vegas after the major conference in Austin, focuses on educating startups on innovation and success. After a few days spent sitting in talks and pitch competitions, a few interesting things stood out:
- V2V is where the Interactive team experiments. For instance, this year they’re trying soft “nudges” to encourage us nerds to talk to one another. The staff is also trying out a service called sli.do to help channel audience questions and feedbacks online (making it far less disruptive).
- It’s a very practical affair. Keynotes, workshops, and panels are all focused on providing nuts and bolts information to actual entrepreneurs. Mentor sessions help startup leaders build working relationships with experienced pros. There are even sessions on using the latest findings in neurobiology to improve pitches to VCs.
- Startups and venture capitalists use V2V as a three day-long courtship ritual. Social capital is the fuel for financial capital, so networking and building trust is critical for startups to obtain the cash that investors are looking to give. Every social event at V2V finds its ultimate value in introducing a suitor to an eager mate.
- If you listened closely, you could hear the death knell of the 1.0 version of the startup pitch competition. V2V’s day of pitches was less Shark Tank and more an extension of the funder/founder courtship ritual. Judges cared less about the quality of the presentation or mystical revenue projections. Moreover, the audience could participate in the questioning, while a two-personal panel helped moderate and provide meta commentary.
- Unicorns—billion-dollar startups—were a constant presence on people’s minds. Of course, every startup founder wanted to reach such valuations, but the way the Ubers of world achieved their worth was of greater interest. And that meant #disruption. The gauntlet was clear: “Challenge the giants and disrupt highly regulated industries,” as Aimee Young, CMO of marketplace lender SoFi, summed up.