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16 Biz Sessions to Consider at SXSW Interactive 2013

Business panels at SXSW Interactive 2013It's that time of year, when food trucks serve an alarming amount of breakfast tacos, and lanyards are cool again. Yes, SXSW Interactive is nearly upon us. 

The conference is an essential experience for anyone with an eye toward business or technology, and we're proud it takes place in our backyard. But with one bazillion (approximately) panels, book readings, core conversations, and meetups, choosing your schedule is a daunting task.

That's why every year we put together a list of sessions that b-school types may want to check out. Looking for Longhorns? Don't miss our roundup of McCombs and UT SXSW events.

We kick the list off with a panel that includes professor of management John Butler:

Cultivating the New Minority Entrepreneur
Right under our noses a new generation of minority entrepreneurs are crafting business ideas and refining their hustles. Comprising roughly 40% of Gen Y, the next generation up-and-comers, Blacks and Latinos have a disproportionate inclination toward entrepreneurship. A Kaufmann Foundation policy brief, Young Invincibles, found that 65% of Latinos and 64% of Blacks aged 18–34 wanted to start a business vs. 45% of whites. This panel aims to explore the changing Gen Y minority entrepreneurship paradigm.

Keynote: Elon Musk (CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors)
Lauded as the Henry Ford of this generation, Musk is the CEO and chief designer at SpaceX, where he oversees development of rockets and spacecraft for missions to Earth orbit and ultimately to other planets. At Tesla Motors, Musk has overseen product development and design from the beginning, including the all-electric Tesla Roadster. Additionally, Musk is a co-creator of SolarCity, the leading provider of solar power systems in the United States. He also co-founded PayPal, where he served as chairman and CEO, and Zip2, a provider of Internet software to the media industry.

Reputation as a Currency: Is the Resume Extinct?
At what point does the trust footprint you're creating online eliminate the need for a CV? What if you could leverage your social reputation for those things that traditional credit scores are used for, like buying a home or renting a car? Some may argue that a long and robust history of great transactional behavior online is a much better indicator of future behavior than a few late payments to the cable company. In this session, TaskRabbit's Founder and CEO, Leah Busque, will discuss how we've come from the age of credit—which transformed commerce—to to the age of social capital, which is fundamentally changing the way we think about markets, power, online connections, and personal identity.

Flash Flood! Good, Bad & Ugly Product Frenzies
Flash demand—a catchy term synonymous with “Be careful what you wish for.” It is a new reality in an instant-gratification world, a blindside hit to retailers who have no idea a product has suddenly become the latest media-fueled must-have. It’s happened with products that don’t even exist like the red Swingline stapler with a starring role in “Office Space.” And while demand with no product is bad, and too much demand with not-enough product isn’t much better, if you know it’s coming flash demand can really rock the bottom line—in a good way. Attendees will walk away better prepared to deal with the impacts of social media and the deluge in data on demand, and recover from the flood if it all goes bad.

When Bad Names Happen to Good Startups
Dropped vowels. Extra Zs. Domains du jour. These common namehacks may seem unique to digital startups. But the challenge their owners face is one that’s been around since the days of Scotch-guzzling ad execs: Naming is hard. In our indie agency’s 60 years of working on names for brands, products, campaigns, companies, nonprofits, condos, sports teams, apps, blogs, and startups, a lot has changed. But even more hasn’t. We’ll go beyond the SEOs, URLs and TMs and talk about some of the less tangible (but arguably more important, and often overlooked) aspects of a successful brand name—one that fully captures your story, highlights your point of difference, and inspires a spark of desire in your target. Or at least one that doesn’t suck.

How to Keep EFF & the ACLU Off Your A**
Failing to build in privacy protections is the quickest way to put your company smack in the middle of a PR disaster. Whenever a high-profile privacy breach occurs, tech reporters want to know what privacy watchdog organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union think. The good news is that so many of the privacy-related PR disasters could have been prevented with some simple advance planning. Hear from two of the top people that tech reporters call for comment when there’s a new product that has everyone talking. They will tell you how to plan ahead to avoid privacy & PR nightmares, saving your company time and money while enhancing reputation and building customer loyalty and trust.

The Rise of Re-Commerce: Shop Used in a New Way
Despite a decade of web innovation, services that help you sell or rent out used goods never became mainstream. But the times are changing. Consumers are becoming increasingly conscientious. Shoppers are demanding environmentally responsible options at lower prices. Being frugal is suddenly trendy. Resale’s time is now, and new Internet startups are stepping up to the plate, meeting consumer demands with innovative twists on an age-old industry. We’ll explore the growing consumer need for resale and the challenges tied to building these platforms online.

Yes to the Mess: Leadership Lessons From Jazz
An improvisational mindset is important to a musician. If they listen carefully they can change their notes, invent something new, and adapt to changing rhythms and melodies. That same mindset is important in business. Frank J. Barrett, jazz pianist and management scholar, says this improvisational “jazz mindset” – and the skills and competencies that go along with it—is crucial for effective leadership. Barrett will perform, and read from his latest book "YES TO THE MESS: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz," and examine the principles of jazz thinking and performance that can help anyone develop the competencies required in organizations today.

What’s So Funny About Innovation?  
The most successful innovations often seem counter-intuitive when they are introduced, but that's what can make them so valuable. So, if logic so often fails, how do you innovate and create brands, products, and services that people will connect with, care about, and value? In this talk, we take a cue from stand-up comedians: like brands, they have to consistently deliver fresh, innovative thinking that their audiences relate with. What lessons can designers and brands learn from the deliberately counter-intuitive comedy industry? Join Paul Valerio, principal at experience design firm, Method, and Baratunde Thurston, comedian and best-selling author, for a Q&A on comedy and how it can be used for brand, product, and service innovation.

The Art of Making Fun of Yourself
Can a sense of humor be strategic? In the age of hashtag fails and campaign flops, it's crucial to use a dash of humor in your social recipe. How do you incorporate humor from the beginning of a process and not as an afterthought? By laughing at themselves, brands and agencies can diffuse conflict around campaigns in crisis, overcome messaging mess-ups, and put out fires with funny. It’s all about knowing when and how to deploy the humor bomb.

Content + Crowdsourcing + Creation = Love
Susan Gregg Koger, co-founder and chief creative officer of, launched her online boutique with limited resources. Since then, the business has grown rapidly by expanding its loyal fan base. Much of this growth can be credited to high levels of community engagement. With ModCloth’s popular Be the Buyer program, fans can vote designs into production—a seamless marriage of curation, followed by creation vetted by crowdsourcing. ModCloth’s Make the Cut Contest asks participants to submit design sketches with the chance to have these designs produced and sold, with finalists hand-picked by Susan. Susan will speak to the challenges and exciting opportunities presented in this new climate of community collaboration, in addition to discussing how to leverage crowdsourcing not as a buzzword, but by infusing it into the DNA of a business.

Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business
There's a new business revolution brewing—and it’s happening where we shop. John Mackey, co-CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods Market and a pioneer of the Conscious Capitalism movement, will go over points from his new book and discuss what makes free-enterprise capitalism what it has been: the most powerful creative system of social cooperation & human progress ever conceived. Mackey will share how Whole Foods Market’s higher purpose is constantly evolving for the good of the business and for society as a whole, & how operating this way can create positive impacts for all stakeholders. [Get ready for the session by watching video from Mackey’s 2011 interview with McCombs Dean Tom Gilligan.]

Getting Started with Angel Investing
Interested in getting started with Angel Investing? Have you made a few investments already but still haven't formalized your strategy? Learn from the mistakes of experienced Angel Investors who will share their success stories and their failures. You'll leave this session with an overall strategy, specific tactics, and links to more online resources. Come to this session and then stay for 10 pitches from tech startups that are perfect for Angel Investors.

Tales of US Entrepreneurship Beyond Silicon Valley
Erik Martin
(GM, reddit) and Alexis Ohanian (cofounder, reddit) crowdfunded a bus, the Internet 2012 Campaign Tour bus, to collect, document and share stories throughout the American heartland. I'm going to share the stories we heard from Denver, CO to Danville, KY—with pictures—because the open internet is something all Americans cannot do without.

The China Innovation Boom: Can the US Keep Up?
China is on track to become the world’s largest economy—and a huge driver of that growth comes from innovative new companies. Technology startups aren’t just “copying” U.S. companies anymore, but coming up with China-specific models that work first in China, secondly overseas. Come hear from one of the most experience investors in China about the outlook in the China-U.S. innovation race. Can China really create a Google or an Apple? Can U.S. technology companies gain a bigger foothold in China? Explore the challenges and opportunities of a China-U.S. innovation economy.

Fighting for Funding as a Female Entrepreneur

Access to startup capital has always been a key pain point for female entrepreneurs, but is the angel and venture capital landscape finally changing? Recent research from Babson College says that if female entrepreneurs in the U.S. started with the same capital as male entrepreneurs, they would add 6M jobs to the economy within 5 years—2M of those in the first year alone! Seasoned venture capitalist Kay Koplovitz, chairman/CEO of Koplovitz & Co., joins serial entrepreneur and current Dell EIR [and McCombs alumna] Ingrid Vanderveldt to provide an overview on the current market and the various capital options available to growing businesses. They’ll examine issues that hinder women from receiving outside funding and will provide actionable advice to audience members on everything from how to seek the right kind of equity for the appropriate growth stage of your company to developing a plan to raise capital and targeting experts and mentors to support your goals.

Image credit: Flickr user Luca Sartoni
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