business news in context, analysis with attitude

This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy, coming to you this week from the SWSX festival in Austin, Texas.

This is my first time at SWSX, and I have found it to be a remarkable experience - I can’t wait to come back next year, and to spend more time here.

I came to SXSW to record a couple of GMDC-sponsored Retail Tomorrow podcasts that we’ll be posting here over the next couple of weeks. I think they’re really interesting. One focuses on how the “frictionless” marketplace needs to evolve into a “fluid” marketplace, and how technology will enable this shift; the other does a deep dive into the opportunities and challenges of the cannabis market. The people who joined me in these podcasts were, to be honest, dazzling … and I hope you’ll enjoy these podcasts when they are posted. Stay tuned.

The thing about SXSW is that it offers an unusual confluence of brainpower and money. There are people from business, technology, culture, government and finance. I hung out a lot at a place called Funded House, which served as a meeting place for venture capitalists and people who were looking for second round funding. (This is important, because people looking for first round funding may only have a great idea, while second round funding seekers have some proof of concept. There’s a huge difference.)

It isn’t just the big tech companies - you know, the ones that Elizabeth Warren wants to break up - that have a presence at SXSW. (Though they’re there, often taking over buildings and restaurants to promote their wares and services. It seems like every place in town has been booked by somebody, and that every rooftop had a group playing and singing and adding to the remarkable SXSW aura.) Walmart was there, positioning itself as a tech company, and H-E-B catered an extraordinary dinner at a local hotel.

It has nothing to do with retailing, but while hanging out there I ended up in a conversation with a venture capitalist who told me about a business his firm had invested in that had proven enormously successful. What they’ve done is come up with a chip that is roughly half the size of your fingernail, that goes into a device that, when a person is injured on the battlefield. goes behind their ear … and instantly provides a readout on all their bodily functions. The doctor/medic knows who to treat first and exactly how to treat him or her. Just imagine the applicability on the battlefield, or for EMTs or in emergency rooms.

This is really world-changing technology, and that’s the thing about SXSW. There were ton of famous folks there from a variety of worlds, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was the people having conversations in this bar or that cafe who were really going to change the world. I find that heartening. I’m neither young and smart enough nor rich enough to change the world - the best I can do is write a clever sentence - but I’m happy just to be exposed to what these folks are doing and thinking and imagining … because everybody is thinking about possibilities and nobody is considering the possibility of limits.

I heartily recommend it. It is good for the mind, and good for the soul.

That’s what is on my mind this morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

KC's View: