SXSWi demonstrates wide impact and future of technology

A group of Green Mountain Energy employees recently attended an Austin conference that attracts a global audience of thousands. SXSW Interactive (SXSWi), which began in 1994, is an annual five-day festival in Austin that features a trade show, panel discussions, keynote speakers, meet-ups and mentor sessions focused on the technology sector.

We’re proud to work with SXSW this year to offset the estimated carbon emissions associated with the 3,500+ speakers’ travel to the event and hotel stay. Learn more.

Below are some of our observations from SXSWi, including thought-provoking messages from our favorite presenters.

Drink TOMS Coffee, Support Clean Water
Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS, a shoe and eyewear company well-known for its one-for-one business model, announced March 11 their new business named TOMS Roasting Co. Purchasing a single pair of TOMS shoes results in a pair of shoes being given to a child in need, and purchasing one bag of TOMS coffee will give one week of clean water to a person in need. The coffee will be sold online, at Whole Foods Market and at TOMS cafes. Learn more in this write-up from The New York Times.

The Maker Movement
Can you imagine clothing that can decipher your emotional state and communicate it to your smartphone? What about smart spoons that are engineered to help you make the perfect pasta with ease? Would you be thrilled to use a compostable carton made of mushrooms? These ideas may seem far-fetched or absurd, but they’re closer to reality than you may think thanks to IDEO and MIT Media Lab, which created, a website where you can view some of their latest innovations.

Word of Mouth
Word-of-mouth, which is 10x more effective than traditional advertising, seemingly travels faster than the speed of light. But is there science behind this? Jonah Berger, a professor at the Wharton School and author of Contagious, argues there’s a formula behind the popular word-of-mouth content. Adding a novelty factor is one common thread, he says. For instance, you may not consider a blender to be a compelling topic, but BlendTec found a way to go viral by producing these videos on

The World’s First Trillionaire
Who will be the first person on earth to have a net worth above $1 trillion? According to Neil deGrasse Tyson, acclaimed astrophysicist and host of Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, it will be the first person who mines asteroids for rare elements.

In an unrelated comment during his keynote address, Tyson made the crowd chuckle when discussing science skeptics: “The great thing about facts is that they’re true whether or not you believe them.”

Searching For Inspiration?
Max Lenderman, one of the principals at digital agency School, led a discussion on brands in developing nations that are doing inspiring work. He showed two amazing videos to illustrate his point. Check these out:

•    Coca-Cola Small World Machines
•    Sport Club Recife

Genetic Testing and Big Data
Anne Wojcicki, the co-founder and CEO of 23andMe, gave a keynote speech on “The Future of Genetics In Our Everyday Lives.” Her direct-to-consumer company allows people to own their genetic information for $99 to learn more about their ancestry and, at one time, to understand their genetic health risks. Under pressure from the FDA, 23andMe decided to halt any claims about customers using their genetic information to learn which diseases they may be predisposed to. That said, 23andMe has ~650,000 genotyped customers, which is the largest database in the world, says Wojcicki.

Software to Solve Real-World Problems
Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman encourages software developers to tackle meaningful, real-world problems such as cancer research. In his presentation, titled, “The Next $50b Business Won’t Be A Website,” he said it is much easier for software companies to tackle real-world problems than for companies who operate in the real world to solve problems best addressed with software in the cloud. A good example, he said, is how Netflix is competing with HBO now by producing original content, like House of Cards, whereas HBO is struggling to replicate Netflix’s success. The same concept applies to Uber, the private car service, which uses software to manage its network of vehicles across the nation.

What Stories Make You Want to Share?
A panel of media experts from A&E, Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed and a Hearst/Mark Burnett company shared the secrets to storytelling that make people want to share. In a nutshell, it’s about people – specifically, real-life characters with a twist. Who would have thought that the premise behind Storage Wars would be interesting? But it is, because the people are so fascinating to watch. They also noted that positive content shares better than negative content. Check out these examples: