Like so many South By Southwest first-timers before me, I left for the iconic Austin tech/film/music conference in search of inspiration. But would looking for inspiration in a party-fueled, heavily branded conference turn out to be a quixotic journey? Or would I find a pot of career-affirming gold at the end of my SXSW rainbow?

I definitely found my inspiration treasure trove–but it wasn’t buried under a giant ‘X’. I found it in engaging Interactive panels, as I expected–but I also found it in incredible new music, creative Austin-style dishes, and in the amazing group of people I was traveling with. It wasn’t at the end of the rainbow. It was everywhere.

Here are my Top 5 First-SXSW Moments:

  1. Martine Rothblatt’s keynote speech based on her book, Virtually Human: The Promise–And The Peril–Of Digital Immortality.

Rothblatt is a member of the transhumanist movement. Transhumanism is a “cultural and intellectual movement with an eventual goal of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.” (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

In her keynote speech, she discussed the ethical considerations of transferring one’s mind into digital form, so that one’ consciousness may live forever. As if that’s not enough to chew on, she introduced us to Bina48, a robot she created by turning her wife Bina’s “Mindfile” into digital information. Bina48 is, without question, the most articulate robot I’ve ever come across. As a human Mindclone, she even has her own spontaneous thoughts. (Are you following all this?)


  1. Nas’ performance at the MRY party.

Nas is a hip-hop icon, and–#humblebrag alert–I felt incredibly lucky to be able to see him in such an intimate setting. He spoke about how music took him from being just another kid in the projects to being one of the most respected hip-hop artists in history. He’s truly a self-made musician, and his body of work speaks for itself. Nas brought the house down.

  1. Chef Michael Chiarello’s Panel on How Sustainable Food Starts with Love

Chef Chiarello has had a huge impact on my culinary life; I’ve been watching his cooking shows for years, and he’s one of the first Chefs who inspired me to start cooking. He and his wife, Eileen, not only produce organic and biodynamic wines in their northern California homestead, they started a summer camp called Dirt to Dine that gives kids a taste of the farm-to-table lifestyle (teaching them about healthy eating in the process).

Their panel focused on love being at the heart of eating well, and how shared cooking experiences can be powerful catalysts for global change. The Chiarellos believe that cooking brings us closer, makes us healthier, and keeps the planet in balance. I agree wholeheartedly. As a lifelong student of the “Food = Love” school of thought, the panel confirmed what I’ve long believed: over a plate of something delicious and homemade, there’s no problem you can’t solve.

  1. The Avocado Benedict at Frank’s on Colorado Street.

Two fluffy, handmade cheddar biscuits, topped with a fried egg, tons of fresh, ripe avocado, and smothered in jalapeno hollandaise: not only a great source of inspiration for my next brunch creation, but absolutely delicious.

  1. MisterWives at the CrowdTap party.

I have to admit, I’m not a huge music person. I love it, I listen to it, but if you want to know about the latest, hippest band–ask someone else. So I was pretty surprised when I completely fell in love with MisterWives, the band that played at the CrowdTap party. They have an upbeat, pop-rock sound, and a powerhouse lead vocalist. I’ve been playing their song “Reflections” on Spotify on repeat all day–it’s the perfect thing to continue to get inspired to.


From Influencers to Media Distribution and M-Commerce: What I Learned at #SXSW