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Gravity Thinking to go ‘off-piste’ at SXSW 2016 to report back at The Drum Network’s London event

By Andrew Roberts

March 10, 2016 | 5 min read

With SXSW just days away now, The Drum Network has challenged Elite member Gravity Thinking to avoid the many mainstream events and demos while they are in Austin and to bring back information and insights on the most innovative and disruptive technologies, which they will the present at The Drum Network’s next London chapter event taking place on 22nd March.

Here four-year SXSW veteran, Andrew Roberts, managing director at Gravity Thinking, outlines his plan for tackling this year’s enormous event.

Gravity Thinking’s mission for SXSW 2016: To uncover and report back on the beating heart of disruption, innovation and creativity that lives in digital technology but not always on the main stage…… and make sure that it is meaningful and applicable to business.

For the fifth year we are off to sample the delights of Texas and whilst the number of tacos, BBQ, margaritas and Lone Stars consumed probably won’t change our approach will. This year we are going off the beaten track, away from the often self-publicising and always well-documented main stage speakers and into the hotbed of Austin creativity that will impact not only communications but business itself in the months and years to come.

From geek-fest to culture-fest

This year SXSW has become officially mainstream, just ask Barack Obama.

For the first time ever a sitting President of the US AND his wife are attending looking for “ideas and technologies that can help update Government and democracy to be as modern and dynamic as America itself”

From what used to be a geeky tech-fest SXSW has grown up; what happens in Austin is reported on Huffington, The Guardian, BBC, Reddit, Buzzfeed (OK not there but that is a different story).

The city is packed with passionate individuals from all walks of the Internet, fans of robotics, fitness, gaming, medicine, finance and entertainment who represent not only the future of technology and communications but also more importantly the future of society from finance to medicine to transportation to our daily lifestyles.


In 2015 the big news was live streaming with the battle for supremacy between Meerkat and Periscope, but it also showed us a Bio Printer that can print tissues and organs using live cells, disease diagnosis and health tracking via wearables and robotics including a near future where disabilities are eliminated due to the advancements in biomechatronics.

The reason for this is that in recent times SXSW has taken over the ‘counter cultural’ crown from Silicon Valley. The hacker culture at the core of the ideals of ‘Innovation, inspiration and creativity’ that the Festival holds so dearly is the key to what makes these 5 days vitally important.

Navigating the hype

From product showcases to quirky Meetups, interactive installations and unforgettable parties, the conference offers something for any and everyone. And this is the problem, the variety and sheer scale of the event has recently become the festival’s ‘Achilles heal’.

To add to this, as the popularity has grown the big stories have increasingly focused on the main stages and ‘set plays’ which are increasingly inward looking personal brand missions. Coupled with the advent of webcams and mainstream reporting the most interesting and impactful stories and opportunities are often buried amongst stories of ‘Grumpy Cat’.

The challenge

So how do you navigate the over 10,000 sessions on 20+ subject areas organised across 12 locations in 5 days? How do you avoid FOMO when there are over 1,000 talks with variations of the word ‘innovation’ in their title alone? How do you find the new news, the innovative new developments, the new tech that will lead the future in the areas such as ‘The ‘Internet of Things’, wearables and robotics?

And most importantly how do you find the gems amongst the hype and the hyperbole?

Our mission

Having attended SXSW for the past four years we wanted to do something different this year so we thought we would go off the beaten track and seek out the new, the innovative, the cutting edge, and explore the inspirational digital creativity that isn’t always talked about in the daily updates but we know will shape the months and years to come.

We will be reporting back on the bright new tech, finding the content that will enliven, energise and excite inspired by the creativity that comes from thinking differently.

Gravity Thinking will be presenting all of its findings at SXSW on Tuesday 22nd March at The Drum Network’s next London chapter event. To reserve your place click here.

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