CATEGORY: Conferences

All Things SXSW 2013: The Insider’s Guide to Austin

Sean “Baxter” Baxter and Jared “Put that free food in me” Ewy are representing at Austin’s massive music, film and tech festival, #SXSW. They’ll be posting video every day they’re in the “Boulder of Texas.” [See their tips and tricks for SXSW] And I have no idea why I’m writing this in the third person. I am Jared and I am powered by free appetizers, candy and beer and I just spoke to a woman about how orgasms are going to change the world. That video is to come, but first, take the insider’s guide to Austin. You’ll be the coolest SXSW attendee in town, and if you want to avoid the ruckus, then kick back at home and enjoy the virtual ride through one of the hippest cities on the planet.

Tips, Tricks and otherwise Sanity Saving Advice for SXSW 2013

We’re happy to announce that will be at South by Southwest in Austin, TX. It’s a big event. It’s so big that if you’re not prepared your trip could explode into an all-out cluster where you end up like Waldo in one of those crowded pictures but drunk and wondering where your shoes are. We’re certain that at some point during the festival you will have earned some shoeless inebriation, but first experience and wisdom of veteran #SXSW attendees who have shared Tips, Tricks and Otherwise Sanity Saving Advice!

Oh, and because it’s such an awesome time with so many beautiful people, we might have gone to extremes.

You don’t have to do that last part. That was Hell. Really, you ladies do that to your…really?

Here’s an extended list of #SXSW advice, tips and tricks. Let’s begin with the first and most important:

1. GET YOUR CREDENTIALS EARLY. Everyone who is anyone will be lining up on Friday morning (March 8th) to get registered. We’ve heard the line can take up to five hours. This advice came from about everyone we talked to, but was stressed most vociferously by Austin filmmaker Todd Calvert, and author CC Chapman.

And now to Linda Koritkoski from .CO. She’s the marketing juggernaut that has helped bring .CO to the forefront of startup success. To crack into the .COM/NETs of the world, you’ve got to do lots of pimping…especially at big, crazy gatherings like #SXSW. Here’s her helpful list:

2. Bring extra battery packs for phones / laptops / anything electric. Don’t expect to find an outlet.south by southwest

3. WiFi likely will be slow. Cell service will drop. Too many digital geeks all in the same place forces us all to live analog for a little while. Don’t freak out. It’ll be ok. Just go grab a beer and TALK to someone instead.

4. Torchy’s Tacos. I don’t need to say anything else.

5. Keep your eyes open, the best things that happen are random. You can’t plan SXSW — and if you try, you are doing it wrong!

And finally we bring you one of our favorite blog doctors. Erik Wolf is to your business what Kim Kardashian is to really bad reality TV–he makes people care about what you’re doing. To do this he’s a well-traveled soul who shares with you 10 more #SXSW tips and tricks:

6. Start training your liver ASAP. This is basically spring break except this time you’re not broke (and, in all likelihood carrying legit identification). Cocktails are almost as ubiquitous as iPhones at SXSW. Almost.

7. Food trucks are awesome and Austin is full of them. Enjoy.

8. You won’t get to be the mayor of anything on foursquare. It may not even be worth trying.

9. My favorite non-conference event was 20×2. This was a really fun time. They line up 20 speakers who present for 2 minutes each all in response to the same question. The results are really fantastic. Info at 20×

10. When you’re at the conference, definitely go to some of the talks but when you want a break look for the blogger’s lounges. These are great places to hang out and run into cool people. And every now and then you might manage to score some free food.

11. Assuming you’re OK with drinking during the afternoon, a great place to grab a cocktail during SXSW is the lobby bar at the Hilton across from the conference sxsw tips and trickscenter. You’ll be surprised who stops by and who you might be able to have a beer with someone famous.

12. Never wait in line for a party. Register for the ones you really want to go to in advance and if you blow it, don’t worry: the whole town is a party. You’ll be able to find something else.

13. If you happen to run into someone super geek chic like Guy Kawasaki, he will totally take a picture with you. But don’t blow it by looking dumb. You’ll need to be more clutch than that.

14. If someone mistakes you for someone famous, just roll with it.

15. If you’re interested in startups and emerging techie stuff, definitely check out the SXSW Accellerator. Basically you’re watching startups pitch their businesses to a panel of seriously distinguished judges. And you get to hear the feedback. Better than business school, I swear.

OK, that’s it for now. We’ll see you at the Interactive part of the show March 7 – 13. 

A computer science guy speaks, dances: Lessons from HostingCon 2012

By Dave McBreen,’s Director of Core Development

Before attending HostingCon, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.  I assumed take-aways would primarily come out of the presentations.  I didn’t expect networking to be very much fun, let alone informative.  And I saw little chance of ending up on a dance floor.

Tebow Miracle

Dave as pictured in our “Tebow Beeracle” video.

I mostly attended the technical talks.  Although these weren’t quite as technical as I would have liked, I got something out of each one.  Sometimes I would just catch something mentioned in passing or listed on a random slide that would spark an idea or point to a resource that I didn’t know existed.

Computer science majors aren’t generally the most social bunch. But I was surprised how much I took away from talks with our vendors and partners. Conversation topics ranged from backups and CDNs to DDoS mitigation and malware detection. I also spoke with a Director of Development from another company and it was fascinating hearing about the challenges faced by a team ten times our size.

Then there were the post conference activities. One after-party included an open bar, stand up comedy, an 80s cover band, and dueling DJs. It ended with the entire crew from dancing like it was the final hour at a wedding.

The trip was more fun, educational, and informative than I expected. It’s an exciting and changing industry. And its great to be a part of it.

To behold the brawn behind this blog, see Dave prepare for the London 2012 Olympics.

Your employees as Brand Ambassadors: Your Most Valuable Asset just got even better.

We first met William Toll when he took the two seconds to subscribe to our YouTube account. Little did he know that he was our 1000th subscriber, and that he’d be showered with prizes, including, and totally limited to, the domain name As it turns out, he presented at HostingCon, and he’s an expert in getting your employees to become brand ambassadors. But he’s not the kind of guy your employees will loathe for having them do one more thing. He explains how it’s done properly…

Shower your employees with rewards, including domains like

Handshakes, Hosting, and Humidity- Lessons from HostingCon 2012

HostingCon was a 3-day event.  In the grand scheme of things that doesn’t sound like much. Having attended a number of conferences and conventions in my time I assumed that this would be a standard meet and greet, “Hello we work in the same industry”, “Yes I enjoyed the continental breakfast”, “That last speaker was rough”, “Want to split a cab to the airport?” type of ordeal. I thought it would be the same song and dance that I’ve done a hundred times in a hundred cities with hundreds of familiar faces.

hostingcon logoI am pleasantly surprised to report that HostingCon, in all its ridiculous glory, was nothing like that.  There’s something very special about this industry that a lot of other industries will never understand. The next big innovation is always approaching. The landscape is always changing. The weak ideas are always dying. New companies are always rising. The topics discussed at last year’s HostingCon were not discussed again this year. The topics discussed this year were new and fresh; you cannot read about them in books.

To try and truncate everything that I learned there into this post would be disastrous, so I’ll try to keep it brief. There was one presentation in particular that stayed with me for days afterward. Dave Koston of Fortuity LLC gave a heartfelt and genuine speech about how to deliver products that customers will pay for.  The bottom line of his presentation? You find out what people want by listening to them in an organic way.

dave koston from hostingcon

We stole this from Mr. Koston’s Facebook page.

All too often we get in the habit of sending out a survey with leading questions (if offered a unicorn dance video generator, would you buy it?) and using the answers to these questions to make business decisions (no, you wouldn’t buy it, but it sounds cool enough to say that you would).  A large investment is made, a big project is planned, a new product is deployed, and conversion rates are alarmingly low.  It’s disappointing and frustrating for everyone involved, because you thought you were building something that your customers wanted. You even have survey results to back this point up!

Koston gave a list of example questions and advised everyone to “be in love with the problem, not your solution to the problem.” Phrasing questions like “What do you do for X?” or “Can you describe your experiences with Z?” will give you answers you can use to find a solution where people aren’t necessarily aware of a problem. Interesting stuff.

In addition to this little gem I also learned a fair amount about social media (the fastest-growing segment in a marketing budget), the effectiveness of email campaigns (91% of people unsubscribe), ecommerce solutions (they’re making a comeback), how to create an employee brand ambassador program (thanks to William Toll), our system administrator’s dance moves, and that I strongly dislike humidity in the heat of July.

Lessons from HostingCon 2012: Get the Experts without the Hassle

I’ll just come right out with the first lesson: Don’t try to pick up men on the dance floor. By that, I mean physically pick them up and twirl them like they’re your new bride. I’ll admit it, there was a free bar and the tequila was wielding it’s mighty power, and then there was this crazy good 80s cover band. The lead singer of Yellow Brick Road seemed to embody and vocally secrete every major voice of the rock n’ roll era. It was amazing, and their version of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing moved me from the balcony of the Boston Royale theater to the dance floor. That’s where I’d get slapped on the head by another man.

the men at hostingcon outnumber women

Dances with Men.

Just so you know, and you probably already know, at tech conferences the womenfolk are few. Not to say anything about womenfolk and their tech skills. The females hold this place together. But looking down on the dance floor provided few opportunities for a partner of the opposite sex. We’d have to be willing to sport the white-man’s overbite with other (mostly) white men. At some point I took it to another level and was lifting and spinning them around. I went in low on one guy and he fought me off. It appeared I’d frightened him and his partner, and I saw the two conferring about what had just happened to them. I agree, it must be strange if not horrifying to have a husky bald guy try to caveman you away. So I tried it again, this time getting slapped on the head by the frightened male. Still, however, I was allowed to pick up and dance with Dave McBreen of our dev team, as well as Patrick Donaldson of the ICM Registry (XXX).

I’m not sure the lesson there, but it could be that you should use your legs, not your back, when bride lifting other guys.

Luckily, however, there was much more to HostingCon than just guy-on-guy dancing. (Another lesson could simply be, “just dance with whomever whenever.”) We will share information from some of the top social media, traditional media, employee motivation and cloud hosting gurus. Without having to fly to Boston, or buy a ticket to the conference, or be physically assaulted by a bulbous community evangelist, we’ll bring to you the best of HostingCon.

To get started, we’ll go back to the party. It was before I’d get bald bonked by my unwitting dance partner, and long before the friendly bartender shouted, “You guys sure can handle a lot of booze!” Well, yes, when you from the 5280 feet of Denver to the sea level of Boston, you become somewhat of an alcoholic superhero. Not bragging, just saying.

Our first lesson, however, would give everyone a reason to drink.

It came from Ralphie May, a popular standup comedian. He’d intended to open the festivities with some of his southern-style comedy, but ended up giving a slightly painful seminar featuring two important lessons.

1. When you’ve got a crowd that likes your product, don’t waste energy attacking those who don’t.

Comedian Ralphie May

We were taken into this man’s pants.

In marketing they call it segmentation and “finding your audience.” There are user personas and demographics of homogenous groups that, you know, share the same qualities, the most important being that they buy your stuff. Ralphie had a group of fans practically eating out of his hand, but he started flaming on those who were, you know, enjoying the wellspring of free alcohol, and probably asking each other where the women were, and he showed signs of cracking. I was impressed by how long he lasted on stage, but to most everyone else, he was a dude who couldn’t cut it. That’s what your detractors will remember, not that you had some success, but that you lashed out at them.

2. You’ve got to like your job so that you can be enthusiastic in promoting your brand.

In Ralphie’s death spiral, he went for some low-hanging fruit, and spent twenty minutes talking about how women are no longer enthusiastic about…er…certain “jobs.” In asking one of my female coworkers about this accusation, it was shared with me that, “I, for one, wouldn’t enjoy making physical contact with an inconsiderate hick, so I’m sure he’s had some unenthusiastic hook-ups that likely led to that sub-par comedic routine. ZING!” After she extinguished the flames, she shared with me the lesson. Be enthusiastic or your brand will fail. Or worse, end up as part of a comedy act on some very personal failures.

To learn more you won’t have to round the bases with a randy redneck. We’ll take you on a hygienically sound virtual tour of the experts who lit up the conference. First, bask in the glow of Rebecca Corliss, the inbound marketing queen from the widely popular marketing firm HubSpot. After that, you’ll hear from Robby Slaughter, an expert in getting your business and employees in top shape.

We’re working on more informational interviews, including:

-How to get attention with a press release

-Getting your employees to be brand evangelists

-The cloud. What is it and why you want it.

Twitter, FourSquare VC Says "Be Your Own Bee-Yotch"

There’s some offensive language here, but sometimes (and I’m sorry mom) it can be effective. Fred Wilson, whose mere presence is every startup company’s fantasy, offers his advice on whether to use Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.

You know the Smash Summit has good content when the lighting is awful, the sound even worse, and people are still riveted by the speakers. (Not to call you out Microsoft, but this was your building and your Internet didn’t even work. I was kind of hoping for a giant paperclip to come and help me.)