If you’re reading with us in real time, happy Sunday. It’s day three of SXSW and we’re still digesting all of the new ideas and information from days one and two. But while we percolate and ponder, it’s time to head to new sessions, exhibits, and keynotes today.

From Lizzo to immersive storytelling, data science to the environmental impact of NFTs, today we spent a lot of time focused on entrepreneurship and equity. Here’s what we got into on SXSW day three:

Equity and New Ideas

We kicked off our day with Ann Mei Chang, CEO of Candid, who talked us through using data to help advance racial equity, specifically within the nonprofit sector. She laid out the current landscape, where many have called for justice, but there’s no actual true investment towards that change. While the racial reckoning of 2020 had yielded a lot of desire, it turns out that the burden of that desire has been disproportionally placed on nonprofits (and often BIPOC-owned nonprofits) to help uncover that data (let alone then turn that data into action).

Of course it wouldn’t be SXSW without the speaker offering a solution that they are already advancing. That’s where Candid comes in. Whereas Chang outlined the essential problems of reliance on limited networks, missing and siloed data, and the heavy burden on nonprofits, Candid brings together data on non-profits and data on foundations and giving to provide an “unparalleled view of the social sector.” They use publicly available data from the IRS, real-time data sources like social media, and data shared with their organization to expand collective understanding rather than continuing to bog down non-profits with traditional methods of data aggregation.

Meanwhile, over at the panel on Funding the Next Generation of Diverse Founders, Startup Alliance’s Jesse Martinez, Denise Hamilton of WatcHerWork and Felix Chevalier took on the topic of the funding gap in VC, and what we can do about it. Jesse offered up helpful tips for breaking in, especially to those where the barrier feels high and it starts right at festivals like SXSW. If you can’t afford a ticket, go to the free events, or even better, volunteer! He noted when he volunteered and became a Speaker Escort, and lo and behold, he found himself walking alongside some of the most pivotal minds that could influence the trajectory of his career.

When discussing that moment when you move from creative or domain expert to business owner. Denise explains: “you may be technically competent in your area of expertise, but being a business owner is a completely different skillset.” Overall, they reinforced the importance of education – being a student to both the craft and “the game.” And the importance of ensuring you are scaffolded with the right talent. No one person can do everything, but knowing your weaknesses can help you know who to hire or bring on as a mentor to see you through.

These three also took on the topic of the pandemic, how the Great Resignation has given way to the Great Renegotiation, where we’re seeing new levels of distribution in capital and entrepreneurship. For these investors, they also noted the importance of being coachable and having a fantastic pitch deck that is concise (no more than 15 slides) and has good grammar.

The Future of Story

Next we hopped over to the Creative Expo, which is almost like a convention center of innovation and new ideas. Walk through booths and booths of new startup concepts, NFT art, and merchandise to fuel your retail therapy.

Within the expo on the Next Stage, we watched Breeder Ventures founder Zach Johnson curate a panel of creative technologists, engineers, and storytellers on the future of story and immersive entertainment – the role that the creator economy can play and how technology can be a tool to drive story.

The panelists also brought in the ideas we’ve been excavating elsewhere around web3 and how shared ownership can become the net frontier of entertainment. In essence, what does it look like to flip the existing linear model of entertainment on its head and build fanbases through shared ownership before you launch an entertainment initiative?

Feeling inspired and activated to create and learn, we headed straight over to the Convention Center for the one and only Lizzo

Keynote Speaker: Lizzo

SXSW Day Three keynote speaker Lizzo busts a move.
SXSW Day Three keynote speaker Lizzo busts a move.

What is there to say about the icon and immense talent that is Lizzo? To use her words, she is 100% that b****.

Ahead of her new show launch, Lizzo entered stage right and began her session with a tearful confession that this was her dream come true. To be on the stage of SXSW as a true success story, with her own episodic to show for it.

She discussed her upcoming Amazon Prime show, a reality competition program that chronicles her search for backup dancers to her act. “I need big girls more than I needed a TV show. Ever since 2014, I’ve had open casting for women that look like me. I don’t see me reflected in dancers.” And thus her concept was born out of necessity – to find more dancers to support her growing touring schedule.

Lizzo discussed how far we’ve come in our language towards body image and positivity, and still the long way we need to go when it comes to body representation. “Big girls have always had value. By just being myself and being super talented and iconic and special, it has shown the world that I am valuable and worthy. I didn’t need to prove that to nobody, I just am.”

Lizzo hopes to open that world to big girls everywhere. And she started right in the room at SXSW. She had everyone in the room say to themselves, the person next to them, and to Lizzo herself a mantra she repeats to herself in the mirror when she needs it: I love you. You’re beautiful. You can do anything.

The keynote was a self-care pause to appreciate both Lizzo and ourselves. In discussing imposter syndrome, Lizzo commented, “I’m not perfect, but I love that about myself.” Simply acknowledging that lack of perfection rather than trying to uphold a truth that is impossible has allowed her to be playful and embrace herself more fully.

As an added bonus, Lizzo revealed that right after SXSW, she’s en route home to master an album she’s finished (“it’s really good”), with a tour upcoming. So you heard it here: there’s more Lizzo to come.

Entrepreneurship and Embracing Imperfection

Meanwhile, Mark Cuban and the founders of Bala sparked a lively conversation with social media wunderkind Tinx around startup failures (learnings) and successes.

‘Follow your passion’ is a lie. Follow your curiosity.

mark cuban

While the session covered the ups and downs of this individual startups success (hint: mostly ups as they have only had to take on initial investment from their Shark Tank round). The importance of navigating the murky waters is a growth mindset. Mark Cuban expounded on this: “the only thing constant in life is change. I’m always learning and always curious. ‘Follow your passion’ is a lie. Follow your curiosity.”

That same idea was articulated further by Marc Lore in his session on moonshots and venture capitalism. The serial entrepreneur discussed his own experience, the projects he’s most intrigued by, and how he’s built his successful career. And if you’re looking for a quick productivity hack, here’s Marc’s: respond immediately to every email and text.

Social and Environmental Impact for Blockchain and NFTs

The Future Co brought together innovators in the NFT space to discuss using the new technology for good.

With so much innovation and new ideas, few panels have addressed the potential to use the new technology to create meaningful change in the world. But Chris Carnabucci was one of several panelists to serve as a case study for doing just that. His sculptural work existed in only the tactile space until the last year. After the tragic murder of George Floyd in 2020, he recreated Floyd’s bust in his signature sculptural style. When Terrence Floyd caught wind of it and was so moved by the recreation, they collaborated on a sculpture that was revealed on Juneteenth 2021 at Flatbush Junction. From there, the two collaborated on Seeinjustice, an NFT collection minted on FLOW blockchain with proceeds going to the Floyd Foundation and other partners to progress meaningful change in the ongoing fight for racial justice.

Other panelists spoke to the intersection of their work and social impact – Amanda Terry of Metagood used their work on Onchain Monkey to provided much-needed support to Ukraine, and Jeff Zirlin of Axie has leveraged the pay-to-own gaming market to drive more environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional blockchain. All in all, the panel painted a brighter future for the world of equity and new technology, with hopefully many more developments to come when we all reconvene in SXSW in 2023.

What’s next at SXSW…

That’s a wrap for day three of SXSW! Tomorrow we have many more panels to look forward to, covering creator-friendly policy in the creator economy, and our very own SXSW Innovation Awards, honoring some of the best ideas of the fest. We’ll also be catching up on Amy Webb’s 2022 Emerging Tech Trend Report and recapping all of it here for you. Stay tuned.

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