As an investor, founder, CEO and business book author, I write about startups, design, how to build a good business, and I like to muse about culture in any form.

My mindless labor for SXSW

I’m not getting a lot of sympathy when I complain about getting ready for SXSW. C’mon people…it’s no easy task figuring out which of a zillion parties to attend, and sorting out where the cool kids will be hanging.  Alas, sitting next to me in the office, Jeanne just rolls her eyes and says, “Talk to the hand.” The truth is Jeanne is working on everything that requires real brainpower.  My job is to cover all  the mindless labor tasks.  It’s my preference;  I excel at those.

Here’s a little photo essay covering my to-do list of SXSW prep.  First, I’m making Grommet giveaways, as depicted in my prototype below.

There’s a special cocktail party for companies like ours (Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator finalists) where we showcase our businesses.  Jeanne cooked up a clever Grommet Giveaway.  We’ll have a bowl full of numbered Grommets (like the ones in our sculptures, which are really flat cut washers) to give away (looped on twine).  The idea is that people will wear the Grommet and then check in on Twitter during the event for our announcement of winning numbers, for which we will give away some particularly exciting Grommets.

My job this week is to number the washers with a Sharpie.  I will do this happy little task Tuesday night, during a meeting with a bunch of high-powered friends who will probably pitch in and help me get the job done.

Next, I need to select which hat to wear for that special cocktail party, sponsored by Volusion. They call it the “Johnny Cash Blackout Party” and we are told to wear our favorite black hat.  Here are my choices:

Help me decide please.

Do I go with the neutral sporty Nike:  “Hey I’m cool and active.  I run.  And I am secure enough to wear a logo.”

Or, Carnegie Mellon:  “Yeah I roll with the geeks.”  (But then I might have to reveal that I am old enough to have a son who attends CMU.)

Or (late entrant, surfaced by said son)  the artiste Black Beret. “Timeless hip.”

I’ll go with the advice of my blog readers.  Give me a quick vote please.

Next up, I will be carefully assembling a 10″ high stack of business cards. (As discussed recently this is part of regular life at Daily Grommet.) It’s not as much as it sounds: our business cards build up to 10″ twice as fast as an ordinary card.  It’s kind of symbolic.  Our team gets twice as much done as an ordinary team.

OK now the fun part.  Footwear.

Do I go with the boots I usually wear?  This IS Texas after all.

On the other hand, it is AUSTIN, Texas.  It may be more of a flip-flop kind of place:

And in the back of my mind, as I am happily writing little black numbers on silver Grommets, laboriously choosing parties, and selecting footwear, I am very conscious that I SHOULD BE WORKING ON MY PRESENTATION.

Especially since the event organizer Chris Valentine just released the incredible, intimidating, inspiring list of judges I’ll be in front of.  Just look at this list and weep:

On Day 1, Scott Belsky, Chris Brogan, Chi-Hua Chien, David Dunne, Elliott Hurst, Jeff Pulver, Paul Graham, Philip Kaplan, Marshall Kirkpatrick, Brian Wallace, Tim Chang, and Erich Broksas will lend us their insights as they narrow down the finalists to the top 12 companies that will return for round 2.

Picking up the torch on Day 2 we have Omid Ashtari, Tom Conrad, Michael Dodd, Dave Evans, Stacey Higginbotham, Mark Hindsbo, Guy Kawasaki, Fabio Rosati, Naveen Selvadurai, Robert Scoble, Chris Shipley and Josh Williams

I’d better be doing the pitch of my life if Paul Graham is going to judge me.  I just may be in a spot of trouble with Paul.  You see, Inc. magazine published a letter I wrote questioning the diversity of founder choices in his otherwise esteemed Y Combinator Program.  Hopefully he’s on open minded kind of guy–he does know design and e-commerce, which is good for Daily Grommet.  And…maybe I can get in his good graces by virtue of the fact that I wrote a glowing review of his wife Jessica Livingston’s  book a couple years ago.

I don’t read–or love–many business books, so liking that particular book was a big deal (for me anyway.)  I took a picture of it: Founders at Work on my bookshelf, where it lives near my other highly selective favorites.  Really.  I did not stage this shot.  Really.

Anyway, that’s the news from the SXSW presenter-attendee front.  I am still looking for advice about Austin and any possible Grommet hunting I can do there.  My pal Rudy Rouhana gave me a great list of restaurants and Grommet team member Kate Reynolds McLeod gave Joanne a terrific list of indie shops to haunt.

Counting down.  Six days to departure.

Finally, if you are coming, please be a pal and be a friendly face during my presentation:

Monday, March 15 3:30, Hilton Salon F, Sixth Floor

Category:  Most Innovative Social Media Business

Drinks are on me, after the session.  In fact, they will probably be literally on me, as I stumble out, seeking rest and relief, after the high-energy event.

9 Responses to “My mindless labor for SXSW”

  1. joanne

    Oh Jeez…I better start thinking about my hat. Or better yet, I’ll just grab the runner up.

  2. suebdo

    This sounds like such a fun event and honor….embrace it and b comfortable with ur head gear and footwear!
    Love the giveaway grommet/Twitter idea!
    Have a blast!

    • julespieri

      I’m not sure why I can’t make them show on this post, but the behind-the-scenes comments on the hat poll are very funny. Most of them have to do with not being afraid to claim my son while wearing the CMU hat.

  3. Elen

    I’m your flip-flop girl. I say you need a pair of these:

    I have the Malia in licorice with platinum flowers. Yum.

    Love your Grommet Giveaway. Have a fabu time! You know how I feel about Daily Grommet.

  4. Carol Fishman Cohen

    Call me late to the party, but I was just reading this blog, having googled “Jules Pieri SXSW” (because I’m telling someone about you Jules). So I’m reading and reading and when I get to the photo of your favorite books, there’s MINE in the picture (Back on the Career Track in case anyone esle reads this)!!!! Many thanks Jules for letting my book make it into your photo. It’s old news that you were a huge hit at SXSW so I guess you eventually got around to working on the presentation.

    • julespieri

      Carol….that is so wild. I never thought to tell you about the photo, but I am glad you found it. I meant what I wrote about my highly selective favorites!


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