I don’t remember when I first heard of SXSW. I can’t say what sparked my desire to go. But, I know I’ve wanted to go.

One of the great things about a 2 year break from life (MBA program) is you get to make things happen. So, after having missed it last year because of Spring Break, I made SXSW Interactive 2012 a priority.

Man … I love Austin.

Instead of my usual long winded openers … lets just talk about SXSW.

The Panels Were A Major Let Down

I don’t know how to say this nicely, but they generally sucked. Given the hype surrounding the conference I expected to come and be wowed by some of the greatest minds in tech and leave blown away by the greatest names in the industry. Yet, after only 2 days, I considered scalping my pass on the street for tickets to the free sold out Jay-Z concert. I think one of Mashable’s writers summed it up best with “anyone who follows tech news will already know everything being ‘taught’ in a panel” which was preceded by “skip the panels”.

But I figured out the secret. Ignore the content of panels, go listen to people who seem interesting. One of the best talks I heard was by the founder of Eventbrite, Kevin Hartz. The topic was something about the event space, which I didn’t care about, but just hearing him talk about the Eventbrite story and how transformative Facebook sharing was to his company was priceless.

The Parties Really Are That Great!

The truth is, I hate traditional “bars”. Standing around drinking beer just doesn’t interest me (I am more of a club or lounge guy). But … when the drinks are free and the conversation is on tech and startups it becomes so much more interesting. The conversations I had with random founders, serial entrepreneurs, investors, and fellow MIT alums & students were priceless.

Startups & Small Companies Dominate

Don’t think that the big names and established companies don’t have presence, but it seemed hidden at best. Startups galor, including some that are really out of the startup phase (Foursquare comes to mind). But if you think Sergey Brin is walking around giving talks … stick with youtube.

It was all worth it

In conclusion, it was just fun and I felt like I met a lot of good people I want to keep in touch with in the future.  I hope to go again and for anyone who likes to go out, party, and tech … SXSW is time & money well spent.