SXSW is 10 days of fun. Many of colleagues (I see you Brett Williams) teased me (on Slack) for having a “great time with all the work down there.”
But, hey, it’s actually work. Attending panel after panel, speaking on your own panels, BBQ after BBQ, happy hour after happy hour isn’t easy — no matter how fun it looks from everyone’s Snapchat (or Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, Facebook) Stories.
When I came back, and even during the whole ordeal, I found my favorite part to be the 45 minutes that I spent away from all the hullabaloo. It was the cycling class I participated with Foursquare and CYC on Monday, the midway point in my SXSW journey.
The invitation wasn’t extended lightly. Mine arrived in my inbox after I expressed my sadness (on Twitter) over Spotify not throwing their own cycling event, as they did in the year prior with SoulCycle. In 2016, I legit “Turned Up On A Tuesday” with ILoveMakonnen.
This year, Spotify didn’t have their official House. But, Foursquare, the app that gained fame in SXSW 2009, was there to provide me with a break from all the action and it was there that I was reminded the beauty of conferences like SXSW.
LOLO also performed during the first ride and then joined on her own bike.
“I came to South By for the first time last year. I remember we were bouncing from party to party, eating, drinking, but this is one thing that we missed — the opportunity to take a step back from the hectic-ness of South By and take a break,” Justin Breton, Foursquare’s head of marketing partnerships, tells me in the hallway of the Westin.
This was the second of two cycling classes Foursquare held. The first was inside a donut shop. This time, we were on the recently remodeled rooftop of the Westin.
For me, similar to Breton, it provided an escape and a reminder that physical fitness is important.
For Foursquare, the events were a pretty big deal for its business.
“This is the first year that we’re doing something [on our own.] While it’s small scale, it allows us to be a part of the South By conversation. We wanted to keep it intimate,” Breton said.
Foursquare wasn’t doing anything flashy, however. “The conversation has evolved so much. It launched here at South By. It was a consumer app. It was a darling of South By. Now, we’re a very established company with a suite of business products,” Breton said. “I’m proud to be a part of a company that’s forward thinking, not just focusing on one area of the business.”
Yes, Foursquare was a South By darling — just like Twitter, Highlight and Meerkat. But we haven’t had one of those since 2015 with Meerkat. Two SXSW without a darling — what happened? Is the tech world just no longer creative enough?
“I don’t know. I was here last year, and it was the same situation. We didn’t feel like we walked away with a new product,” Breton said. “I saw a lot of VR last year and saw a lot this year … That’s evolved.”
Breton also said he has seen the growth of tech companies embracing location (as in, what Foursquare has to offer businesses). Some of the tech giants, including Twitter and Snapchat, use that data to power their own features.
“I think location data is truly becoming more important,” Breton said. “We just launched our SDK. We’re allowing various brands and apps to use the magic. For a brand to be able to understand that someone goes to the movie theater four times a month, I think that’s something that’s becoming more a part of the conversation.”