Today we welcome Jeff Schutte, director of turnstone sales, as guest author. Jeff is pictured on the far right in the photo below.

With over 30,000 conference participants from 57 countries, South by Southwest Interactive (aka SXSW) is the premier event for innovators in North America.  Attendees converge on Austin, TX with bags packed and business plans polished. Some come to learn and others come to pitch their ideas, but everyone comes to create an inspiring future.

In preparation for this epic event, sponsors of every type go to great lengths to attract the attention and money of this influential crowd. Some rent whole buildings and convert entire parking lots into experience venues for just a few days of visibility.  

Last week, turnstone joined the crowds in Austin and made a little noise in turnstone style.  Rather than relying on a huge spend and big venues, we were able to collaborate with a few friends in the small company ecosystem and enjoyed a little good luck, too.

Turnstone's Jeff Schutte (far right) pictured with other SXSW presenters.

Grind, a friendly coworking company with spaces in NYC and Chicago teamed up with Samsung to create the Grind/Samsung Bloggers Lounge. This 6,000 square foot temporary venue for working, meeting and media had just days before sizzled as the fully-functional Vince Young Steakhouse. Turnstone’s Jeff Joerling helped Grind/Samsung transform this space with products that not only introduced turnstone to 2,000+ daily guests but opened the door to valuable conversations about future ventures, resulting in numerous leads. The space also drew in personalities like Shaq, Wayne Brady, Seth Rogan, Mark Duplass and Neil Degrasse Tyson.

In addition, UP Global, the internationally known startup advocate behind the success of over 105,000 businesses, partnered with the Kauffman Foundation and worked with us on a space of their own. The second floor of a 6th Street bar was converted into a “startup oasis”, offering three days of programmed events and festivities. There we met and talked with members of the innovation community like Steve Case, former CEO of AOL, Shari Foldes from Draper Fisher Jurvetson Ventures, and Kelly Hoey, Managing Director of Women Innovate Mobile. Together we participated in judging a pitch session designed to help entrepreneurs refine their business pitches.

The icing on the weekend came when good luck and hard work paid off in the form of getting approved as an official SXSW presenter. Thanks to the persistence of turnstone’s Lisa Brooks, we were fortunate enough to land a speaker’s spot for a session entitled Culture in the Workplace and enjoyed an enthusiastic standing room only audience. It was an honor to join three prominent Austin business innovators as facilitator in a dialogue about their leadership principles.  We explored their best practices and examined philosophies used to create work cultures that attract, retain and enhance their employees’ lives.

The pay-off in this session was enjoying the audience response. The Twitter world resonated with ideas underscoring the importance of leadership setting the tone and intentionally creating a vibrant office culture. Attendees also connected deeply with leadership inviting their teams to problem solve together rather than merely rolling out new policies. “Culture is a mechanism to set smart people free to produce happy and productive teams,” one tweeted.

With social media buzzing, another SXSW veteran approached us personally, making a point of telling us that ours was one of the best sessions he’d been to in years! 

We went to SXSW Interactive with hope that we’d have a chance to be heard by a few people in a noisy crowd. 

But we came home with a refreshed perspective on the power of relationships in the innovation community.  Small business innovators love to help each other by making connections, sharing ideas and collaborating on ventures.  A spirit of camaraderie and a sense that “all get better when we all pull together” pervades the community. 

Turnstone is honored to be part of the community.

[SXSW photo credit]


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