SXSW 2012: Mashery, API Success and the Haimish Line
SXSW 2012 this year had a familiar mixture to me of exhilaration, exhaustion and connection with API influencers as in previous years. SXSW 2012 was my 3rd SXSW Interactive. But it was also my first as a speaker on the ProgrammableWeb API panel about API as a Product and my first serving on the SXSW Accelerator Advisory Board. When the inevitable and annual posts about SXSW jumping the shark start to be published, I usually get asked "How was it? Really?"
Here's my answer this year on why SXSW remains a fantastic event for API influencers, providers and developers if you plan well:
1) Roll on the Right Side of the Haimish line
Mark Suster said it best 4 months ago when he described SXSW as an event he enjoys more than most. What Suster likes most about SXSW? It lives on the right side of what he describes as the Haimish line, also defined by David Brooks of the NY Times as a Yiddish term that suggests warmth, domesticity and unpretentious conviviality. If your corporate culture doesn't embrace a Haimish way of being, you probably will feel out of place at SXSW and not have much fun. I've seen enough pained faces of the overly self-concious or full of themselves in Austin to recognize the attendees who have set themselves up to fail. If, however, your company culture tends towards the Haimish side -- along with Mashery -- I guarantee you will not only get a lot of business value out of the event in terms of number of partner meetings, connecting with new prospects and feedback from new developers on your product, but you will have a damn good time doing so. Ask any of the clients who came with us to SXSW. When you roll with Mashery, get in, hang on and laissez les bons temps rouler.
2) Make the extra effort to partner with clients and developers all year round
I have vendors who only contact me when there is a problem or they want money from me. They are vendors to me. When they call, they go straight to voice mail. Then I have vendors to make the extra effort to reach out to me when they see an article that they know I'd be interested in, an introduction for coffee with a person they thought I'd enjoy meeting, or a speaking opportunity where they thought I'd be a good match. They are partners to me, and I usually follow them on Twitter for a quick DM or can find them easliy on my AIM/Skype contact history. Mashery as a company strives to be in the latter category by truly partnering with our clients. Being a good partner and investing in the success of the API programs of our clients is the Mashery difference, and what makes us stand out as compared to other software or XML gateway vendors. SXSW is just one of the many ways we partner with clients to ensure their APIs are successful by connecting them with business development, partnership and developer opportunities. SXSW is a fantastic event for those types of meetings.
3. Prioritize connections with people as the focus of your SXSW
Mashery culture fits in well with the reasons why companies keep coming back to SXSW. Our Circus Mashimus Geek Lounge has evolved over the last 4 years into one of the Wired magazine's 20-must visit attractions during the SXSW Interactive festival, with about 10,000 visits to our Geek Lounge by SXSW attendees this year alone. People come to chill out in our oasis of comfy couches, plentiful powerstrips and solid wifi to escape the craziness of SXSW in the Austin Convention Center, and connect with people. Mashery prioritizes connecting with people in the way we do business, so it makes sense our events are so well attended at SXSW. Instead of hosting a blow-out party with 2-hour lines and frustrated attendees who can't hear themselves complain above the eardrum piercing DJ, we hosted an intimate party with Madison Square Garden musical talent. Instead of a lame sponsor table in an enormous Expo Hall, we encourage SXSW attendees to relax in our Circus –themed geek lounge and have conversations with top API teams in person. Instead of spending money on the SXSW Stunt du Jour, we take all of our clients who have traveled in town for SXSW out for dinner to meet each other and swap API tips. Whenever we can connect people that results in a value exchange about APIs and application development, that's where you'll find us at SXSW.
So was SXSW worth it this year? By measuring the number of partner meetings, new qualified business leads, press coverage, social media impressions, and visitors to our lounge, the answer is an unequivocal yes. Ultimately Mashery understands that we are successful when we have made our Mashery API partners successful, including ESPN, Klout, USA TODAY, The Guardian, Rovi, Whit.li, and Body Media. We work hard to make raving fans out of our clients, and SXSW is just one of those opportunities. Sure, Mashery is the only API management company with multi-tenant, Enterprise quality SaaS architecture and a world class operations infrastructure. But Mashery's success, year after year, at SXSW Interactive proves that Mashery not only knows our stuff when it comes to API management, strategy and services; Mashery also actively invests in our client's API success. Come roll with us at SXSW next year or at one of the dozens of upcoming hack events we have coming up with our awesome Mashery developer outreach team, and you'll find out why.