If you can’t get business done at SXSW, you’re not doing it right.

Austin panorama

South By Southwest interactive has come to an end for 2014. This was my sixth year of speaking at the conference and it gets better every year. It also gets bigger every year and some people say that experience quality is inversely related to attendance growth. Why? Because they miss the serendipity of the days when SXSW was smaller. What’s the benefit of serendipity? Reasons cited by Techcrunch include job hopping and love affairs.

Those two things have never been on my SXSW (let alone any professional conference) agenda so I haven’t been disappointed yet. In fact, the bigger SXSW gets, the better it becomes for a place to get business done. Here’s why.

  1. Guerrilla is out, grownup is in.
    Forget the street teams handing out flyers and putting massive stickers on everything. The only people who need to stay up all night to get lucky are desperate startups and “serendipity” seekers. Real businesses have rented out proper meeting spaces like Oracle at the Waller Creek Boathouse and Samsung at Vince Young Steakhouse, so executives can sit down with partners and clients to conduct meetings without having to yell to be heard over the noise of a DJ or without being interrupted by free beer seekers shoving their way through a conversation.
  2. Everyone is here.
    Well, not everyone. About a week before interactive started, I noticed an uptick in public declarations along the lines of “I’ve been so busy this year — and it’s only two months in! — that I deliberately choose not to attend SXSW because it is too low signal high noise for a person of my status.” It’s #FOMOSXSW. For the rest of us, this week brings heavy hitters to Austin from politics, media, entertainment, brands, and beyond. While Edward Snowden was remote, presumably due to visa/travel issues, it’s tough to be disappointed with the lineup of people available to meet in person.
  3. It’s about the hands-on experience.
    Most conferences are limited to the constraints of a single venue, like Centers Moscone or Javits. SXSW takes place over a large part of an entire city. So instead of trade show booths, most brands are able to offer hands-on activations, like giving rides in cars, sitting on an iron throne made from swords, setting up a go-kart track, walking through a wired home, eating 3-D printed candy, eating food made from artificial intelligence recipes, and so on. Brands also leverage local spots with world renown, like WCG’s event at Franklin Barbecue and Umbel’s party at Austin City Limits Moody Theater.

Hope you had a productive time in Austin — and see you next year.

For more on how business gets done at SXSW, check out David Berkowitz‘s Ad Age column “Let’s Be Honest: SXSW Is About Innovation in Marketing, not Tech” and Hubspot‘s “9 Unforgettable SXSW Moments.”

My #SXSW session “Capital vs. Talent” is today at 5 pm, Hilton 616AB #whosboss

Tax wealth not work

I’ll be hosting a core conversation today at 5 pm in Hilton 616AB.

What is a core conversation?

“The informal discussions that take place in the hallways between sessions have traditionally been one of the most productive parts of the SXSW Interactive Festival. In 2008 we formalized this process by adding our Core Conversation program, sessions in which a single moderator leads an open discussion with attendees around a specific topic for an hour’s time.”

Here’s what we will discuss:

Every business must manage a fundamental conflict between individuals who control the means of production and individuals who operate those means to a profit. Roger Martin outlined this struggle in the classic HBR article “Capital Versus Talent: The Battle That’s Reshaping Business.”

Today, businesses are challenged by an added dimension: the rise of social media. Individuals seek global recognition by sharing insider viewpoints with the world and Talent has embraced the leverage of new tools. Management has tried to quell the rise of a workforce filled with “personal brands,” wondering what defenses remain to mitigate the risks of an employee base that is active in social media.

I’ll discuss how the best solution for Capital is counterintuitive — brands are best off by wholly embracing social business. Far from condoning revolution, management can harness the collective efforts of seemingly self-guided individuals for corporate gain under the umbrella of “social business.”

If you’re at the session, I’ll see you later today!

uberX service at SXSW starts today at 5 pm

Uber ATX

As an analyst, I’ve always valued the perspective of firsthand experience. So next week I’ll be an active participant in the collaborative economy during SXSW in Austin: I’ve registered as an uberX driver.

Users get free rides, as Uber doesn’t officially operate in ATX yet. So you might call for an Uber and get me to show you around! Just don’t ask me to drive you to Driftwood or Round Rock.

Service starts at 5pm on Thu 6 Mar and ends at 3pm on Sun 16 Mar. I predict that once people hear the phrase “free rides” there will be much more rider demand than driver supply.

And of course if you need to sign up for Uber, I’d be happy to refer you to sign up:

The Dachis Group acquisition that wasn’t: Pittman Digital

For two days in January, the Dachis Group office was transformed into “Pittman Digital,” the setting for a flashback scene in NBC’s Revolution. If you watch this week’s episode, you’ll see a lot of familiar buildings in downtown Austin.


Pittman Digital

The view from my desk.


To Set

A sign next to the elevator directing cast and crew to Pittman Digital, along with a quote from Friday Night Lights.


Pittman Digital

The reception area, complete with a faux blue glass PD similar to the usual DG.


The video screen at reception usually shows real-time news.
At Pittman Digital, the video screen at reception shows real-time news.


Pittman Digital

Pittman Digital

Some of the artwork brought in to replace the usual artwork on the walls.


Workstations at desks ran video loops of compiling code.


Source Code

The background included code written all over the glass surfaces. Not sure where it came from, but according to the script it’s pretty important.


To find out more about the show and watch a re-run of the episode, visit the NBC Revolution website.

I’m taking my talents to Constellation Research.

Constellation Research

Austin, Texas, USA – Constellation Research, Inc., the award-winning research and advisory firm focused on how disruptive technologies transform business models announced today the addition of Peter Kim to the research team as Chief Strategy Officer and Principal Analyst.

Kim, whose research focuses on Digital Marketing Transformation, expands Constellation’s ability to provide marketing leadership research/solutions to its early adopter clients worldwide. The addition of Kim, a leading analyst in digital marketing and social business, signals Constellation’s commitment to providing its clients with the most comprehensive analysis of disruptive technologies.

As Chief Strategy Officer and Principal Analyst, Kim will focus on the intersection of marketing and technology, where brands need more help than ever orchestrating platforms and service providers to deliver innovative customer experiences. Kim’s research agenda will provide guidance to CMOs, CXOs, and business strategists in the rapidly evolving area of Digital Marketing Transformation.

“Constellation Research has been disrupting the research industry model and I’ve sought to do the same in my work over the past two decades as a strategist, marketer, consultant, and industry analyst,” said Kim. “I’m delighted with the opportunity to take my talents to Constellation Research.”

Peter Kim was previously Chief Solutions Architect at Dachis Group, a multi-million dollar business advisory firm that pioneered the discipline of social business design. Prior to Dachis Group, Kim was an analyst at Forrester Research, where he helped brands take advantage of the rapid rise of corporate social media.

“I’m truly excited to have Pete on the team as a colleague and peer. His ability to identify astute insights for marketing executives and grow multi-million dollar businesses is bar none in the industry research world”, said R “Ray” Wang, Constellation Research Founder and Chairman “Pete’s arrival will help our clients with co-creation and co-innovation in world of digital disruption. His domain expertise will bring gravitas to our Digital Marketing and Customer Experience business themes. We’re honored to have him on the team.”

Website: Constellation Research
Geo: Austin, Texas

The place where everything’s bigger than Texas

Burj Khalifa

People sometimes say, “everything’s bigger in Texas.” Well, everything seems bigger in Dubai.

Tallest building in the world. Tallest hotel in the world. World’s biggest fireworks display. And so on.



My take on the Sprinklr acquisition of Dachis Group

It’s a good fit; the core Dachis Group principles of social business design fit well with the Sprinklr concept of social experience management.

I’ll write more on the future later, but for now I’d like to take a look back. Over five and a half years, we built the world’s largest social business consultancy, completing six acquisitions, expanding to nine cities, and employing over 250 people. What a long, strange trip it’s been.

Dachis Group Come Together I

In July 2008, here’s what I wrote about what we were setting out to do:

Over the past two-and-a-half years I’ve been focusing on two major concepts: social computing and customer centricity. They fit very well together; becoming “socially successful” today requires that companies use process and technology to facilitate internal and external alignment. Your market is calling for this in a voice that gets louder every day. Unfortunately, many companies try to ignore what they’re hearing – and I see an opportunity in helping enterprises listen, learn, and take action.

Our yet-to-be-named firm will help companies and their new leaders unlock value from social computing within the enterprise, driving customer-centricity and effective engagement. The evidence of success will be found in culture and profit.

The core concept that resonated with our clients and drove the growth of our business was what we ended up calling “social business.”

The end game should be an entirely social business. Not just point solutions to improve existing processes or programs – new ways of connecting and collaborating. Business models will change. Customer-centricity becomes a moot concept, as “us” and “them” no longer exist.

We were successful in helping spark a global movement. In the beginning, we had to fight to win remnants of marketing and IT budgets. Today, businesses understand the need to shift into social business and have devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to prepare for the future. With the successful acquisition of Dachis Group, our part in the story of social business comes to a close and becomes part of a new emerging narrative.

I learned plenty of lessons along the way about myself and others. About SaaS and services. About winning business, retaining business, and losing business. About founders and employees. About hiring people and firing people. About VCs and bankers. About spending money and saving money. About acquiring and being acquired. I don’t have stories about private jets and private concerts, but I do have plenty of direct experience in helping companies engage their ecosystems and become better prepared for business success in the face of the information revolution.

Thank you to everyone who’s been part of the Dachis Group journey: our clients, employees, alumni, investors, business partners, and supporters-at-large.

An Analyst’s Look Back at Facebook

On his Facebook page, Mark Zuckerberg shares with the world: today is his company’s 10th anniversary. You’ve probably also seen your friends sharing A Look Back videos that pull from your personal site data.

Facebook Look Back

As a former industry analyst covering marketing and social media, I have one Facebook moment in particular that isn’t part of my video. In 2006, Facebook was two years old but I was more than a decade beyond my undergraduate studies. I had to use my alumni email address to create an account, so my user ID begins with a “6.”

In the summer of 2006, my colleague Charlene Li invited me to a briefing with Mark Zuckerberg and Melanie Deitch. Here’s a high-level summary of my notes from that 30-minute call:

  • Additional round of funding [$25 million]
  • Launched mobile in April: pull info from site / push info to site / receive info pushed from site
  • Enhanced flyer (advertising) capabilities
  • Prioritized functionality based on Facebook as “communications utility” and “social directory”

At the time, Facebook had nowhere near the attention of MySpace. Regional competitors posed formidable barriers to entry, including Bebo (UK), Orkut (Brazil), and Cyworld (Korea). Brands were most interested in blogs, podcasts, and widgets when considering corporate social media.

Today, Facebook is a public company with market capitalization of almost $160 billion. Over 550 million users access Facebook via mobile every day and the company pulled in $2.59 billion in revenue last quarter. Over the past eight years, the company has redefined what it means to be a “communications utility” and “social directory.”

One quote from Zuckerberg’s reflective post stands out for me:

“People often ask if I always knew that Facebook would become what it is today. No way.”

Too often and too frequently I think people are focused on the game’s final score instead of the plays that add up to a win. Alternately, people think success can be carbon copied into other situations. “We will be the Facebook of this!” “We will be the McKinsey of that!” If there’s a lesson to be learned from Facebook’s last ten years, for me it’s this: focus obsessively on making a great core product and success will follow.



Is an MBA worth it?

Darden - Saunders Hall


A recent upworthy-esque headline – not an advertisement – caught my attention: An MBA for less than $1,000. To put this in perspective, the cost of a top full-time MBA program is over $100,000 for tuition alone. Deciding whether getting the same curriculum for 1% of the price is a good deal or not doesn’t require a master’s degree to answer, let alone a GED.

An MBA is not only expensive, it’s tough to get in to a top school. The top tier accepts less than 20% of applicants and GMAT scores for the accepted hover at 700 and above.

Why would you even want an MBA? If that’s what you’re thinking, here are a few articles that will support your suspicions:

The problem? None of the writers of those articles have earned an MBA. This reminds me of all the experts who claimed the iPad would fail — before ever using the product.

Prospective students need to understand that a full-time business school experience consists of four major factors that all have bearing on your future:

  • Academics. Some schools including UVA/Darden are more academically rigorous than others, providing a solid core to think through any issue.
  • Networking. Schools like Harvard and Wharton will help you develop connections with a global student body with big future ambitions, but a regionally focused school like Texas or Emory will help you build a focused local network.
  • Recruiting. Schools like Columbia and NYU have great access to major corporations, while others like Yale offer specialized focus.
  • Personal life. Divorce is a common occurence for students during and after school. Some students take the opportunity to party like they’re undergrads again or ski/golf every day possible.

The relative weight of each factor depends on what you want to get out of your business school experience that will help facilitate what you want to do next, tempered by opportunity cost. A virtual MBA for under $1,000 might be the right fit for you. Or maybe an Ivy League degree for $100,000+ is the perfect match. Perhaps a $17 copy of The Ten-Day MBA is actually the right option.

Your best choice depends on what you want to gain and where you want to go. Beware of biased advice along the way.



[Full disclosure: I earned my MBA from University of Virginia/Darden ranked #4, #11, #12, or #27, depending on which publication you prefer.]

It’s amazing how quickly the Internet forgets.

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Social business and beyond.