My Overwhelming And Amazing SXSW Adventure

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On Wednesday I returned from my first-ever South by Southwest trip.

It was the first time I’ve ever traveled somewhere and been surrounded by familiar faces. There were tech bloggers like Alexia Tsotsis, Eric Eldon and Erick Schonfeld.  There were startup executives like Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley, Airtime’s Sean Parker and Second Market’s Barry Silbert.  Investors attended too.

The digital executives came to Austin from both coasts and everywhere in between.  Some launched startups, others attended panels and networked. Everyone partied.

My adventure began at 5:00 AM on Friday, March 9 in Newark Airport.

After surviving my first leg of travel (barely -- there was so much turbulence the flight attendants were telling us where our sick bags were) I had an hour layover in Houston.

That's where the app Highlight and I rekindled our fire. I had deleted the creepy app that helps you stalk nearby strangers, but I found myself surrounded by familiar faces who were also travelling to SXSW. I wanted to know who they were. Sure enough, Highlight identified them for me.

I arrived in Austin and Tagged gave me a free ride to my hotel. It was pouring, so that was convenient.

Here's the room I stayed in at Omni Southpark. The hotel rocked, but it was a 10 minute drive from the Austin Convention centre which ended up being a real pain.

My first SXSW activity was the AOL Ventures party. It was the first of many open bars I'd encounter. The New York tech scene was prevalent there. I ran into Learnvest's Alexa von Tobel, Codecademy's Zach Sims, Branch's Josh Miller, and Venture Partner Mike Brown.

The next stop was the Beachmint/Betterworks party. It was packed with everyone from Thrive Capital's Chris Paik to Thrillist co-founder Ben Lerer. Beachmint hired 40 girls for the party to act as guests, but it was still a sea of dudes.

I had heard that SXSW registration took 2.5 hours on Friday, so I tried my luck Saturday morning. There was no line and I got my press badge quickly.

I spent some time familiarising myself with the convention centre. It's a MASSIVE building with multiple floors that stretches a few blocks long.

There I saw a few panels. LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman spoke about trying many startup ideas instead of going all in on one.

After the panels I explored Austin, which was overrun by SXSW.

I ducked into SecondMarket's Recovery Lounge on 6th Street to write some posts.

That night I met up with some associates at IVP and we headed to a Turntable.fm event. The line outside stretched a block long on both sides of the door.

Inside live DJs were performing.

After the panel I met up with Stamped founders Robby and Bart Stein.

We grabbed lunch and had the most amazing guacamole of my life. Over lunch they told me their room at the Hyatt had been broken into.

That evening I headed to Gawker's party, followed by Foursquare's. It was a packed house at Cedar Street Courtyard, the same bar where GroupMe launched a year prior.

The Path party was next. When you walked in, this girl in red fed you coffee flavored tequila shots via ice luge.

The next day I attended more panels. Sean Parker and Al Gore received a standing ovation when they walked on stage to discuss social media and the government.

I scored tickets to see Jay-Z perform live that evening. Also in attendance were Sean Parker and actor Justin Long.

That evening GroupMe took over Cedar Street Courtyard. Here's a picture from its party.

Pinterest co-founder Ben Silbermann spoke with Chris Dixon on stage the next day. Silbermann spoke about startups that inspire him, like Kickstarter, and said how Pinterest was founded. When he walked on stage the audience cheered.

I spent my final night at a Turntable dinner followed by a General Assembly party at St Cecelia.

I woke up at 3:45 for a 6:00 AM flight home on Wednesday. The line was already this long at 4:15 AM -- everyone was partied out and ready to return home.

Now check out all the things I wish I had known before my trip:

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