March 11, 2012

South by Southwest For Free!

We happened to roll into Austin the week before the beginning of South by Southwest and naturally decided to stay for a portion of it and see what events we could attend. Since we hadn't preordered tickets, we were going to have to pay the walk up price, ranging from $595 to $1,395 for the full shebang… this is for one person!  We weren't willing to spend anywhere near that amount, so set out to see what we could find for free.

There are quite a few events that are associated with SXSW that allow you to attend for free without a badge. In total we went to five events, four of which required an RSVP.

The first event we attended was the Bad Ass Social Happy Hour (BASHH), which turned out great.  We found it with no problems, walked in and got free drinks right off the bat.  Unfortunately they ran out of free booze tickets pretty fast, but the vibe was great and the people were easy to chat with.

The second event was the following night and it was the Austin Small Business Showcase, which had free food, T-shirts, and alcoholic tea, all of which we partook in and left there in an upbeat mood.

The third event was Startup Weekend with Zarly and Twilio (the featured DJs).  When we first rolled up and were standing in line, there was a bar a couple of doors down with no line that had a printed piece of paper that said Zarly and Twilio hanging in the window.  Strange.  People would go up to that bar and ask them if that is where Zarly and Twilio were playing, but the bouncers would be super vague and never answer the questions directly.  Basically, they were trying to glean people from the Startup Weekend event, by posing to be a part of it. 

After standing in line for about 30 minutes, one of the Startup Weekend organizers came walking down the line to give some of us an update.  Basically they had 15,000 people RSVP to the event, but the building could only hold 250, and there were about 750 already in front of us in the line.  In my opinion, it is utterly worthless to allow an RSVP to be oversubscribed by 60 fold.  But hey, I guess I can’t bitch too much since I was trying to get something for free.

Once hearing the bad news on Startup Weekend, we immediately hopped out of line and moved to our next event, Digital LA Dynamite Network.  We showed up for this event early hoping to beat the crowds.  Once we walked in however, we could tell there probably wasn't going to be too large a crowd for this event.  No music was starting for at least 2-3 hours, there were no drink specials/discounts and nothing to really tie this event to SXSW, other than it happened to be going on during the same time.

The last event we attended was the GE Garage, where they showcased some cool 3D modeling machines, some hands on welding, and a self-opening beer fridge!

Sky messing around at a free SXSW event
Waiting on the Beer Fridge to Open
Overall, attending the SXSW events for free was hit and miss, but I guess you get what you pay for.


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