If you went to South by Southwest this week and were overwhelmed by garish colored posters proclaiming the next big app, then you were not alone. Oddly, it seemed as though there were a lot of pitches and a lot of judgment of those pitches, but that there was not a lot of buzz about any special apps. That’s a good thing, I think. Spotted this week by Rebekah Ilif, co-founder of a new PR company called AirPR: a renewed focus on human capital, at SXSW, the interactive mecca for geeks. She wrote a good piece in Young Entrepreneur about a subtle shift in the conversation about startups at SXSW.
Her point: it seemed the conversation was more cultural and business-focused and that people seemed to be the most interesting aspect of every panel– whether it was Elon Musk or Al Gore talking about the future of space flight and our ecosystem. It seemed that people were weighing human impact in the business world.
During a brief conversation with Microsoft BizSpark’s Doug Crets, he adeptly described an emerging theme in the startup world, validated by activity during SXSW: “I see a focus on business…entrepreneurs looking to create long-term sustainable solutions to systemic problems in the business world. There has been a recent shift to finding people to solve problems, rather than looking to technology to solve a problem.”
So what does this mean? In short, entrepreneurs will start focusing on infrastructure and processes by leveraging the wildly abundant (and cheap) technology solutions currently in existence. And people, smart people who can solve complex problems, will be a valuable asset during this re-engineering process.
You see this in a lot of the conversations we have in our Facebook community about what it takes to make a startup into a company.
Recently, we had a long discussion about the value of nearly free software and the impact that could have on building a strong business. The lower the cost of software and even hardware, the greater opportunities for iteration. While it takes a while to build a company, if it takes fewer dollars, you are eliminating some forms of risk — risk to your balance sheet; risk that you can’t pay your staff; the risk that you will run out of marketing dollars.
With a free software program, you can focus on your team and your business. And how valuable is that?