My favorite personal moment at SXSW: Ted Rheingold from Dogster was introducing his panel on the topic of DIY web startups. He said something like “SXSW is a great place if you want to learn more about starting a web company. Just look around you. Lots of people here have done it. And chances are, the person sitting to your right has probably sold a startup to Yahoo”. So this random guy on my left turns to me and asks jokingly “so did you sell a company to Yahoo” and I said “um, yeah, I actually did” – his double take was priceless.
Later I was on Lane Becker’s panel about startup cultures, talking about what is different (or the same) about today’s emerging startups. Everyone on our panel remarked on a new and refreshing “culture of help” (to quote Tony Conrad) among current startups. Companies are thriving and new entrepreneurs are emerging because many people are willing to help each other by sharing information, releasing code as open source, and making their products open and interoperable. This is in pretty stark contrast to the startups of the late 90s who closely guarded their information via NDAs and patents, obsessed about first mover advantages and gave away BMW convertibles to recruit people away from each other.