Sample the Creative Soul of SxSW w

Today, SxSW kicks off in Austin, Texas. You don’t have to be one of the 50,000 attendees or thousands of startups to touch the excitement. Here’s a tasting menu of some of the creative tech that attendees will see today. I’ve sampled from video, music and photography–the core of the cultural revolution collectively pronounced as “South bye.” Say hi to one of these startups from almost anywhere:

Crowdsourced global video production: 90 Seconds from Singapore

“Imagine you’re a digital marketer looking to create a video,” says 90 Seconds CEO and co-founder Tim Norton. (He talks like he’s running in 1.5x time, all the time.) He’s in from Singapore to share 90 Seconds with SxSW. “You have just a handful of days to pull this together, but you want to shoot footage in a number of locations – none of which you actually have a team in. You want it done just as if you had your own director on site. That’s what 90 Seconds does.”

Their 12,000 creators do tech-enabled video production all over the world for brands like PayPal. So far, they’ve worked in 104 countries. Tim says they’re at about $ 20 million in gross revenue. He pointed to one of their customers, Sustainable Coastlines out of New Zealand. “This company is an awesome charity that cleans up beaches and waterways. They view video as their #1 way to attract funding, get volunteers, and educate kids. Using 90 Seconds, they’ve been able to film these videos on over a dozen remote beach locations across multiple countries, from Papua New Guinea to Hawaii, at a fraction of the cost.”

Tim says the big challenge right now is scaling up talent–lots of people want the service, but growing the global network doesn’t always keep up with demand.

An AI Mozart? Meet Jukedeck from London

Former Googler Patrick Stobbs flies in from London to Austin to pitch his music startup Jukedeck this afternoon. Go to, and you’ll be quickly immersed in the oddly uncomfortable, oddly comforting world of artificial intelligence-made soundtracks.

“We’re a team of 20 musicians. What drives us is a shared belief that AI will hugely enhance music. We live in a world where if you haven’t had the privilege of a musical education, or time to teach yourself music, there’s a huge barrier to entry. Making good music is hard.” Patrick says that like Instagram has made it easier to create great photographs, Jukedeck democratizes musical composition.

He says it’s still very early days, but already video producers are flocking to the platform to create custom soundtracks that are royalty-free. “Right now our system is only a teenager in terms of its knowledge. We need more time, and more great musicians, to increase that knowledge and get to a stage where it can truly provide the perfect piece for any moment.”

Here’s Patrick speaking to friends at Google in 2015. He hasn’t lost an ounce of passion since then:

Photography: Meet Kandidly from Austin

“There’s about 520 unofficial events at SxSW,” says Kandidly CEO and co-founder Sam Ulu. I met Sam last year at Capital Factory, while his startup was in Austin Techstars. The grit of his vision surprised me. In a sometimes-superficial social media world, he was asking, who really needs selfies? What we want, he reframed it, is to be in the moment and be able to share that moment. My Atlanta venture firm Valor invested in Kandidly last fall. They are only in a few cities now, like Austin and Cincinnati. He and co-founder Maria Walley plan to expand in more cities each year to provide personal photography for everyone.

For SxSW, Kandidly takes the whole “taking it real” idea a step further. “We did lots of gigs last year at SxSW, and heard about the challenge that faces the SXSW organizing committee to get volunteer photographers and videographers. We decided to build a feature that made it seamless to request photographers last minute. We’re rolling out an on-demand feature today that will dispatch an Austin photographer to any venue or event in 30 minutes or less,” says Sam.

Will it work? While Kandidly has shot countless photos in Austin through hundreds of photographers, this is the first time they’ve tried such a tight window for on-demand. Sam says it’s possible it busts, especially at unforeseen peaks. “But that’s the creative spirit of SxSW–get out there and just do it. I’m excited and we’re ready,” he says. Want to watch the photo stream? Follow #SxSWPix, starting this evening.

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