Saturday, March 19, 2011

SXSW 2011 notes 3/10 day 0

Ever since I got back from South by South West or SXSW this week, I got some questions about the event. So this will be a relatively long post. If you work in the tech sector, it's hard to avoid hearing about SXSW in the past week. All the major press have some coverage for this event. In this post, I hope to add some of my personal takeaways and share some of my thoughts about the event. So you don't have to spend money and vacation hours to be there. 

SXSW is a conference/festival held at Austin, Texas every year. It contains 3 major parts: interactive, music and film. Traditionally, Music has been the most well-known portion of the event. However, this year, more people attended interactive than music. 

I attended the interactive portion this year from 3/11-3/15. Everyday, there're around 300 events scheduled in Austin Convention Center and surrounding hotels. Events includes keynotes, pannel discussions, presentations, core conversations, meetups and etc. Every night, there're at least 7 or 8 industry parties organized by major companies like Google, Microsoft and 20 or 30 parties organized by startup companies like Foursquare, Groupme. 

While sitting at San Francisco airport terminal, the first thing I noticed is that almost everyone on the flight is going to SXSW. I convinced my colleague Suresh who recently switched job to Product Manager in search to come with me to attend SXSW. Since he want to go again next year. I guess I've made the world a better place by influencing one person at a time ;). Suresh is Indian. I'm Chinese. Neither of us have been to Texas before. I kind of felt like the movie Herald & Kumar where an Indian and a Chinese go on a funny trip. 

Just before we boarded the plane, we noticed a prominent silicon valley angel investor, Dave McClure, is about to board the same flight.  Dave gave me his business card last time I met him at a SXSW meetup in San Francisco. I had no idea who he was at the time. He sat 3 rows behind me. I had a hunch that I'm going to the right place this time. 

After we landed, I noticed there are a lot more white people around us compared to the bay area where there are a lot more Asians. I've occasionally heard things like rednecks and roadkill about Texas from Californians. So I was a bit alerted about the environment and surroundings. The rest of the trip proved me that it's unnecessary. I was surprised how nice people are there. I had a great time in Austin. Suresh said he want to stay there forever:).  

We spent the rest of the day checking in the hotel and getting our badge at the convention center. Getting our badge before the 1st day proved to be one of the best decisions we made on this trip judging the length of the line the next day. 

It's good to see Google's "old friend" Aol's presence at SXSW:

Smiley Media opened its office to host a party with free booze. I've never heard the company before. But hard to resist free drinks. The office is in a very nice hotel building which I can't recall the name. The interesting thing about the office is that it has a secret room behind the book shelf. What a brilliant idea.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Going to Warren Buffett's annual meeting this year

So I've told a few friends that I am going to Berkshire Hathaway's annual stockholder meeting this year in April. I got very polarized response. A few friends are very excited. I also got laughed at quite a bit.  So before anyone laugh at me again. Let me explain why I am going to Nebraska in April.

For those who get excited, it's easy. Warren has been a great investor. Beating S&P500 consistently in 5 year moving window over 46 years. It's like if you invested $19 at the beginning, your investment becomes $95,000 now.

It's quite remarkable if you think about it.  Consider making money by investing is similar to flipping a coin, In effect, Warren's firm has been winning the game of flipping cois in the past 46 years or something like that, you know what I mean.

In the annual letter to shareholders which Buffett published last weekend, he mentioned: "When Charlie and I met Todd Combs, we knew he fit our requirements.". Although Warren is in great shape, we can't ignore the fact that he is over 80 years old. He is not going to be with the company for that many years. Finance  and investment is something I was interested when I attended business school from 2008-2010. Now I'm back in technology. I feel that if I don't attend a Berkshire annual meeting soon, the annual meeting might be different without Buffett.

Basically what triggered me booking the flight tickets is the following in Buffett's letter :"Come to our Woodstock for Capitalism...". For those who are less familiar with American culture, WoodStock is "one of the biggest rock festivals of all time and a cultural touchstone for the late Sixties" according to Wikipedia.

To prove that I was interested in investment, I did a quick stock analysis last year. It was made in a few hours. So it wasn't very detailed. But it was a good call. The stock price has gone up almost 100% since I did the analysis. STEC analysis
View more presentations from Alan Tang.
Another reason I wanted to go to Omaha, Nebraska is that I just got my first DSLR camera (I got a Canon T2i or 550D for international model. 18M pixels). I wanted to get out more and take some pictures. I think if it isn't for Buffett's annual meeting, I probably wouldn't visit Nebraska. There're still a lot of places I want to (re)visit (Italy, Greece, Spain, France...)

Here is my first picture taken outside my employer's laundry room while waiting for my laundry to finish. I disabled flash and the picture come out much better than what I got before in similar low light situation with a point-and-shoot camera.