Whether attending in person or keeping a watchful eye for reports online, technology entrepreneurs and enthusiasts alike are gearing up for this year's SXSW Interactive (SXSWi) festival. It is arguably the go-to event for digital creatives and innovators from all over the world to meet and share their ideas. And, in recent years, it's where tech startups like Twitter and Foursquare have been announced.
This year's five-day mega tech gathering kicks off Friday in Austin, Texas. It includes an onslaught of keynotes, panel sessions, workshops and meetups -- covering all things web design, social media, mobile, usability, new tech business models and more. There's also a Startup Village showcasing the various startups at SXSWi, the SXSW Interactive Accelerator during which some 50 startups will be competing for prizes, and the Gaming Expo for video game startups.
Attendees can expect keynote presentations from a list of entrepreneurs and industry personalities. Among them will be Bre Pettis, co-founder of the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based 3-D printing startup MakerBot. As will be Elon Musk, who co-founded PayPal, electric car designer and manufacturer Tesla Motors and space transportation company SpaceX.
Related: The Top 10 Startup Events to Watch in 2013
The casual attendee might be overwhelmed by the number of events and topics being discussed over the next few days. We offer here a list of sessions we find particularly interesting:
- "Tales of US Entrepreneurship Beyond Silicon Valley" (Friday, March 8). Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian shares stories from Internet 2012 Campaign Tour, a bus he co-crowd funded to spread awareness about internet policy and to "collect, document and share stories throughout the American heartland."
- "Insights About Innovation: David Sacks Fireside Chat" (Saturday, March 9) David Sacks, CEO of Yammer Inc., and Mahalo founder and CEO Jason Calacanis discuss what it takes to create a disruptive startup, their lessons learned and the current and future state of innovation in Silicon Valley.
- "Airbnb's Brian Chesky Talks with Fortune" (Sunday, March 10) Airbnb's co-founder on designing and building a platform for sharing homes, the company's push into the travel guide area and the challenges of scaling a disruptive business model.
- "Nate Silver: The Signal & the Noise" (Sunday, March 10) Silver, one of the most influential political forecasters and bloggers in the U.S., will examine the world of prediction, investigating how others can "distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy data."
- "When Bad Names Happen to Good Startups" (Monday, March 11) Speakers from brand agency archer>malmo will discuss the aspects of a successful brand name one that "fully captures your story, highlights your point of difference, and inspires a spark of desire in your target."
- "The Rise of the Impact Entrepreneur" (Tuesday, March 12) A panel of presenters discusses the technologies and companies that are "poised to tackle our 21st century problems, and witness the growing movement of 'tech for good.'"
And some topics will stray a bit from technology and startup culture. For instance, former Vice President Al Gore offers his "forecast into the future," acclaimed writer Neil Gaiman and Warner Bros. TV executive producer Chuck Lorre will talk about challenges of the creative process, and The 4-Hour Workweek (Harmony, 2007) author Tim Ferriss will share cooking and lifestyle advice from The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life (New Harvest, 2012).
There's a lot going on at SXSWi and we'll be your eyes and ears on the ground. Stay tuned to Entrepreneur.com over the next several days for news and updates from the big event.
Related: 15 Billion-Dollar Tech Startups