Making The Most of Your Time At SXSW: 20 Can’t Miss SXSW Sessions

The Case Foundation is heading to SXSW this month for five days of Interactive programming and events. While there, we will certainly dine on breakfast tacos and good ole’ Texas barbecue, but most importantly we will participate in and host a series of engaging can’t miss SXSW sessions and activations onsite designed to turn interest in to action.

In particular, the Case Foundation is excited to interact with SXSW participants at one of our sessions featuring our own Jean Case, Steve Case, Emily Yu, Sarah Koch as well as to debut our first-ever #GetInTheArena Lounge, in partnership with Oculus (at the JW Marriott from March 11th to March 15th). There, we invite you to “Get In The Arena” and share how you will turn intention into action on the causes you care about, learn about the future of social good and hear more about the important work the Foundation is leading throughout the year. A few highlights:

  • Record a short film in our 360-degree video OrcaVue that will capture your very own “Get in the Arena” video moment;
  • Check out the virtual reality videos courtesy of Oculus for Good;
  • Donate to a charity of your choice with GoodWorld as they bring the #donate phenomenon to attendees live on site;
  • Demo our soon-to-be-released Impact Investing Network Map;
  • Test your knowledge of the inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem;
  • Share what you are going to do to “Get in the Arena” in 2017.

Veterans of SXSW will tell you there are countless sessions and meet-ups on just about every issue you care about—from ocean exploration, to inclusive entrepreneurship, to tech for good platforms that are changing the way we champion causes. To make the best use of your time at SXSW, here are 20 sessions that we think you shouldn’t miss:

MARCH 10th


1. The Rise of Academic Incubators
11:00am – 12:00pm
Hotel Van Zand, Lady Bird Ballroom

Join Texas A&M, Harvard University and more as they share how universities are responding with pathways, such as curriculum enhancements, mentorship programs, and physical incubator space, to facilitate connections to students, potential investors and industry leaders

2. Funding Our Future: Investing in Diverse Startups 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Hilton Room 400-402

Valmo Ventures, Base Ventures and Connectivity Capital Partners share why the growing trend of more tech startups being founded by Women, Latino, Black and Asian founders, greater investment in these ventures is needed to ensure the innovation and economic growth across all communities that these founders represent as the global population becomes more diverse.

3. Convergence Keynote Photographer Cory Richards 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 pm
Convention Center Ballroom D

A climber and visual storyteller, Richards was named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year (2012) and a National Geographic Fellow (2015). His photography has appeared in National Geographic Magazine, Outside Magazine, Man of the World, and The New York Times.

MARCH 11th


4. Navigating a Rapidly Changing and Connected World Steve Case and Beth Comstock 9:30am – 10:30am
Convention Center Ballroom EFG

Sensors that track a food’s temperature from source to store. Hospitals designed to avoid misdiagnosis. Traffic lights that actually respond to traffic. These are the changes we are likely to witness in the Third Wave: a period in which entrepreneurs will use technology to revolutionize major sectors—healthcare, manufacturing, education and food—and transform the way we live. Steve Case, co-founder of AOL and CEO of Revolution and Chairman of the Case Foundation, and Beth Comstock, Vice Chairman at GE, discuss how to adapt to the changes coming our way.

5. Changing the Face of Entrepreneurship with Jean Case 11:00am – 12:00pm
Hilton Salon C

Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. Tech pioneer and investor Jean Case explores the journey of fearless entrepreneurs who are changing the way business is done. She sits down with Reena Ninan of CBS News to discover the wide range of dynamic pioneering founders who are closing the opportunity gap and scaling creative solutions to persistent global problems. Challenge the traditional notions that entrepreneurs are exclusively wealthy, Ivy League educated white men in this conversation on how a new breed of entrepreneurs from all walks of life are fueling economic growth and shattering the status quo.

6. How Elections Change Next Gen Cause Engagement 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Hilton Salon F

Fact: Millennials value cause engagement. But what happens during an election year? Could politics influence how this generation participates in social causes? Achieve, in partnership with the Case Foundation issued a special survey to answer this very question. The survey tracked the impact of the election on the way in which millennials from across the country engaged with social causes—both before and after the election. The final 2016 Millennial Impact Report identified what, if any, demographic factors are connected to engagement trends. The final report will be debuted exclusively at SXSW and reveal key shifts that will alter how we think about this generation of changemakers. Speakers include Emily Yu of the Case Foundation, Abby Philip of the Washington Post, Carolyn DeWitt of Rock the Vote and Amy Thayer of Achieve.

7. Payments Gone Viral: The Rise of Social Commerce 3:30pm – 4:30pm
JW Marriot Salon D

Augmented reality. Hashtag payments. Messenger bots. The payments space is fundamentally changing: cash and checks gave way to credit and debit cards, which are now being replaced by apps. In an era where social proof reigns supreme, how is social media shaping the future of commerce. Meet a diverse cross-section of companies pioneering social payments: the ability to buy, pay and give on social media. Moderated by finance veteran Hans Morris (Visa, Citigroup, Nyca Partners), this session shows how the latest technologies enable people to pay where they play. Speakers include Dale Nirvani Pfeifer of GoodWorld, Kahina Van Dyke of Faecbook, Hans Morris of Nyca Partners and Ambarish Mitra of Blippar.

8. Harlem: The New Tech Frontier 5:00pm – 6:00pm
Hilton Salon E

Join Jessica O. Matthews of Uncharted Play as she explores how the startup is democratizing energy access worldwide, and changing the face of innovation. With its core technology MORE, (Motion-Based, Off-Grid, Renewable Energy) – a scalable system of micro-generators that can sustainably power cities – the company is eyeing infrastructure opportunities in emerging markets.

MARCH 12th 


9. Keynote with Lee Daniels
11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Convention Center room 18ABCD

Lee Daniels is a widely recognized director, writer, producer, and philanthropist in both the film and television space. He is perhaps best known for the 2013 critically acclaimed box office smash Lee Daniels’ The Butler, in addition to his 2009 feature Precious: Based on the Novel by Sapphire, which was nominated for six Academy Awards including “Best Motion Picture of the Year” and “Best Achievement in Directing.” The film also made history as Daniels became the first African-American to be nominated for the DGA’s Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film Award.

10. Humanitarian Design In Action 11:00am – 2:00pm
Hilton Salon D

In recent years, universities across the country have been increasingly engaging with the entrepreneurial ecosystem, developing programming internally to cultivate entrepreneurial activities and working to bring entrepreneurs into the university. Join MIT, Rice Univesity, StartX and the University of Chicago as they explore what bridges are currently being built to facilitate flows of information and people between universities and the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

11. Tech for Good: Solutions for the Refugee Crisis 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Westin Continental 2

When lives are at stake, it can be difficult to figure out how we can make a real difference. The Humanitarian Design Summit with Google, Facebook and Crack + Cider is about meeting the people who are using everyday design practices to prevent suffering and save lives. This workshop will task participants with rapidly designing responses to a real world crisis scenario. The goal isn’t to solve a difficult humanitarian problem, instead it’s an opportunity to test out the principles of Humanitarian Design in a risk-free environment with world-class designers.

* This session requires RSVP, and access will only be available to badge types listed under “Primary Access.” RSVP HERE.

MARCH 13th


12. How Tech Companies Can Give Back to Communities
12:30pm – 1:30pm
JW Marriot Salon D

Join Andrew Keen, Elaine Weidman-Grunewalk from Ericsson, Gary Shapiro of Consumer Technology Association and John Donovan from AT&T as they explore game-changing technologies and disruptive innovations and the sharing economy bring the power to improve our lives and what are the best practices that allow “Technology for Good” to authentically come into play with both the bottom line and corporate responsibility and community engagement.

13. Turning Inspiration Into Action on Instagram 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Hyatt Regency Ballroom 1

With over 600 million users, Instagram is the 2nd largest platform behind Facebook. From curated content to real life moments, Instagram is a place for inspiration and discovery. But how can marketers move inspiration and discovery to action? In this session, Instagram’s Michael Hondorp, the retail lead for the brand, will discuss the most innovative ways brands are driving impact with Instagram. From using ad formats in unexpected ways, to developing ideas customized for the feed, attendees will leave inspired to think differently about creating for the platform.

14. Interactive Keynote: Adam Grant 2:00pm – 3:00pm
Convention Center Ballroom D

Wharton’s top-rated professor, a New York Times writer on work and psychology, and author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Rule the World and Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. Grant has been recognized as one of the world’s 25 most influential management thinkers, and Fortune’s 40 under 40.

15. Kimbal Musk on Trust: The Currency of Our Generation 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Convention Center Ballroom EFG

Musk sits down with Fast Company magazine’s Amy Farley exploring the ability of consumers to uncover truth and authenticity in seconds with the help of the Internet is creating incredible opportunities in the food industry. As cofounder of The Kitchen, a family of businesses working in tandem to bring #realfood to everyone, he will discuss how farmers, consumers, and companies are demanding and delivering trust back to the table.

MARCH 14th


16. Investing to Change The World
9:30am – 10:30am
Convention Center Ballroom EFG

This panel will offer practical and powerful solutions for people who want to generate positive impact on society through their investments. Join Ben Jealous and Karina Funk of Kapor Capital, with Dune Thorne from the Brown Advisory and Victoria Fram of Village Capital as they explore the forefront of impact investing and will explore opportunities that range from green bonds to public equities to private equity investments. You can generate profits AND progress by investing in companies with cutting-edge environmental strategies, in bonds that fund clean energy or support low-income communities, and in innovative private investments that seek to drive social change.

17. National Geographic Explorers Changing the World 11:00am – 12:00pm
JW Marriott Room 203-204

National Geographic pushes the boundaries of exploration to further our understanding of the planet and empower us all to generate solutions for a healthier and more sustainable future. Meet the Emerging Explorers—fearless young scientists, conservationists, storytellers, and innovators who are harnessing technology to expand the frontiers of exploration. Join a discussion about taking risks, being bold and failing forward to change the world through technology for good with National Geographic Explorers Topher White and Erika Bergman and CEO Gary Knell.

18. How to Fundraise Without Silicon Valley 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Hilton Salon C

We are witnessing a new wave of investment and entrepreneurship in the United States. How can we level the playing field for women-entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color to fund, grow and scale their thriving businesses? Learn both investor and entrepreneur perspectives on what it takes to build and back inspiring companies and bring the deal process to life for diverse founders. Join Earl Robinson of Consequent Capital, Sarah Koch of the Case Foundation, Nicole Sanchez of eCreditHero and Carolyn Rodz of Circular Board for this engaging discussion.

MARCH 15th


19. Nonprofits Get the Keys to the VR Kingdom
12:30pm – 1:30pm
JW Marriot Salon 3-4

Virtual Reality has been touted as the ultimate empathy engine, immersing viewers in experiences that can open their eyes and create personalized memories for important causes. To widen the reach of this unique immersive technology to deserving nonprofits, Oculus has created the “VR for Good” workshop that pairs budding filmmakers with veteran VR talent to craft powerful storytelling pieces for a variety of featured charities and causes. Participants in the inaugural launch of this program will discuss their process in collaborating with these nonprofits and how the program combats the pitfalls that worthy causes often face with innovative marketing approaches.

20. How Brands Do Well By Doing Good 3:30pm – 4:30pm
JW Marriot Salon D

Cynics believe a marketer’s biggest goal is to get a consumer to click on an ad and purchase a product. This is especially true when it comes to digital advertising, which is immediately measurable, both in its success and failure. That’s what we call short-term thinking. The best brands think about themselves—and their stories—in the long term. They consider how to connect with consumers in a way that feels authentic, and that communicates something about what the brand stands for, something that goes far beyond whichever product they’re currently peddling. Upworthy presents the brands that do well by doing good.

Have a session or event that the team shouldn’t miss? Tweet us @CaseFoundation. We look forward to seeing you there!

My (too) Close Encounter With Virtual Reality and How it Sparked Imagining VR for Good

In the spirit of learning, one of our staff ordered a Google Cardboard virtual reality (VR) viewer and brought it to a recent staff meeting for us to experience. The story we were watching to test out this new technology was The New York Times’ groundbreaking three-part series on the plight of refugee children, a series that I had previously read about, but had not yet had the chance to view. In “The Displaced,” viewers follow along on the harrowing journey of Chuol, a South Sudanese boy (only two years older than my eldest child).

In my excitement to try out this storytelling tech, I threw my hand up like an enthusiastic fifth grader would. My colleague reached across the conference room table to double check that I was holding the iPhone and VR goggles correctly as I adjusted the headphones and hit play. Immediately I was walking through a room, presumably an intro to the NYT VR series. I looked all around amazed that it really did feel like I was in that room, then the article title came up and I was thrust into Chuol’s story. It felt like I was really there, floating in a roughhewn wooden boat in the middle of a swamp under cloudy skies, and it suddenly hit me that I knew what the surrounding reeds were hiding: women and children in flight from unspeakable atrocities.

My pulse soared, my breath grew instantly shallow, my eyes burned and I began to sob. The virtual reality of Chuol’s actual reality was so vivid that it overwhelmed me. I pulled off the headphones and apologized through tears to my coworkers, some of whom had been trying to capture a fun video to share about our first collective experience with VR. Instead I’m sure they recorded my face unfolding in horror of what I knew lay ahead for that little boy.

It was too close for comfort, but maybe that was the point. My head and my heart were already hooked by the story that had received widespread coverage in the days leading up to this experience and the VR experience sealed it inextricably. I’ll never forget that moment of “seeing” through Chuol’s eyes. Short of a plane ticket and dropping into a conflict zone, the experience could not have been more authentic.

Marketers of all stripes will undoubtedly tap into this possibility of authenticity to attract, engage and retain their target audiences. But my hope is that we will also see VR storytelling as a method to win hearts and minds for good.

The 2013 Millennial Impact Research report found that 70 percent of Millennials are willing to raise money for causes they care about. What better way to capture a broader group of donors than to let them have a virtual experience around a cause? Potential donors could “explore” a pristine marine reserve before it has been destroyed to understand why it matters. “Listening in” on a prognosis meeting for a cancer patient might help articulate the intricacies of fighting that disease. Perhaps hearing a VR testimonial of a client that benefitted from post-incarceration training to land a new job might convey the need to support an effort typically difficult to fund.

Likewise, given the ubiquity of mobile technology around the globe and the exquisite simplicity and lower cost of a cardboard viewer (as one of many VR methods), imagine the possibilities for good beyond donations of money. A business owner in an emerging market could virtually walk the storeroom floor and peer around the globe to get some ideas on how to improve sales rather than examining floor plans; a student could augment their studies of ancient societies by “traipsing” along timeworn streets without needing to afford overseas studies; a homebound person could “climb” treacherous trails to visit impossibly constructed temples on mountain ridges. By using VR, people’s lives could be enriched by having access to knowledge and experience that was previously out of reach.

My incredibly visceral and brief experience with VR was more than enough to convince me of the power of this technology as it begins to enjoy widespread use. I can’t wait to see what the clever do-gooders of the world do next with this medium. Though, next time I strap on a VR viewer I might choose a less heartrending topic.

Interested in using #VR4Good? Share your ideas for this emerging technology with us on Twitter.

Header photo credit: Flickr user Nan Palmero, used via Creative Commons.

Apple Watch: The Good, the Not-So-Good and the Social Good

About six months ago, to great fanfare, Apple debuted the Apple Watch. And for good reason… Smartwatches will account for 59 percent of total wearable device shipments in 2015, and that share is expected to expand to just over 70 percent of shipments by 2019. The company’s long awaited foray into wearable technology has been met with mixed reactions by consumers. Over the last few months, we’ve been testing out the Apple Watch to help our team at the Case Foundation learn about this new tool and how this innovative technology could be used to change the social sector landscape. With the latest update to the operating system (OS), we thought it was a good time for a brief report out. Below, is a summary of what I like, what I suggest could be improved and where I see potential for the Apple Watch to be used for social good.

Have your own thoughts about the Apple Watch or wearables? Please share them with us on Twitter using @CaseFoundation and #wearables.

The Good:

The most obvious thing to love about the Apple Watch is the incredible convenience it brings. Being able to merely turn your wrist and instantly see those things that are most important to you—the date, what your next appointment is, what the temperature is outside and more—without having to dig out a cell phone or open up your computer—can’t be beat.

For many of us testing the Apple Watch, the main question boils down to: “When would I rather use the Apple Watch than my phone?” And the answer for many applications is usually, I wouldn’t. That being said, there is much to appreciate with this device:

  • Complications: These are small elements that appear on the watch face and provide quick access to frequently used data, offering unparalleled convenience. For example, apps like Dark Sky that can notify you that it’s about to rain, or App in the Air that will push flight statuses to your wrist while walking through the airport. And obviously, as a wearable, the possibilities are huge in the health and fitness space. A running list of available apps and complications for the Apple Watch is here.
  • Haptic alerts and alarm: It is great for minimizing distractions in meetings as the watch merely vibrates quietly to tell you when you have a call or a text coming in and is not as disruptive as a phone. The same feature also allows the watch to act as a much more pleasant alarm, gently tapping your wrist to wake you in the morning.
  • Voice recognition and voice to text feature: When you receive a text, you can quickly reply by speaking into the watch. This feature is really helpful for driving, exercising or simply for when your phone is out of reach; with just a tap of the watch, you can speak your reply. It picks up speech amazingly well.

The Not so Good:

While the convenience is impressive, there are a few features that, in my opinion, could be tweaked to drastically improve the user experience.

  • Battery life: The watch’s battery is only good for 18 hours, meaning you’re left recharging the watch daily. This inconvenience might not be so bad if there were an easier way to tell what the battery level is, but one has to go through multiple steps to see what the power level is or set it up as a complication. A suggestion is to perhaps utilize the outer ring of the bezel as the battery indicator for example. It might also be less cumbersome if there were an easier way of taking the watch off and on. For example, a simple-to-use quick release mechanism to actually pop the watch away from the band for charging.
  • User experience: It is not clear when to use the screen itself by tapping; swiping or “force touch”; when to use the crown; and when to use the button that sits below the crown. I suspect the integration of these elements will likely improve over time as Apple and other developers gain more user data and create a more consistent set of guidelines and best practices for watch interfaces.
  • Waterproof: It’s not. While this may not be a deal breaker, it does feel restrictive given the integration of wearable technology to track our every move and heart beat. The watch could be great for sports for instance, but right now you will always have to worry about taking it out kayaking or canoeing, and if you are a swimmer you can’t use it for that. The lack of a waterproof feature just feels limiting.

The Social Good:

So where does that leave us for social good? The possibilities are endless. One could imagine an application that utilizes proximity marketing technology that pushes notifications to customers about social good deals as people walk through the mall—notifying shoppers that the store to their right is donating a percentage of revenue to a local nonprofit for every purchase made today. This would help connect individuals with the organizations and causes that they care about the most.

This may just be an imagined application for the watch now, but it isn’t so far-fetched. There is a long history of tools designed for commercial uses pivoting to support social good. For example, many of the e-commerce tools of the past were developed into non-profit donation tools. Recently, UNICEF’s “Wearables for Good” competition challenged changemakers to ideate on new uses for wearable technology, and has hit upon some incredible ideas, including devices that: facilitate record keeping; aid in the tracking of medications; purify drinking water; and even track vaccinations. Indeed, much of the “tech for good” movement, powered by driven social entrepreneurs, embodies these principles of repurposing commercial technologies for social impact.

When game-changing technologies like the Apple Watch come out, it opens up a world of possibilities for social entrepreneurs to apply their skills and talent, experiment, fail, experiment again and come up with applications for these innovative technologies that could change the world. My hope is that pioneering social entrepreneurs, like the finalists in UNICEF’s “Wearables for Good” competition, will take the lead in developing these new technologies. It’s time for social good applications to be integrated into our technology. I can’t wait to see what’s next for the evolution of the Apple Watch and other wearable tech like it!

The Future of Transportation: More than Just Convenience

I’d venture to guess that most of you reading this blog have used technology in some way to help us navigate our cars around town or make transportation from one place to another easier – from Google Maps or other online maps services (MapQuest, anyone?) to Uber or Lyft. Or you may have already started to get excited about the possibilities for self-driving cars. Perhaps you’ve watched the YouTube video on Google’s Self Driving Car Project or heard the news that Uber has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University to create the Uber Advanced Technologies Center to move this technology forward faster. No matter what your experience is with these technologies, you have probably sensed that there is a significant shift happening in the world involving transportation and consumer habits.

What does widespread adoption and acceptance of companies like Uber, or apps like Google Maps, mean for the future of transportation? And how will these technologies change how individuals and groups can safely, efficiently and happily get from point A to point B? The answer to these questions will ultimately define the future of transportation in the coming decade.

Technology Advancements

Services like Uber have been made possible because of the confluence of a number of factors: improved camera technology, street-by-street mapping, ecommerce and the ever present, always connected smart phone. The same will be said about self-driving cars as they ultimately represent a higher and higher percentage of cars on the road. Companies like Google are putting a tremendous amount of resources into getting the self-driving car right. While it may seem scary to give up control of the steering wheel to a computer, the reality is the self-driving car will be more self-aware, since it will be equipped with a 360-degree camera and it won’t be distracted by talking on the phone or handing an item to a child in the back seat. The car will recognize impending danger faster than a human, will use heat signatures to identify living things that have the potential to cross its path and it can’t panic or over correct in times of stress. In fact, Elon Musk believes that one-day human-driven cars will be outlawed, as they will be thought of as too dangerous.

A Transportation Future that Empowers All

These cars seem perfect for a new fleet of on demand taxis, shuttles and buses. Fewer cars on the road that are aware of each other means that accidents will likely decrease. We can imagine these cars in our cities, suburbs and neighborhoods, but what about the great potential for the developing world? Can this transform the way in which hundreds of millions of people move from point A to point B?

Like all new technologies and advancements, those individuals with the financial means will be the early adopters and will initially define what the opportunity means. Uber has expanded from young upwardly mobile Silicon Valley technology professionals getting around San Francisco to teenagers being shuttled to piano or soccer practice in cities around the country. This is a natural evolution of adoption as services like Uber become more mainstream and are accepted as the natural way to navigate a city. When this happens, we will begin to see a market form. There will be competitors, third-party applications and after market products that will help create new companies. In this not-so-distant future, the self-driving car will cross the chasm from the early adopters to the early majority. Prices will come down and these services will be accessible to the masses.

These cars of the future will revolutionize individual transportation, public transportation and the sharing economy of groups like Uber and Zipcar. Imagine how empowering it will be for those who have lost their ability to drive to be able to take themselves to work, and then take their children to soccer practice, with a quick stop at the grocery store on the way home. Existing services for these individuals is typically binary, where they get assistance from another individual or a support van takes you from point A to point B. Owning a self driving car will provide a new level of freedom and control.

The market will drive innovation, spur new industries, lower the cost of transportation, reduce carbon emissions, increase road safety and increase the opportunity for more people to move throughout their communities. Yes, people will be nervous – there is often anxiety around ambitious new innovations – and there will be bumps in the road, but the benefits will prove to be too great to stop us moving toward what will be a safe and interconnected world.

Want to continue the conversation? Tweet us @CaseFoundation with the hashtag #CFBlog