Here Are the Ideas That Dominated SXSW

By Brad Jakeman, President Global Beverage Group, PepsiCo

Originally Posted on LinkedIn

With only 24 hours to pack in the best that South by Southwest Interactive festival has to offer, I hit the ground running as soon as I landed in Austin, TX last Friday night. My visit was brief, but it was loaded with thought-provoking moments. Here are my favorites:

1. TODAY’S ENTREPRENEURS ARE MAKING BUSINESS GOOD AGAIN

My first stop was an intimate fireside chat with Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore where we discussed how culture drives innovation. One thing I love about SXSW is that you get to hang out with the new generation of entrepreneurs, and Pete is one of the best. This generation is so smart, tech-driven, and purpose-driven. They truly want to make a difference and know that doing what’s best for people and communities is the right thing to do and good business strategy, which we also believe at PepsiCo.

2. DON’T CONFUSE INNOVATION WITH DISRUPTION

One of the hot chat topics was the difference between disruption and innovation. Innovation has to happen each and every day. At PepsiCo, it’s all about building aculture of innovation, not innovation departments, so great ideas can come from anywhere in—and outside—the organization. Disruption, on the other hand, requires a profoundly changed business model. We aim to disrupt ourselves before we’re disrupted. (Because if we don’t, one of the entrepreneurs here surely will!)

3. IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE PRODUCT

A great example of innovation: Gatorade Fuel Lab, which showcases the brand’s evolution from a sports drink company to a technology-driven, sports fuel company. I dropped by on Saturday to check out their hydration customization platform, featuring digital sweat patches and hydration-tracking Gx bottles. See, our brands have become so strong and global that they have to offer more than just products; they have to create experiences, like the Fuel Lab, Kola House(opening in NYC this spring) and Pepsi Spire technology (described as the beverage version of  the iPad).

4. TECH-DRIVEN GOVERNMENT SOLUTIONS WILL MAKE LIFE BETTER

My next hit of inspiration came during a dinner with Megan Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer at the White House. We chatted about the amazing work she’s doing to drive technology into government. Technology isn’t just central to companies like PepsiCo; it’s central to countries, too. Plus, President Obama delivered the festival’s keynote earlier that day—focused on the importance of tech-driven government solutions—showing a huge shift in ideology.

5. INNOVATION DOESN’T COME FROM HOMOGENEOUS GROUPS OF PEOPLE

Finally, I wrapped up my trip by hanging in the Girls’ Lounge, a destination for women to connect and collaborate. Technology is one of the most male-dominated sectors in the world, so it’s great that Shelley Zalis, the CEO and founder of the organization, is here promoting and empowering female entrepreneurs. Gender diversity is critical to innovation, so I love that Shelley is working to #changetheratio.

 

 


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