by mike smerklo
Wow, SXSW is coming soon and for a reasonably new resident of Austin – cheers to two years! – it is incredibly exciting time for me and for my venture firm, Next Coast Ventures. I am almost embarrassed to admit that I am a “south-by’ virgin, having only heard great things about this event, but never personally attended.
However, that is all about to change. This is also an especially exciting time because the venture firm I co-founded with long-time Austinite Tom Ball will – hopefully! – be making its first appearance at SXSW in 2018. We are thrilled to have an opportunity to host what we think will be a killer panel presentation, but we need some help (see below).
For a little background, Tom and I wanted to start a firm in Austin based on a simple, but powerful, mantra: “By entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs.” That is, we look to partner with amazing entrepreneurs who are laser-focused on building disruptive businesses in massive markets, and help them by bringing our own personal experience to the table. We are thematic investors, which means that we focus on expansive themes that have the potential for disruption – and then seek out great entrepreneurs who are pursuing this disruption with passion and vigor.
We also believe that Austin is THE best place for an entrepreneur to start and build a business, or as we like to call it: The Next Coast of innovation. This is where SXSW comes in. We think that it embodies the spirit, ethos and crucial content that drives this entrepreneurial activity.
So, the good news is, we know in our gut that we have put together a panel that will be highly additive to the SXSW experience. One that we are tremendously proud to moderate. The bad news is, we can’t bring this panel to life without you. Before we solicit your help, let us whet your appetite with some insight on the genesis of our idea.
One of our key themes is what we call “digital natives becoming digital consumers” and we think this is a really, really big theme. Like death-of-retail big. We believe that digital natives think very differently, and this mindset will not just offer, but demand the opportunity to completely remake traditional industries. In short: we don’t think any industry is safe from the power that this new mindset brings to the economy.
Two great examples of this are what’s happening in e-commerce and healthcare. The old-world ways of buying goods – get in car, drive to mall, shop, purchase, drive home – are coming under attack from every direction. Healthcare is no different – go see a doctor, drive to a lab, take a test, wait for results. We think this needs a radical overhaul.
And how will this happen? Great entrepreneurs, innovative ideas, new mindsets (i.e. digital natives) and making a little capital. Now that we have piqued your interest, let me give you the details of what you can expect from our SXSW panel.
Lucky for us, we found two of these great entrepreneurs leading two exciting Austin-based companies that are attacking these spaces.
Our first panelist is the CEO of Phlur, a digital fragrance company that is reinventing how people think about beauty. Didn’t think that people would want to buy fragrance online? Wrong. The company has proven that you can still foster a customer community selling your beauty products online, and do so in a sustainable way. Eric Korman, the founder and CEO of Phlur, is deeply committed to the brand’s ecological footprint. He is the former president of Ralph Lauren Digital and Global E-Commerce and former president of Ticketmaster Entertainment. He has experience as a CEO of a public company, and as a CEO of a rising startup. Invaluable insight for a SXSW audience, in my humble opinion.
Our second panelist is Julia Cheek, the CEO and Founder of EverlyWell, which is a next-generation health testing platform empowering consumers to order, self-collect, and understand lab tests. EverlyWell is one of the fastest-growing consumer healthcare startups in recent history. Julia is dedicated to empowering female entrepreneurs and was named the number one female entrepreneur to watch by CIO magazine for 2017. She is also a two-time world-champion equestrian. Like I said: Could these panelists be more interesting? Julia is going to be able to speak to every young female in the SXSW crowd that thinks they have the next groundbreaking idea. At a time when the female voice has come under fire in the entrepreneur community, it is crucial to give women like Julia a stage to speak about her experience.
Julia and Eric aren’t just at the forefront of the digital upheaval of healthcare and beauty, they both have their fingers on the pulse of what is happening in Texas’ entrepreneurial ecosystem. Not to sound too confident, but I genuinely believe budding entrepreneurs would learn a tremendous amount about thinking outside the box, and scaling a business, while they watch a dynamic conversation between these two CEOs – moderated by yours truly.
So here’s how you can help. We need you to follow the steps below to vote for our SXSW panel idea and help us bring this idea to life. We would love the chance to see you down in Austin next March and show you what the rumored Texas hospitality is all about at our new office space right in the heart of downtown.
Thank you so much in advance for your support, and remember: keep Austin weird.