Amazon’s Prime Minister Of Innovation Of Ideas, HB Siegel, Parodies Blockchain Hysteria At SXSW
South By Southwest is underway in Austin Texas. The festival kicked off last Monday with SXSWedu the shoulder festival dedicated to K-20 education. On Friday South By Southwest Interactive started bringing flocks of technologists, startups, innovators entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs to the biggest festival in the United States. It’s an amazingly noisy festival and there’s always the one “big thing”, everyone is an expert, these experts change their expertise from year to year but emphatically return to SXSW, or SouthBy for those in the know, to show their prowess of the latest topic.
These buzzwords are typically echoed by everyone to the point of pure nauseum. In 2010 it was social, in 2011 local discovery, in 2012 social local mobile and so on and so forth. Hundreds of startups in these new buzzworthy (and Buzzfeed worthy) technologies show off their wares and talk about their market share, opportunity and they look forward to longevity. About 90% of these new startups don’t make it until the next south by southwest.
This year the word was Blockchain. Everything was on the blockchain. Everyone was a blockchain expert. Most of the blockchain experts couldn’t clearly explain the concept of a permanent ledger.
There were over 100 panels on blockchain and who knows how many startups combing the streets. Blockchain was everywhere. We saw some good companies that could actually explain blockchain and how it was in their stuff, like this blockchain speaker from Volareo that uses blockchain technology to provide streaming music and a crypto-coin to pay the artists that have supplied said music.
There were other devices and startups that didn’t make a lick of sense.
On Monday at the SXSW Accelerator Demo Day there were 8 startups “on the blockchain” that were officially presenting at the event. And then there was UBlockchainIt.
UBlockchainIt was set up at their table except instead of professionally printed signage there was makeshift logos obviously printed in a hotel business center. They even had signs made with pens and magic markers. All of the normal startup displays were created by hand. And then there was the water.
On the table for UBlockchainIt were two plastic cups of water, the kind you get from the free water machines in the Hilton at SXSW. Both were filled halfway up. As passerbys, enthusiastic entrepreneurs and investors eager to invest in the next blockchain technology, approached their hijacked table, Amazon’s Prime Minister of Ideas, HB Siegel asked them to smell the cups of water. “one of the waters is normal the other was made with blockchain” Siegel would tell people with the same smile on his face that you would expect from one of Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallons minions, tricking people on the streets of New York.
UBlockchainIt was a complete parody. It was hilarious. But it also brought to light the over-saturation of this years big buzz word.
By day Siegel is actually an expert on technology and new innovation. His position at Amazon is real. Siegel elevated to Prime Minister of ideas after IMDB was acquired by Amazon, where Siegel served as CTO. He’s their resident futurist.
Siegel’s eye-opening exercise in buzzword technology doesn’t mean that Amazon as a whole is denouncing blockchain technology. In fact it was recently announced that Amazon is exploring blockchain and cryptocurrency for payment. Companies like Overstock already accept bitcoin. Amazon also provides Sawtooth, a blockchain technology to AWS customers that need it.
UBlockchainIt also highlighted that fact that after just a few days at SXSW people were sick and tired of hearing about blockchain.
As a closing demonstration for people that came to the UBlockchainIt booth, Siegel and his assistant Hannah, would have visitors make their own blockchain with them, by linking fingers (hence the photo at the top).