Hoiden Loner on a Sharing-Economy Business Trip

Texas travel letter and thoughts on solitude: Austin brands itself as Weird, though its original inhabitants claim the weirdness is lost through SXSWs hipster status and over-commercialization. Nevertheless – first place in the U.S. that I ever visited where topless is yay and weapons are ney! Austin is probably what you’d get if you put San Diego & Provincetown in a Texas blender. Anyway, with rising prices and loaded L.A. people invading the real-estate market, you should probably go before it becomes completely unweird.

I was a lonesome traveller arriving, but never felt lonely. Probably due to my Hoiden personality? 😋 (scroll through the photos below to find out what Hoiden means..). As a mother of 2 small boys, I treasure family time, but always appreciate the small stretches of being completely on my own – whether on a plane or walking between meetings – and the feeling of being unconnected, completely independent and free. A sense of being an outsider, observing the world around from a distance. Where you’re not required to interact or participate, and somewhat invisible. In my opinion, travelling alone is something everyone should do once in a while. It reminds you of which state your relationship with yourself is in. How comfortable you are in your own company. After all, drilling down to the core of our inner person, we are all here in this world by ourselves. In an over-crowded and hectic world, solitude to me feels like taking a medicine, or a vitamine shot.   

If you feel uncomfortable eating out or sitting at a café all by yourself (or, like me, just love to read), you can bring a book. Being alone also makes you more open to spontanious, unexpected surprises. And you get much, much better service. Just to mention some perks.

I’ve travelled alone frequently since 2006, but rarely get the opportunity nowadays – vacationwise anyway.. If not for the security/safety situation and for the fact that I can’t switch gender for just a few months’ time, my ultimate dream is to hitch-hike and backpack from Europe across Middle East to China. Bucket list!

I often travel alone to various places for work, but due to the nature of our industry and the closely tied global network, I always meet people I know. And I usually spend both my mornings, daytime and late nights with a combination of familiar & new industry people. As you try and keep the trips short and utilizing them as efficient as possible, evenings also consist of business networking, and I very rarely have time for much other than sleep and get up-to-date on the most urgent items in my mailbox in between.

This trip was different, as I arrived without knowing any other industry colleagues travelling in for the SXSW Interactive, and entered in as an outsider and visitor. I had communicated with Morgan who’s in charge of SXSW Eco and SXgood with UN Foundation and a few other people, but knew that she was up to her neck in work all week. Also, Oslo Business Council organised their own lounge, but I didn’t exactly travel to Austin to network with other Norwegians (even though they’re great people) 😋

Instead, I have had every opportunity for being open to meet new people. And so I did!

Arriving at Houston airport, I met some really sweet girls from England & Scotland, and carpooled to Austin in a shiny white road monster – gate crashing the first leg of their Texas road trip(!). Good conversations and chemistry – it turned out they were all managers at the Lidl head office in London. With a passion for country music & rodeos, there was a whole lot of loud singing going on. All the country classics; unexpected and really fun!! 

Arriving in Austin, I had booked a room through AirBnb in a private flat, as the hotel prices were really high. My host Chilee had recently moved in from Las Vegas, and shared it with a friend from the South. While the other guest was a woman from San Fransisco, a director of a big IT company. 

Filling my days with conferences and seminars, my evenings were unplanned. I had some invitations to various networking events and parties, but didn’t really know anyone well. So I pinned the venues in my SXSW app, and went out exploring. And I had some amazing meetings with inspiring and engaged people from all over the States – and other regions of the world;

  • Saturday breakfast with Jim from Seattle and a girl from Dublin
  • Coffee and mutual sharing of all-time low life challenges with a heavily tattooed and rocker-style writer and former PR Director from London (yupp, the classic 40-something self-realization stage, but amazing conversation)
  • Lunch with an environmentalist couple from Argentina/Chile, where he was a client of a Sweedish shipping company 
  • Dinner with a group of friends from Washington 
  • Nylon party and concerts with George from San Diego, two girls from South Africa and a couple from Israel. Arriving at the party, I bumped right into Swedish artist Sara Larsson, and it turned out she was among those entertaining us(!)
  • Sunday breakfast with two Indian guys, a Mexican girl and a Chinese girl
  • Sunday lunch drink at Coyote Ugly (just to have been there..) spent discussing war & peace with a U.S. Army veteran (Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine etc) from Alabama with Norwegian ancestors, who’s jaw dropped when I told him his last name was the same as that of the new big Norwegian oilfield (Kastberg)
  • And Sunday dinner with a really nice guy from Austin, as I discovered a small Indian place off the beaten festival tracks. Learnt a lot about Austin!

Not to mention all the mind-blowing innovators, entrepreneurs, speakers and panelists I was able to discover during these days! 

By the way; I got some great tips alltogether ref to the best of Austinn, that I’ll have to save for my next trip due to the purpose of this one, but meanwhile I’ll share them with you;

  • The locals’ own intimate festival “Eeyore’s birthday” in the woods – hippie style every April (apparently lots of nudity too)
  • Pop-up flea markets in South Congress
  • Restaurant Odd Duck and small charming shops along South Lamar
  • All-year swimming in Barton Springs Pool, which used to be the big gathering area for hippies & locals cooling down before A/C was common



SXSW: the extensive guide to the digital future – ignored by shipping…

Do you know how data science can help avoid the next recession? Or that by 2020 Samsung vows to connect everything they make to the internet? By then its estimated that more than 35 billion(!) devices will be connected! Following my first days in Austin for leading tech festival SXSW, I will take you through some thought-provoking questions and highlights worth reflecting upon.   

Cities are already looking into smart roads, and British authorities state that they’ll aim to take a leading role preparing for autonomous care to hit the highways by 2018. How will the new smart, connected and shareable cities help resolve their port & logistics problems? How will real-time data help us move people & cargo more efficiently? And how will transportation and logistics – hereunder shipping – be disrupted during this process? Could we finally get more cargo on keel? We heard about how we can disrupt an over-regulated industry, and how can big data enable us to predict (and perhaps avoid…?) wars. Pretty relevant for shipping, right?  

When will we look towards disruptors as the digital car repair market place Engie, for inspiration on how the yards and equipment & repair players will be transformed through the full-range solution where malfunction diagnosis and real time bids from mechanics are made available to the customer through an app?

How will bitcoin’s big brother blockchain  or financial cloud services such as Uphold enable the banks to renew themselves or force them to change? And exactly how will the race among neuro science to connect machines and the human brain affect the role split between an analyst’s or broker’s brain and their hyper intelligent processor or other tools a few years from now? Who will win the race of turning big fat data into dollars in shipping?

Who will manage to serve as a connector between The Internet of all Things? Google or Huawei – or someone completely new? Could the entrepreneurs behind The Things Network (an internet network for all things that’s not requiring a 3G or WiFi connection to work) succeed in their crowdfunding campaign to release their fresh new solution in a global market? Amsterdam, Sao Paulo, Boston, Buenos Aires, Kochi and Sydney are already onboard(!) And how could this platform be utilized by our very under-connected fleet if commercial ships?  

How can we look around to see how others succeed; what would demand forecasting for a CMO in media mean to a Chief Data Officer in banking?  

What tech related stories from China will be big in the next years’ time? Looking into WeChat, we see that the owners prioritize launch in South Africa over regional releases in North East Asia, delivering a social portal that even acts as your bank, insurance company, platform for all kind of purchases++

  Spending an ovale weekend in Austin, these are a few of the questions on my mind. Its quite fascinating, or rather alarming perhaps, to discover that our industry is (almost) nowhere to be found among the 80.000 official participants! Considering that digitisation, IoT and big data has been on the industry’s lips for a long time, considered to have enormous potential gamechanger effects, and furthermore – that the SXSW Interactive is the No.1 place to be for insights on the latest, most disruptive and thought-provoking innovations and new movers & shakers of the tech industries, and given the fantastic line-up of speakers, I can’t help wondering… Where is our industry in this? We should be on the agenda, on the panels (as some industry players are already well on their way), but most critical – joining as delegates to explore the digital world of opportunities. 
How will you get the insight needed to position your company, without stepping out of the shipping bubble to explore the tech industry that now merges with all other industries? IT and data systems used to be about business support. Now they are so much more, they ARE a cruicial part of the new commercial business; a new range of products and services that requires a whole new set of competences to stay ahead and strengthen your company’s competitive position. And how will you aim to attract those holding this competence – the gamers, the hackers, the tech-bunch?

A while ago I gave a presentation about the urgent need for our industry to put on a disruptive mindset, and to join forces with entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs to create an optimal fundament for tackling this shift. A number of people were enthusiastic, some looked slightly scared, some claimed we are already ahead, but one person wrapped up what I consider to be a quite typical approach;

“This is really exciting, but you know for us its really not that relevant. We’re producing bolts and bits. There’s actually no chance for us to become digital”

And this quote sums up what I consider to be a bit of a challenge for parts of our industry so. Many of us are in some ways firmly cemented in our established truths and practice. We simply don’t realize that what’s true today might not be tomorrow. I wanted to ask, but didn’t – so instead I’ll share my questions with you; well – how could digital real-time data and a different business model create more value & efficiency for your clients? And as houses are currently being 3D printer in China for less than 30K USD – how could you provide your products with the same opportunities? How can you already now analyze and identify new business opportunities in your field? What kind of strategic partnerships and alliances could this development call for?

SXSW Interactive presents global disruptors and top experts in their fields, across industries and countries. Even President Obama prioritized this event.

 Shipping needs to take its space on the playing field!

PS; Take a look at the way U.S. National Intelligence Council include the next generation and tech-crowd to share input towards their new Global Trends report. Go public or go home 😋    

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