Weirdos in wonderland - part 2

Weirdos in Wonderland: a Tale of Two Worlds at SXSW – Part 2

Hey you, feel like a laugh? Not in the mood for SXSW-related articles going on about ‘insights’, ‘lessons learned’ and ‘inspiration’? Not even sure what SXSW (a music, film and tech conference) is? You’re in luck. After a short intro, we’re treating you to a rundown of the weirdest, most wonderful stuff we’ve experienced. Why? Because it’s fun! So let’s get started, shall we? (Missed part 1? Check it out!)

We – Thomas Deschepper (Telenet) and Peter Wellens (Chestnote) – come from different worlds. Thomas is the startup liaison at one of Belgium’s leading telcos, Peter is the co-founder of a booming free messaging app with international ambitions. This article highlights some of the many crazy encounters we had while exploring Texas’ Capital of Weird, Austin.

Blockchain and the Mona Lisa: totally related

‘Wow. This is so far-fetched.’
‘What are you talking about? This is so cool.’


A panel of extremely smart people called blockchain the disruptor of all disruptors. The blockchain – or ‘distributed ledger technology’ to put it in highbrow lingo – is encrypted, decentralised and public, and therefore ultra-safe and virtually immune to fraud. It potentially cuts out the middleman in a wide variety of sectors. And it’s totally related to the Mona Lisa. How? Let us explain.


Blockchain is to electronic databases as double-entry bookkeeping was to financial transactions in the 15th century. Double-entry bookkeeping allowed sailors to keep track of their assets and finance their missions, and as a result harbour cities like Venice grew rich and affluent. The powerful elite in these cities became patrons of culture and art, fuelling the Renaissance. It allowed artists such as Da Vinci to produce masterpieces like the Mona Lisa. Voila. Following this logic, blockchain will give rise to spectacular new pieces of art. We can’t wait!

Jooki and the power of Belgium

The team behind Jooki – an award-winning, figurine-controlled WiFi jukebox for kids – was the picture of Belgian pride at SXSW. Their product enhances play, independence and imagination for children, and was selected as a finalist in the Entertainment and Content Technology category for the annual Accelerator pitch competition. We cheered them on as they defended the Belgian tricolour on the world’s biggest tech stage, and couldn’t help but feel proud, even though they did not take home the gold.


These were not the only Belgian go-getters that wandered the grounds of Austin. Among others, we were amazed by the intricate stories of Belgian companies including Yondr, Farmboy, iText, Look, Startit and Foodpairing, drove a Mustang with the epic duo behind Grow Inc., and were even invited to a true Texan backyard BBQ (piñata included) by the leading lady of Morning Glory.


Potverdekke, it’s great to be a Belgian.

Bud on Mars

‘This beer is no good.’
‘But it’s free.’
‘Let’s get two more.’


Budweiser – one of AB InBev’s most iconic American brands – can be enjoyed in almost every corner of the world. We’re guessing the world wasn’t enough for Budweiser, though, because the beer brand called on SXSW to take its distribution to the next level, unveiling its ambition to pioneer beer on Mars.


Quick idea: why not swap the “King of Beers” for Stella Artois? Heck, ‘stella’ means ‘star’ in Latin. Makes total sense to us!

Designing like a god: the Netflix way

‘Who here in the room has a Netflix subscription?’


You guessed it, literally everyone in the room raised their hands. A big part of Netflix’ success can be attributed to superior design and very, very intensive testing. Navin Iyengar, designer at Netflix, revealed in true ‘explain like I’m five’ fashion how A/B testing helped a former DVD rental company to become the #1 streaming service worldwide. Raving on about the scientific method and how Galileo Galilei was actually the first to discard conventional wisdom and rely solely on unbiased real-world behaviour, he fascinated us with his story. Moral of the story? Never underestimate the power of a pretty (inter-)face!


To dig deeper into this, read this Netflix tech blog post!

That’s all, folks! (Don’t forget to check out part 1 of this article!)

You might ask yourself: ‘What’s up with the ‘two worlds’ in your title, guys?’ Good question. The SXSW experience has taught us that within the very republican state of Texas, a very democratic city like Austin can still flourish. We also noticed that, while small startups steal the show at SXSW, it is still the big corporates who set the stage.

Loved this article? Since you’ve read this far, we bet you did. Excellent! We share this stuff because we love you, and if you want to reciprocate that love, go ahead and check out Telenet Kickstart’s exciting growth engine for entrepreneurs. And be sure to download Chestnote’s mobile app on Android or iOS! It will blow your mind. Promise.


Don’t stop being weird, and have a great week!

Thomas & Peter