Weirdos in wonderland - part 1

Weirdos in Wonderland: a Tale of Two Worlds at SXSW – Part 1

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? 

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.

The Medici What?

Exactly why did we jet off to Texas, wide-eyed and with high hopes? Simple. The Medici Effect. Want to impress your friends and sound super smart? Tell ‘em about this effect while rolling your eyes at their ignorance: Innovation comes from the intersection and cross-pollination of industry, craftsmanship and culture. Places that bring these elements together, know more innovation than anywhere else in the world. This is called the Medici effect.

SXSW connects international inspiration seekers through keynotes, moderated discussions, competitions and chance encounters. That’s why we went there: to take the pulse of innovation, and possibly infuse our companies with it! 

Four sentences. All you need to know.

SXSW (short for South by Southwest) started as an annual music showcase. Over the course of three decades, the event evolved into a global forum for cutting-edge tech, music and film, drawing tens of thousands of visitors each year.


Although SXSW is deeply rooted in music, the festival’s Interactive part ( which focuses on nascent technology) has never stopped growing since its introduction in ‘94. As such, it became a launching pad for famous tech startups like Twitter and Foursquare.



‘Spreadsheet? Nope. Never done that.’This guy is a legend.’ ‘Shhhh! I’m taking notes!’ ‘Are you going to writing down EVERYTHING he says?’ He’s like a quote machine. Isn’t it wonderful?’ A celebrated Shark Tank regular and early-stage investor in Twitter, Uber, and Instagram, Chris Sacca was hands down the most awe-inspiring, entertaining and laughter-inducing speaker we had the pleasure of watching live. Sippin’ a beer on stage – he brought a suitcase full of frosty ones for his hosts – his talk spanned a multitude of topics: from his first VC investments (no spreadsheets, just his credit card) to the slumbering misogynist culture at Uber and his support for the ACLU, this guy was rockin’ it. More on this amazing man in this Telenet Kickstart article – a good read on how to avoid losing a 1.5 billion dollar deal. Hint: you should regularly check your inbox.

The Obama guy

‘This guy is late, should we bail? ‘
Nah, let’s give him a couple of more minutes.’


And boy, are we glad we did. Our one-on-one encounter with David Litt, one of Obama’s (yup, the ex-POTUS) former speechwriters, left us, well speechless. Backed by his stellar achievements, he chatted freely about the impact of social media on current and future elections. His company Funny or Die (check out their website, seriously) was committed to getting US citizens to vote by unleashing the power of humor. Needless to say, we took his advice on how to handle content distribution for apps like Chestnote very seriously.

Clickbait: how is this even legal?

‘You won’t believe what happens next!’
Yes, I totally would …
‘The answer will shock you!’
Uhm, no, not really …


Do these titles – and subsequent reactions – sound familiar? If yes, then you too have been seduced by clickbait at one point or another. An attention-grabbing plague, the subject led to a heated panel discussion we attended in good ol’ Texas. In essence, clickbait is a term used for the disingenuous packaging of online content. Why does this still exist? Simple. Because content writers for big media outlets no longer choose the titles of their pieces themselves. That responsibility has now shifted to the sales team, whose main concern is the number of ‘clicks’ any given message can generate. Clicks equal ad revenue. They want you to open the message, not read it. That’s sad. So don’t take the bait, but read this amazing article making fun of clickbait instead (totally not clickbait, we promise).

KonMari: a good kind of crazy

‘Is she seriously folding clothes right now?’
‘Yup, looks like it.’
‘I’m so confused right now.’


After a day of hardcore tech subjects, we were baffled by the impactful approach to Zen Marie Kondō (a.k.a. KonMari) demonstrated while teaching the audience to fold clothes. It might sound a little crazy, but KonMari suggested that the art of tidying up is closely related to the amount of joy you get out of the items you possess. Hence her thesis: ‘Cleaning up is not about what you throw away, it’s about what you keep. Keep only what gives you joy.’ She’s onto something, because we could all do with a little more Zen in our lives, right?


Marie Kondo has sold over one million copies of her book, so apparently there’s a lot of people looking to tidy up out there. Groovy.

That’s all for now, folks (part 2 coming up soon!)

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