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SXSW 2014: Annual Austin Event is Built on Big Ideas

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Down in Austin, Tx., the big South by Southwest Festival has kicked off with the usual blend of tech startups, music and food. NY1's Adam Balkin was at the interactive part of the conference and filed the following report.

It is often thought of as the cool tech conference, where down in Austin, you turn one way and see barbecue and booze, the other for some funky music, and everywhere in between are startups hoping to become the next big thing and big corporations trying to be hip, while industry movers and shakers hold talks about some of tech's most pressing issues. This is South by Southwest Interactive.

"We have some big product unveilings, but we have a lot of smaller, independent businesses here," said Hugh Forrest of South by Southwest Interactive. "We've also got a lot of convergence stuff, so things that are related to music and film. We've got more comedy stuff now. We've got food. We've got fashion. It's just a great place to be exposed to a lot of great new ideas."

It's the way technology is often used here that also helps contribute to the famous local slogan, "Keep Austin Weird," from Oreos built to taste like what's trending on Twitter to drones that you not only fly yourself, but also build yourself. There's even an entire video game expo that's part of it, with new titles and even new ways to play games.

"You have the normal stuff, like shooters, platformers, Mario, Gears of War, Call of Duty, all that stuff, but you also have how video games affects our lives in the health world, educational world," said Justin Burnham, gaming project manager for South by Southwest.

With all this tech noise, so to speak, can startups stand out and use SXSW as a their platform to explode the way Twitter and Foursquare did? Tech entrepreneur Mark Cuban, a shark on the TV show "Shark Tank," says probably not.

"I think it's almost overdone in terms of startups thinking that they're going to breakout out at South by Southwest," Cuban said. "It's just tough, and so good ideas tend to rise to the top, but I think people in all businesses tend to overestimate the value of South by Southwest."

In fact, Cuban said that the competition here is so fierce, a company he backs was planning on having a presence at the festival but, fearing it'd likely get overlooked, decided against it.

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