Featured Speakers Showcase Some of the World's Most Innovative Thinkers

Jacquelline Fuller, Kerry Washington, Anthony Foxx, Esteban Contreras, Anthony Bourdain, Pete Cashmore, Tracy Chou, Maxine Williams

Looking for mind-expanding presentations by industry leaders? SXSW Interactive Featured Sessions bring together some of the biggest and brightest names of our time. Across the various themes and trends at SXSW, Featured Sessions present a snapshot of the most transformative ideas shaping our future.

Get to know 2016 Featured Speakers – read our SXSW interviews.


2016 Confirmed Featured Speakers

  • J.J. Abrams and Andrew Jarecki – The creative forces behind Star Wars (Abrams) and The Jinx (Jarecki) talk about robots, murderers, and the relevance of the human factor in digital communications. (Future of Entertainment
  • Dirk Ahlborn – CEO of Hyperloop Transportations and JumpStartFund speaks about how crowdsourcing this massive transportation project will be the business model of the future.
  • General John R. Allen – PwC Senior Strategic Advisor, retired U.S. Marine Corps General, and former Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL shares his insights on the complexities of the ISIL struggle.
  • Jose Andres – The ThinkFoodGroup founder on what it means when indie, hip food culture goes mass.
    • Interviewed by Erin DeJesus – Reports Editor at Eater (SouthBites)
  • Jim Bankoff — Chairman and CEO of Vox Media creating the modern media company.
  • Jonah Berger – Best-selling author and professor at The Wharton School who will talk about his new book Invisible Influence.
  • Iris Bohnet – A behavioral economist who also serves as the director of the Harvard Kennedy School's Women and Public Policy Program, Bohnet offers a new perspective on how to achieve gender equality and how to redesign the way we work, live, and learn as outlined in her book, What Works.
  • Bonin Bough – Chief Media and eCommerce Officer at Mondelez explores slaying unicorns, hatching dragons and what the future of mobile messaging means for consumers and marketers alike.
  • Anthony Bourdain — CNN host and investor/editor-at-large at Roads & Kingdoms building digital media with a soul.
    • Interviewed by Nathan Thornburgh — CEO at Roads & Kingdoms (SouthBites)
  • Amber Venz Box — President and Co-founder of rewardStyle and LIKEtoKNOW.it revolutionizing fashion blogging. (SXstyle)
  • Rodney Brooks – Rethink Robotics founder, chairman and CTO talks robotics, AI and what's going to happen next.
    • Interviewed by Nick Thompson - Editor of newyorker.com
  • Ken Burns and Henry Louis Gates Jr. – The award-winning filmmaker and renowned scholar, respectively, discuss why race is critical to their understanding of America and their work and how as a nation we deal with race today. (SXgood)
  • Stewart Butterfield — Co-founder of Slack simplifying collaboration across your business.
  • Jean and Steve Case – A pioneer in making the Internet part of everyday life, on what's to come with The Third Wave (April 2016) of the Internet.
  • Pete Cashmore – Founder & CEO of Mashable Inc previewing the next decade in both media and technology.
  • Tracy Chou — Engineer at Pinterest quantifying tech's diversity issue.
  • Steve Chen – Co-founder of YouTube, talks about the future of interactive video and unveils his new product, nom.com.
  • Alex Chung — CEO of Giphy spearheading a vast visual search engine and new tool for self-expression.
  • Esteban Contreras — Director of Experience Design at Sprinklr covering identity and customer experience.
  • Frank Cooper – Chief Marketing Officer and chief creative officer of BuzzFeed on their global cross-platform network.
  • Ana Marie Cox and Rachel Sklar – In the twilight of the white male majority, the founding editor of Wonkette and founder of TheLi.st discuss the lingering problem of the modern-day bro in presidential (and other) politics.
  • Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice – The founders of SoulCycle on creating a movement and changing people's relationship with exercise.
  • Dr. Regina Dugan – A vice president of Engineering, Advanced Technology and Projects at Google, Dr. Dugan covers the discipline of innovation and making what we believe in.
  • Secretary Anthony Foxx — US Secretary of Transportation accelerating smart city innovation.
  • Jacquelline Fuller – Director of Google.org supporting education, development, disaster relief and clean energy through charitable giving. (SXgood)
  • John Hagel – As co-chairman of Deloitte LLP Center for the Edge, Hagel helps executives to anticipate big shifts and to turn mounting performance pressure into opportunities for value creation.
  • Ryan Hoover — Founder of Product Hunt defining what's cool in tech for investors and reporters.
  • Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro – A distinguished professor and an award-winning roboticist who has published over 300 articles in major robotics journals, Dr. Ishiguro tackles whether we can co-exist with androids.
  • Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer – Co-creators and stars of Comedy Central’s hit series Broad City on parlaying a web series into a TV phenom and mastering the art of the meme.
  • Jerry Kaplan – Futurist warning that while robots are poised to transform today’s society, the advances they offer could come at a price.
  • Kevin Kelly – Senior Maverick at Wired and author of The Inevitable, Kelly speaks on the twelve technological forces that will shape our future.
  • Maria KonnikovaThe New Yorker writer explains the power of stories for both good and evil, based on her much-anticipated new book, The Confidence Game.
  • Josh Kushner — Founder of Thrive Capital and co-founder of Oscar disrupting healthcare through tech, data and design.
  • Max Levchin – Learn about revolutionizing consumer finance from this PayPal co-founder and current CEO of Affirm.
  • Danny Meyer – The founder of Shake Shack and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group discusses the future of the restaurant world in the age of no-tipping.
    • In conversation with Adam Rapoport – Editor-in-Chief of Bon Appétit (SouthBites)
  • Julie Anne Quay and Elliot Tebele — The founders of VFILES, and Founder of FuckJerry, respectively, will discuss how their companies have found success using digital, multi-platform approaches. (Future of Entertainment)
  • Gretchen Rubin — Author of Better than Before on mastering the habits of our everyday lives.
  • Douglas Rushkoff — Author of forthcoming book Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus revealing how the digital economy enslaves us all, and how it can still set us free.
  • Adam Silver — Commissioner of the National Basketball Association discussing how one of the top professional sports leagues in the world continues to innovate and embrace change. (SXsports)
  • Megan Smith – United States Chief Technology Officer joined by technologists and innovators transforming government.
  • Brian Solis – Author of the new best-seller, X: The Experiences When Business Meets Design, shares his insights about what makes an experience “an experience,” ways our favorite brands invest in experiences and how to become an experience architect in all you do.
  • Biz Stone – Co-founder of Twitter, Medium and Jelly covers the evolution of search, networks and unlocking the value of combining humanity with technology.
    • In conversation with Danny Sullivan – Founding editor of Search Engine Land, covering Search for two decades.
  • Halle Tecco – Founder & CEO of Rock Health, a full-service seed fund for digital health companies.
  • Maria Teresa Kumar — President and CEO of Voto Latino empowering a generation of young voters. (SXgood)
  • Josh Tetrick – Founder and CEO of Hampton Creek, the world's fastest growing food company, discusses starting over in food.
    • Interviewed by Andrew Zimmern – Travel Channel producer and host, author and chef. (SouthBites)
  • John Underkoffler — CEO of Oblong Industries creating the next generation of computing interfaces.
  • Chris Urmson – Director of Google's self-driving car project reviews the process of getting autonomous vehicles ready for the road.
  • Gary Vaynerchuk – VaynerMedia CEO, social media expert and three-time New York Times best-selling author brings his new #AskGaryVee book to life with uncensored answers to any and all audience questions.
  • Jimmy Wales — Founder of Wikipedia.
  • Kerry Washington – Actress, philanthropist harnessing the power of social media to promote not only her career, hit TV Show Scandal, but also positivity, and social good.
  • Emily Weiss – Founder & CEO of Glossier, explaining how the "self sells" movement in the beauty industry can help inform a variety of entrepreneurial ventures. (SXstyle)
  • Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss – Co-founders of Gemini, a next generation bitcoin exchange, discuss virtual currency and the future of money.
  • Maxine Williams — Global Director of Diversity for Facebook sharing how influencers and individuals can drive more diversity in tech. (SXgood)

Featured Sessions

  • Direct from the Source: Athletes Unfiltered (SXsports)

    • Odell Beckham Jr. - NFL Player, New York Giants
    • Maverick Carter - CEO, Uninterrupted
    • Rory Brown - Chief Content Officer, Bleacher Report
  • New Face, New Pace: Innovation Beyond 2016Moderated by Michelle K. Lee, the first woman to head the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, who returns to Austin to share her vision on bolstering the innovator ecosystem. Also featured on this session:

    • Jessica Matthews – Co-Founder and CEO of Uncharted Play
    • Jessica Richman – Co-Founder and CEO of uBiome
    • Sonia Sousa – Co-founder and CEO of Kenzen
  • How to Ask for Money: Know Your Worth, Get PaidModerated by Leah ChernikoffEditor of ELLE.com

    • Kimberly Bryant — Founder and Executive Director of Black Girls CODE leading a movement to “change the face of technology”
    • Jane Park — Founder & CEO of Julep Beauty bringing women together to give them a voice in beauty
    • Danae Ringelmann — Chief Development Officer and Co-founder at Indiegogo democratizing funding and empowering entrepreneurs
  • In the Dugout: The Team from Everybody Wants SomeModerated by Ben Lyons, host at The Players’ Tribune (SXsports)

    • Richard Linklater – Writer/director, Everybody Wants Some
    • Tyler Hoechlin – Actor & former collegiate athlete, Everybody Wants Some
    • Rick Keeler – College baseball teammate of Richard Linklater
  • It’s Not About an iPhone: Fixing the Encryption MessModerated by Kayla Tausche

    • Michael Slaby – Obama admin advisor and Head of Mission at Timshel
    • Charles Henderson – IBM’s global threat head
    • Misha Govshteyn – corporate security expert and Chief Strategy Officer at Alert Logic
  • Mr. Robot: Sam Esmail, Rami Malek, and Christian Slater – Creator and actors of the summer TV hit show and 2015 SXSW Film Festival alum, Mr. Robot. (Future of Entertainment)

    • Sam Esmail – Creator and producer of USA hit show Mr. Robot
    • Rami Malek – Actor of USA hit show Mr. Robot
    • Christian Slater – Actor of USA hit show Mr. Robot
  • Smartertainment: Bushnells on the Future of Fun – A power panel on the smart, immersive, networked future of entertainment, anchored by Nolan Bushnell, the father of gaming, founder of Atari, Chuck-E-Cheese and Brain Rush. (Future of Entertainment)

    • Alissa Bushnell – 104 West PR
    • Brent Bushnell – CEO of Two Bit Circus
    • Nancy Bennett – Chief Content Officer and Head of Virtual Reality at Two Bit Circus

Opening & Closing Remarks

  • Opening Remarks: Jonah Berger — World renowned expert on word of mouth, author and Professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Closing Remarks: Bruce Sterling — World traveler, science fiction author, journalist, and future-focused design critic.



Bill Gurley and Malcolm Gladwell at SXSW Interactive 2015

2015 Programming Highlights

  • Art, Science and Inspiration: origins of innovation with US CTO Megan Smith
  • Branding and Marketing: shifts in the digital media consumption with Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore
  • Design and Development: design trends in technology with KPCB’s Design Partner, John Maeda
  • Content and Distribution: growth of messaging apps with Yik Yak’s founders Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll
  • Gaming: tips for preserving creative control with The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman
  • Global Impact and Policy: diversity and inclusion initiatives in tech with Reverend Jesse Jackson
  • Health and Medtech: democratizing medicine with Dr. Eric Topol, author of The Patient Will See You Now
  • Entertainment and Immersion: comedy in politics with VEEP star Julia Louis-Dreyfus
  • Fashion and Wearable Tech: retail innovation with Rent the Runway CEO Jennifer Hyman
  • Food and Experiential Diving: marriage of tech and food with Momofuku founder David Chang
  • Intelligent Future: opportunities for consumer robots with JIBO founder Cynthia Breazeal
  • Social and Privacy: extremist use of social media with J.M. Berger, co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror
  • Startup Village and Business: building a billion dollar business with The Honest Company founder Jessica Alba
  • SXsports: paving the way for female fighters with UFC Women’s Bantamanweight Champion Ronda Rousey
  • Work and Career: actionable tips for behavior change with Daniel Pink, author of Drive

2015 Video Content

2016 Featured Speakers from left to right: Jacquelline Fuller, Kerry Washington, Anthony Foxx, Esteban Contreras, Anthony Bourdain, Pete Cashmore, Tracy Chou, Maxine Williams.
2015 Featured Session with Bill Gurley and Malcolm Gladwell. Photo by Amanda Stronza