Powerful speakers with unparalleled minds and ideas are the center of the SXSW Interactive Festival. In that spirit, at the crux of each day's programming is an hour-long Keynote presentation. These presentations take the form of either a solo talk, an interview, or a conversation between two individuals from 2:00-3:00pm in the Austin Convention Center each day of the event. While the topics of Keynote presentations vary, all bring to the stage some of the industry's most inspired thinkers.
Stay tuned to this page for additional upcoming Keynote announcements
March 11, 2016 Opening Keynote: Casey Gerald
“So there we were, staring at each other thru misty eyes as we watched our baby, our dream, our idea die before it even had a chance to live. But just before we pulled the plug…we decided to join the long procession of young kids, with crazy ideas who were told by some authority that they couldn’t do what they wanted. We said fuck it. We’ll do it anyway.”
And with that Casey Gerald became the co-founder and CEO of MBAs Across America, a national movement of MBAs and entrepreneurs working together to revitalize America. A native Texan, Gerald received an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a BA in Political Science from Yale College, where he was a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship. Named one of the “Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company he has emerged as an influential voice on the awakening that is changing business and society — making purpose the new bottom line in our lives and work.
Gerald began his career in economic policy and government innovation at the Center for American Progress, and has worked as a strategist with startup social ventures such as The Future Project, as well as companies like The Neiman Marcus Group. He serves on the advisory boards of the Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project and NPR’s Generation Listen while also being featured on MSNBC, in the New York Times, Financial Times and The Guardian.
His Harvard Business School commencement speech hit a nerve online and began a larger conversation around his ideas and work. Gerald argues that there is a new playbook for change. That doing good over doing well will wake a dying world from it’s slumber and bring about a recalibration driven by creativity and the people who practice it. In short, it's time to give a damn. Join us Friday March 11 for 2016 Casey Gerald's Opening Keynote and leave inspired to change your world.
March 11, 2016: President Barack Obama
SXSW is honored to announce President Barack Obama will appear as part of a Keynote Conversation at SXSW Interactive on Friday, March 11 and First Lady Michelle Obama will be the Opening Keynote at SXSW Music on Wednesday, March 16. This marks the first time in the 30-year history of SXSW that a sitting President and the First Lady have participated in the event.
On Friday, March 11, President Obama will sit down with Evan Smith, CEO / Editor in Chief of The Texas Tribune, for a conversation about civic engagement in the 21st Century before an audience of creators, early adopters and entrepreneurs who are defining the future of our connected lives. The President will call on the audience to apply their ideas and talents to make technology work for us – especially when it comes to tackling big challenges like increasing participation in the political process and fighting climate change.
March 12, 2016: Dr. Brené Brown
The author of three #1 New York Times Bestsellers (Rising Strong, Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection), Dr. Brené Brown joins the SXSW Interactive Keynote lineup. She will speak on Saturday, March 12 at 2:00 pm.
In addition to her very successful career as a writer, Brown is the Founder and CEO for The Daring Way and COURAGEworks — an online learning community that offers eCourses, workshops, and interviews for individuals and organizations ready for braver living, loving, and leading. Her 2010 TEDx Houston talk, "The Power of Vulnerability," is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world with over 25 million viewers.
Brown’s participation highlights the ongoing theme of empowerment through education at the SXSW Interactive Festival.
On Sunday, March 13 at 2:00pm, Michele Madansky and Trae Vassallo will deliver a Keynote conversation about gender disparity in the tech industry. Much of this presentation will be based on findings from their recent “Elephant in the Valley” survey, which charts gender bias at the C-Suite level in many of the tech industry’s more prominent companies.
Joining this Sunday, March 13 Keynote Conversation will be Laura Weidman Powers, the co-founder and CEO of CODE2040, a nonprofit that creates pathways to success in the innovation economy for Blacks and Latino/as. She brings to this work a background in entrepreneurship, nonprofit management, youth development, and technology. Powers has started two organizations in the education space, one nonprofit arts education organization in West Philadelphia that is currently celebrating its 10th year, and one for-profit tutoring company that gave rise to a book.
In addition to Laura Weidman Powers, United States Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith will also join the Sunday, March 13 Keynote Conversation. For her part of the discussion, Smith will cover the various Obama Administration initiatives to combat this problem of gender disparity in the tech industry, including initiatives like inclusive entrepreneurship with the White House Demo Day, the President’s TechHire effort, and K-12 Computer Science for All.
March 14, 2016: Kevin Plank
Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of Under Armour, will take the stage to talk about how Under Armour plans to revolutionize and fundamentally change global health and technology.
Plank bootstrapped Under Armour from his grandmother’s basement in 1995. Twenty years later, he’s running the world’s most innovative performance apparel, footwear, and equipment company and overseeing a global workforce of 14,000 employees with total revenues of nearly $4 billion.
Two years ago, Under Armour acquired local Austin startup MapMyFitness, followed by Endomondo and MyFitnessPal. Together they became part of the Under Armour Connected Fitness Platform, powering the world’s largest digital health and fitness community through a suite of applications dedicated to help athletes everywhere lead healthier lives. Under Armour now has over 160 million users with thousands joining every day.
Most recently, in January, Under Armour unveiled their newest product, UA HealthBox. A $400 kit that provides a scale, activity tracker and measures heart rate. As mentioned in Wired, “the company is also updating Record, its mobile app, making it a 24/7 real-time barometer of your fitness and health. These tools, combined with three apps Under Armour has purchased in recent years, provide the most comprehensive ecosystem of fitness products made yet.”
Plank's Keynote reflects the strong emphasis on health and medtech innovation at the 2016 SXSW Interactive Festival. Beyond the March 14 Keynote, much of the programming on this topic will occur as part of the Health & MedTech Track and the SX Health & MedTech Expo which will be hosted at the JW Marriott.
March 15, 2016 Closing Keynote: Andy Puddicombe
For 2016, SXSW Interactive is excited to have Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe deliver the Closing Keynote. A former Buddhist monk turned entrepreneur, Puddicombe will tell us how the award-winning digital health platform is transforming lives worldwide. From the stereotypical stressed techy to a managing editor of a high-end retail magazine to even an Olympic medalist, Puddicombe’s mission is to bring calm through meditation to the masses.
Headspace describes itself as the “gym membership for the mind” and is nothing like the conventional meditation we are most familiar with. The meditation techniques created for this platform are much more simple and made available to you via a website and mobile app.
Join us on Tuesday, March 15 to hear Andy Puddicombe discuss how he wants to help everyone become less stressed, more focused and possess an overall clearer mind; and, how science and technology will make it happen. We can’t think of a better way to unwind after five full days of inspiring sessions and networking.
Previous Keynotes at SXSW Interactive have included Elon Musk, Ray Kurzweil, Daniel Ek, Felicia Day, Bruce Sterling, Nate Silver, Mark Zuckerberg, Ev Williams, Jennifer Pahlka, Mark Cuban, Amber Case, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Adam Savage, Chelsea Clinton and many other luminaries. Click here for a full list of all Keynote speakers dating back to the first year of the event in 1994.
You can also watch videos from 2013–2015 Keynotes below.
Videos from 2015 Keynote Sessions
- Curious Bridges: How Designers Grow the Future | Paola Antonelli
- Mission to Empower Saudi Women | Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al-Saud
- AI, Immortality and the Future of Selves | Martine Rothblatt
- Fixing Transportation with Humanity and Technology | Logan Green
- Moonshots and Reality | Astro Teller
Videos from 2014 Keynote Sessions
- Show Your Work! | Austin Kleon
- A Conversation with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson | Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson
- The Future of Genetics in Our Everyday Lives | Anne Wojcicki
- A Maker Age: Enlightened Views on Science & Art | Adam Savage
- Harnessing the Power of Tech and Data for Development | Chelsea Clinton
Videos from 2013 Keynote Sessions
- Preaching the 3D Gospel | Bre Pettis
- Mars and Beyond | Elon Musk
- How to Be More Creative | Tina Roth Eisenberg
- Challenges in Crowdfunding | Julie Uhrman
- The Oatmeal Loves You | Matthew Inman
2015 Keynote Martine Rothblatt. Photo by James Goulden
Casey Gerald: 2016 Opening Interactive Keynote. Photo by: Joãc Canziani
Andy Puddicombe: 2016 Closing Intearctive Keynote. Photo courtesy of speaker