Featured Speakers

Looking for mind-expanding presentations by industry leaders? SXSW Conference Featured Speakers bring together some of the biggest and brightest names of our time.

Featured Speakers

J.J. Abrams and Andrew Jarecki's featured session "The Eyes of Robots and Murderers" at SXSW 2016. Photo by Andy Nietupski.

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About Featured Speakers


SXSW Conference speakers come from all over the globe. When you attend the many workshops, conversations, and panels at the event, expect to hear from technology industry experts, filmmakers, artists, music supervisors, actors, publicists, legends, journalists, and much, much more.

Across the various themes and trends at SXSW, Featured Speakers and Featured Sessions present a snapshot of the most transformative ideas shaping our future. Stay tuned to SXSW News for more announcements throughout the season.

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2017 Featured Speaker Lineup


Featured Speaker sessions bring together some of the biggest and brightest names of our time for mind-expanding presentations. Learn more about our 2017 lineup of confirmed speakers below.

Anthony Bossis (Health) – Dr. Anthony Bossis is a clinical psychologist and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, and an investigator in FDA-approved psilocybin-generated mystical experience research.

Amber Venz Box (Style Track) – Co-Founder and President of rewardStyle and the cross-channel consumer shopping service, LIKEtoKNOW.it.

Vint Cerf interviewed by Susan Hassler (Intelligent Future) – Chief Internet Evangelist for Google and Co-Founder of People-Centered Internet, Vint Cerf, will be in conversation with IEEE Spectrum Editor-in-Chief, Susan Hassler.

Dr. Robert Cialdini interviewed by Guy Kawasaki (Brands & Marketing – Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of the groundbreaking book, Influence, and president of INFLUENCE AT WORK will be in conversation with Guy Kawasaki, chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool.

Scott Cook and Robert Herjavec (Startup Village) – Scott Cook, Founder and Chairman of Intuit, will be in conversation with Robert Herjavec, dynamic entrepreneur and a leading Shark on ABC’s Shark Tank.

Kate Crawford (Intelligent Future Track) – Leading researcher, academic, and author who works on the social implications of data, machine learning, and AI. In 2016, she co-chaired the White House symposium AI Now, and wrote about AI and discrimination in The New York Times.

Paul Dillinger and Dr. Ivan Poupyrev for Project Jacquard (Style) – Paul Dillinger, Vice President of Global Product Innovation at Levi Strauss & Co., will be in conversation with Dr. Ivan Poupyrev, an award winning scientist, inventor, and designer working at the cutting edge of interactive design and technologies blending the digital and physical realities.

Gregory F. Fenves in conversation with Bob Metcalfe (Startup Village) – Greg Fenves, President of The University of Texas at Austin, will be in conversation with internet pioneer and Ethernet inventor, Bob Metcalfe.

Bill Ford & Doug Newcomb (Intelligent Future Track) – As Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company, William Clay Ford Jr. is leading the company that put the world on wheels into the 21st century. He joined the Board of Directors in 1988 and has been its chairman since January 1999. In August, Ford Motor Company announced plans to mass produce a line of self-driving vehicles by 2021. Ford will be in conversation with C3 Group President and Co-founder Doug Newcomb, a respected journalist who has covered automotive technology for nearly three decades (Forbes, Wired, Popular Mechanics, Automotive, etc. ) and is a leading authority on connected car and mobility.

Kathryn Hahn (Entertainment Influencers) – One of Hollywood’s most sought after actresses for her versatility, Hahn can currently be seen in Jill Soloway’s new comedy pilot I Love Dick, and on Season 3 of Soloway’s Emmy Nominated Amazon original series Transparent.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs (Entertainment Influencers Track) – President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences serving her fourth term. She has represented the Public Relations Branch as a governor for 24 years. She produced the Academy’s 2012 4th Annual Governors Awards.

Marc Jacobs interviewed by Sally Singer (Style) – Design icon Marc Jacobs has stores across the globe featuring Women’s and Men’s RTW and accessories, a children’s line called Little Marc Jacobs, multiple award-winning fragrances, the bookstore Bookmarc, and most recently Marc Jacobs Beauty. Marc Jacobs will be in conversation with Sally Singer, Creative Digital Director of Vogue.

Mary Lou Jepsen (Health Track) – Founder and Chairman of Openwater, whose goal is MRI resolution imaging in a wearable, previously co-founded One Laptop per Child and held executive roles at Facebook, Oculus, Intel, and Google [x].

Earvin “Magic” Johnson (Sports Track) – NBA legend, professional sports team owner, entrepreneur, philanthropist, motivational speaker and Chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises.

Parag Khanna (Intelligent Future Track) –Leading global strategist, world traveler, and best-selling author. He is a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre on Asia and Globalisation at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

Dan Lyons (Tech Industry Track) – Author of the New York Times best-seller, Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble, and a former writer on HBO’s Silicon Valley.

Candice Morgan (Workplace Track) – Head of Diversity at Pinterest, leading strategy and programs to enhance diversity and inclusion.

Kimbal Musk (Food Track) – On the boards of Chipotle, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX. His personal mission is to strengthen communities through food. Musk is a cofounder of The Kitchen, a growing family of restaurants that sources directly from local farmers.

Peggy Orenstein (Social Impact Track) – Author of The New York Times best-sellers Girls & Sex, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, and Waiting for Daisy among others. She has written for dozens of prestigious magazines and newspapers, with her articles anthologies many times.

Randall Poster (Making Film & Episodics Track) – Renowned music supervisor, perhaps best known for his long-term collaboration with director Wes Anderson, as well as directors including Harmony Korine, Todd Haynes, Richard Linklater, Todd Phillips, Martin Scorsese, and Sam Mendes.

Vivek Ranadivé (Sports Track) – Entrepreneur, technology visionary, The New York Times best-selling author and philanthropist, Ranadivé is recognized for his outside-the-box thinking. He is the owner and chairman of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

Rachael Ray (Music Influencers Track) – Television host, best-selling author and Austin enthusiast, Rachael Ray, has hosted two annual Feedback food and music events in Austin during SXSW for the last 9 years which have played host to the likes of The Districts, J. Roddy Walston & The Business, Shovels & Rope, JEFF The Brotherhood, Blondie, Raekwon, and over 150 others.

Dennis Robinson and Rabia Choudry (Social Impact) – Dennis Robinson is a career soldier, attorney, and podcaster with a lifelong commitment to national defense, veterans advocacy and social justice. Rabia Chaudry is a wife, mother, attorney, and currently a Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at U.S. Institute of Peace, where she researches the intersection of religion and violent extremism in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Will Roper interviewed by Nick Thompson (Government) – Will Roper, Director of the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), will be interviewed by Nicholas Thompson, Editor of newyorker.com.

Adam Savage – Internationally renowned television producer, host, maker and public speaker.

Alan and Sarah Schaaf interviewed by James Ledbetter (Tech Industry) – Alan Schaaf, Founder and CEO of Imgur, an image-sharing community, and Sarah Schaaf, Director of Community at Imgur, will be interviewed by James Ledbetter, Editor of Inc. magazine and Inc.com.

Thad Starner (Intelligent Future) – Thad Starner is the Technical Lead of Google Glass, Director of Contextual Computing Groupat Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, and Georgia Tech
Chair of the IEEE International Symposium on Wearable Computing.

Nadya Tolokonnikova (Music Influencers Track) – Russian conceptual artist, political activist and member of punk rock group Pussy Riot.

Ingrid Vanderveldt (Startup Village Track) – Self-made businesswoman, investor and media personality, Founder & CEO of Empowering a Billion Women by 2020.

Gary Vaynerchuk (Tech Industry Track) – Entrepreneur, investor, four-time New York Times best-selling author, and CEO of VaynerMedia.

Padmasree Warrior (Intelligent Future) – Chief Executive Officer of NextEV, U.S., Warrior also serves as the Chief Development Officer of NextEV, as well as a member of its Board of Directors. Forbes has named her one of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” for three years running.

Chris White (Intelligent Future) – Chris White is a Principal Researcher and Partner at Microsoft working on special projects. Prior to joining Microsoft, Chris was a Program Manager developing advanced technologies for data science and leading President Obama’s Big Data Initiative at DARPA.

Whitney Wolfe (Intelligent Future) – CEO and Founder of Bumble, a social discovery app with a unique twist: encouraging women to make the first move. Using a modern day Sadie Hawkins concept, Bumble creates a selective and meaningful environment for connecting with and discovering new people.

All speakers subject to change.

2017 Featured Sessions


These high-profile sessions present the key leaders and top trends impacting the SXSW community. Browse a snapshot of Featured Sessions below and explore the online SXSW Schedule for our full lineup.

“Elephant on Madison Avenue” (Workplace) – In a follow up to the SXSW 2016 Elephant in the Valley Keynote, the Elephant on Madison Avenue Featured Session will discuss sexual harassment and gender bias in the advertising industry and how it compares to tech.

Panelists: Michele Madansky, Michele Madansky Consulting; Lisen Stromberg, CEO and Founder of PrismWork; and Leslie Wingo, President and CEO SandersWingo

“Collaborative Innovation in the Digital Health Age” (Health) – Personalized medicine. Artificial intelligence. Cognitive computing. In our increasingly interconnected world, the future of healthcare can at times read more like a Gene Roddenberry story than, well, the future. Join consumer wellness and big data giants as they discuss cross-industry partnerships and the convergence of health and IT that’s delivering improved health outcomes and transforming the patient experience.

Panelists: Alex Gorsky, Chairman & CEO of Johnson & Johnson; Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President & CEO of IBM Corporation; and Clay Johnston, Dean at Dell Medical School, moderator.

“How to Make Art, Pay the Rent, and Survive Piracy” (Film & TV Industry Track) –Very few artists – be they musicians, filmmakers, show-runners, photographers, or novelists – aspire to create one piece of art, release it out into the world, and call it a day. Most artists view each and every project as one step in a life-long journey of creative expression – and hope to actually make a living from their art. For that reason, creativity and the protection of creative works are inextricably connected. In this panel, established filmmakers and show-runners will talk to you about building a career in the arts by determining how your works are distributed.

Panelists: Academy Award-winning film producer and CEO of Valhalla Entertainment Gale Anne Hurd; Academy Award-nominated film producer and the Founder and President of FilmColony Richard Gladstein; and CEO of CreativeFuture Ruth Vitale.

“Is Government Disrupting Disruption?” – Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb are a few of many companies whose business models have been challenged by government regulation of late, and it’s shaking up daily lives (notably so here in SXSW’s hometown of Austin, which Uber and Lyft left in May). Car insurance comparison marketplace, The Zebra, disrupted a highly regulated industry. Panelists will explore working with and against government regulation (particularly in marketplaces such as travel, ticketing, and now insurance), and current and future hurdles.

Panelists: Mark Cuban, Entrepreneur and Investor; Adam Lyons, CEO, The Zebra; and Michele Skelding, Senior Vice President Global Technology and Innovation, Austin Chamber of Commerce, moderator.

“Product Mavericks: Top Tips From Women Who Build” – From leading video on Facebook to the CTO for the first woman presidential candidate, there’s no question that there are a group of female leaders taking over in the space of product development and they’ve without a doubt made it to the top. Hear from the women who are defying the numbers, building the products we’re all using each and every day, and are both figuratively and physically shaping our future.

Panelists: Fidji Simo (Facebook), Tali Rapaport (Lyft), Stephanie Hannon (Hillary for America), and Merci Grace (Slack).

“Shake Up the Industry by Entertaining with Empathy” (Entertainment Influencers Track) – Wayfarer Entertainment, founded by actor/entrepreneur Justin Baldoni, creates purpose-driven TV and digital content to elevate the human experience. Wayfarer’s mission is use visual storytelling that can inspire audiences to change the world. With Rainn Wilson’s SoulPancake, a company whose mission it is to also open your heart and make you think, both companies use visual storytelling to stir the soul and inspire us to do more. Panelists Justin and Rainn will explain that these projects provide an opportunity for people to rethink the industry. The panelists will explain that giving back is a responsibility for us all and how we can start now, using influence and business acumen.

Panelists: Justin Baldoni (Wayfarer Entertainment) and Rainn Wilson (SoulPancake).

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