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.

2019 Featured Speakers

2018 Featured Speakers Bozoma Saint John & Jo Ling Kent – Photo by Kaylin Balderrama

2018 Featured Speakers Bozoma Saint John & Jo Ling Kent – Photo by Kaylin Balderrama

About Featured Speakers


Across the various themes and trends at SXSW, Featured Speakers present a snapshot of the most transformative ideas shaping our future.

Browse 2019 Featured Speakers below and for more influential speakers at SXSW, also browse the Keynotes page.

Stay tuned for more 2019 SXSW programming announcements throughout the season on SXSW News.

2019 Featured Speakers


Activism, Do It for the Culture Featured Session (Social & Global Impact) — Since 2016, “We the People” has taken on a renewed, urgent importance — mass protest and action have led to the rise of “the resistance” and catapulted the American Civil Liberties Union’s mission into the daily national conversation. With millions of new members, exponential growth in donations, and volunteers pouring in all across the country, the ACLU is facing a new challenge: How do you take an established organization about to turn 100 years old — the same organization that championed political freedom in 1920 — and make sure it’s nimble enough for the civil rights and civil liberties fights of today? Hear from Anthony Romero (Executive Director, ACLU) in conversation with Sasheer Zamata (comedian, actress and writer) and Ike Barinholtz (comedian, actor, writer, and director) to learn how we can all use our platforms for social good. (All speakers subject to change.)

Blockchain Deathmatch: Permission-ed vs -less Session Featured Session (Blockchain & Cryptocurrency) — Join Christopher Ferris (CTO Open Technology, IBM), Neha Narula (Director of Digital Currency, MIT Media Lab), Jimmy Song (Bitcoin Developer, Programming Blockchain), and moderator Cesare Fracassi (Professor of Finance, University of Texas at Austin) for a conversation about permissioned (private) blockchains and permissionless (public) blockchains.

Building Trust in Distrustful Times Featured Session (Social & Global Impact) — According to the Edelman Trust Barometer trust in media, business, and government are at an all-time low. We have never believed less, agreed less, or trusted less. Yet, building trust, and developing the community that surrounds it, remains imperative for any art project, online influencer, startup or brand. So what are the new ways to build trust and community online in an era of mistrust? Hear from those who have done it and are doing it. What works? What doesn’t? And how do we figure out who to really believe and rally behind? Join PostSecret founder Frank Warren and New York Times bestselling author Neil Pasricha as they answer these questions.

Scott Belsky (Design) — Scott Belsky is an executive, entrepreneur, author, and investor who now serves as Adobe’s Chief Product Officer. Belsky’s passion is to make the creative world more productive, connected, and adaptive to new technologies. He founded Behance, the leading online platform for the creative industry to showcase and discover creative work, and served as CEO until Adobe acquired Behance in 2012.

Jason Blum with John Pierson (Entertainment Influencers) — In 1993, John Pierson — a big shot who helped launch a number of first time American independent filmmakers including Spike Lee, Michael Moore, Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith, Rose Troche and Guin Turner — met Jason Blum, a kid fresh out of college, when they worked on a forgotten feature called My Life’s In Turnaround together. 25 years later, Jason and his company Blumhouse Productions have conquered the universe. Blum is a two-time Academy Award-nominated and two-time Emmy and Peabody Award-winning producer. His multi-media company is known for pioneering a new model of studio filmmaking: producing high-quality micro-budget films. How the hell did he get from there to here and how do these two view that evolution?

Sandy Carter and Kathy Klotz-Guest (Tech Industry & Enterprise) — Sandy Carter is VP at Amazon Web Services (AWS), focused on helping companies to innovate using technology. Carter is the Chairman of the Board of Girls in Tech and was honored twice with the AIT United Nations Member of the Year award for helping developing countries with technology. Kathy Klotz-Guest is the CEO and Founder of Keeping it Human.

Steve DeAngelo (Cannabusiness) — Steve DeAngelo is a pioneering lifelong cannabis entrepreneur, activist, author, and on-screen personality. He co-founded several iconic cannabis businesses and organizations: Harborside, Steep Hill Laboratory, the Arc View Group, and the National Cannabis Industry Association. DeAngelo’s creative projects include his book The Cannabis Manifesto and a Discovery Channel mini-series Weed Wars. He was a lead organizer and fundraiser for I-59, Washington DC’s medical cannabis initiative, and is famed for his successful litigation against the Department of Justice, which halted DOJ’s last-ditch 2011 campaign to shut down California’s medical cannabis dispensaries.

Cindy Eckert (Health & MedTech) — Cindy Eckert is the Founder and CEO of The Pink Ceiling. Eckert’s work today continues to break barriers by mentoring and investing in other women to get to her same outcomes. Over a distinguished 24-year career in healthcare, in only the last 10 she has started and sold two businesses for more than $1.5B. First Slate Pharmaceuticals, which redefined long-acting testosterone treatment for men; then Sprout Pharmaceuticals, home of the first ever FDA-approved drug for low sexual desire in women (dubbed “female Viagra” by the media). After selling the company for $1B in 2015, she successfully fought to get the drug back and launch it on her own terms. The profoundly positive impact those companies have made in people’s lives is what keeps her coming back for more.

Susan Fowler (Tech Industry & Enterprise) — Susan Fowler is the Technology Editor of the New York Times Opinion section as well as a central figure in the #MeToo movement. Named Time magazine’s Person of the Year 2017 as one of the silence breakers, Fowler is the former Uber engineer whose viral blog post ignited an ongoing, worldwide conversation. The Financial Times named her Person of the Year as well — her actions, the paper writes, hold “the potential to improve the way women are treated at work permanently.” That’s Fowler’s public narrative so far. But her personal story — a homeschooled science nerd, a successful woman in STEM against incredible odds — is equally fascinating. She tackles a variety of topics in uplifting talks, including how regular people can effect positive change on a global and personal scale.

Ross Golan (Making & Marketing Music) — Ross Golan is a multi-platinum songwriter, artist, and advocate. He studied music at the University of Southern California and has since released songs with artists including Maroon 5, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, Lady Antebellum, Michael Bublé, Selena Gomez, Keith Urban, Ariana Grande, Flo Rida, and One Direction, amongst many others. Golan has been the leading voice in passing the Music Modernization Act alongside NSAI, Sona, and NMPA. He’s currently signed to Warner Chappell Music.

Bjarke Ingels (Design) — Bjarke Ingels is the founder of BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group). Ingels defines architecture as the art and science of making sure our cities and buildings fit with the way we want to live our lives. Through careful analysis of various parameters from local culture and climate, ever changing patterns of contemporary life, to the ebbs and flows of the global economy, Ingels believes in the idea of information-driven design as the driving force for his design process. Named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time magazine in 2016, Bjarke has designed and completed award-winning buildings around the world.

Valerie Jarrett (Cities, Government & Politics) — Valerie Jarrett was the longest serving senior adviser to President Barack Obama. She oversaw the Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs and chaired the White House Council on Women and Girls. Jarrett has received numerous awards and honorary degrees, including Time’s “100 Most Influential People.” She is currently a senior adviser to the Obama Foundation and Attn; serves on the boards of Ariel Capital Management Holdings, 2U, and Lyft; is President of the Board of When We All Vote; a senior distinguished fellow at the University of Chicago Law School; and author of the upcoming book Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward.

Wyclef Jean (Music Industry & Culture) — Wyclef Jean has written, performed, and produced — both as a solo superstar and as founder and guiding member of the Fugees — for over two decades. In 1996, the Fugees released their monumental album The Score. As a solo artist, Wyclef has released seven albums that have sold nearly nine million copies worldwide. Wyclef is currently working on a new project, Wyclef Goes Back to School, which is a collaboration with students he met while touring the United States and visiting colleges across the country.

Austin Kleon (Design) — Austin Kleon is the New York Times bestselling author of three illustrated books: Steal Like An Artist; Newspaper Blackout; and Show Your Work! His forthcoming book, Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad is set to release this spring. His work has been translated into over twenty languages and featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, PBS Newshour, and in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Eric Klinenberg (Cities, Government & Politics) — Eric Klinenberg is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. A prolific author and editor of Cultural Production in a Digital Age and the journal Public Culture, his scholarly work has been published in journals including the American Sociological Review; Theory & Society; and Ethnography, and he has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and more.

The Legacy of Apollo and the Next Giant Leap Featured Session (Intelligent Future) — The Apollo missions are arguably the most significant technological and exploration achievements the world has ever witnessed. Even though the space program was born out of the space race, what came out of Apollo was far more positive. As we come upon the 50th Anniversary of the first moon landing on Apollo 11, this session will look to the future of human space exploration. Join Gen. Charlie Duke (Apollo 16 astronaut and moon walker), Gerry Griffin (Former NASA Flight Director on Apollo missions), Vanessa E. Wyche (Deputy Director of the NASA Johnson Space Center), and Bobak Ferdowsi (Fault Protection Lead for the joint NASA-ISRO mission at NASA JPL) as they discuss the obstacles that had to be overcome in order to reach the moon, the future return to the moon and the new horizon of Mars, and how exploring space can help make life better on Earth.

Localizing Food to Restore Human Health Featured Session (Food) — Join Matt Barnard (Co-founder and CEO of Plenty), Dominique Crenn (award-winning chef and author), and Mark Bittman (bestselling author) as they discuss the growing health impacts of homogenized foods and the democratization of access to the pure, clean food and flavors of our ancestors, bringing culture back to our tables, habits back to our cooking, and health back to humanity.

Amanda Palmer (Making & Marketing Music) — Amanda Palmer is a singer, songwriter, playwright, pianist, and blogger who embraces and explodes traditional frameworks of music, theatre, and art. She emerged as half of the Boston­-based punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls, earning global applause for their wide­-ranging theatricality and inventive song craft. Her solo career has proven equally boundless, including such groundbreaking works as the fan­-funded Theatre Is Evil. Palmer is again joining forces with producer John Congleton to release her first solo album in seven years in Spring 2019.

Eli Pariser (Social & Global Impact) — Eli Pariser has dedicated his career — as an author, an online organizer, and a co-founder of Upworthy — to figuring out how technology can elevate important topics in the world. Currently, Pariser is an Omidyar Fellow at the New America Foundation, studying how platforms can effectively promote civic good.

Ari Paul, Kyle Samani, Linda Xie with Robert Hackett (Blockchain & Cryptocurrency) — Join Kyle Samani (Managing Partner, Multicoin Capital), Linda Xie (Managing Director, Scalar Capital), Ari Paul (CIO, Blocktower), and moderator Robert Hackett (Editor, Fortune) for a conversation with managers from Scalar Capital, BlockTower, and Multicoin Capital as they elucidate their investment approaches and predict the future of blockchain for users around the world.

Michael Pollan (Health & MedTech) — Michael Pollan is the author of eight books, including most recently How to Change Your Mind, a number one New York Times Bestseller. Previous books include The Omnivore’s Dilemma; The Botany of Desire; and In Defense of Food. Pollan teaches journalism at Berkeley and Harvard. In 2010, Time magazine named him to its list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Douglas Rushkoff (Intelligent Future) — Douglas Rushkoff is a media theorist, author, documentarian, and world-renowned public intellectual. Rushkoff has spent his prolific career thinking about how new media and technology are impacting culture, business, and the economy. Named one of the world’s 10 most influential thinkers by MIT, Rushkoff has written 15 bestselling books and coined such concepts as “viral media,” “social currency,” and “digital natives.”

Zoe Saldana with Shira Lazar (Entertainment Influencers) — Actress and entrepreneur Zoe Saldana will join actress and writer Shira Lazar in a conversation on the importance of positive messaging and role models on social platforms for millennial and Gen Z audiences, and how her new media company, BESE, is addressing this issue and the imbalance that exists today in mainstream media.

Howard Schultz (Social & Global Impact) — Recognized for his entrepreneurship and servant leadership, Howard Schultz built Starbucks Coffee Company into one of the world’s most recognized and respected businesses, a company committed to strengthening communities through human connection and social innovation. After four decades with Starbucks, Schultz stepped down on June 26, 2018 and became chairman emeritus. Along with his wife, Shari, he is co-founder of the Schultz Family Foundation. Schultz is also the bestselling author of four books including his most recent title For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism, and Sacrifice.

David Schwartz with Sara Silverstein (Blockchain & Cryptocurrency) — Known as “JoelKatz,” David Schwartz is the Chief Technology Officer at Ripple and a respected voice in the digital currency community. Schwartz developed encrypted cloud storage and enterprise messaging systems for organizations like CNN and the National Security Agency (NSA). Schwartz will be in conversation with Sara Silverstein, Editor-At-Large and Executive Producer for Business Insider. Silverstein is the host of Business Insider shows Business Insider Today and Crypto Insider.

Joanna Shields (Intelligent Future) — Joanna Shields is a digital entrepreneur, experienced executive, and prominent leader in the global technology industry with a track record in helping to grow some of the world’s best-known transformational companies. She is currently CEO of BenevolentAI, the global leader in the development and application of AI for scientific innovation. Most recently, Joanna served as the UK Minister for Internet Security & Safety, a Special Advisor to the UK Government on the Digital Economy, and Chair & CEO of TechCityUK.

Maria Shriver (Health & MedTech) — Maria Shriver is the mother of four, a Peabody Award-winning and Emmy Award-winning journalist and producer, the author of seven New York Times bestselling books and a bestselling coloring book, an NBC News Special Anchor, and founder of the nonprofit The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. A trailblazer for empowering women and one of the nation’s leading advocates for women and Alzheimer’s sufferers, Shriver uses her journalism and her activism to inspire others to make a difference and move humanity forward. In 2018, she released the No. 1 New York Times-bestselling book, I’ve Been Thinking…Reflections, Prayers and Meditations for a Meaningful Life.

Margrethe Vestager (Cities, Government & Politics) — Margrethe Vestager is European Union Commissioner for Competition. She previously served as Minister for Economic Affairs and the Interior (2011–14) and Minister for Education (1998–2001) of Denmark, and as President of the ECOFIN Council (2012). She was Political Leader of the Danish Social Liberal Party (2007-14), and has worked for the Danish Ministry of Finance (1993–95). Vestager holds an MSc in Economics from the University of Copenhagen.

Amy Webb (Tech Industry & Enterprise) — Amy Webb is a quantitative futurist. She is a professor of strategic foresight at the NYU Stern School of Business and the Founder of the Future Today Institute, a leading foresight and strategy firm that helps leaders and their organizations prepare for complex futures. Webb will deliver her Emerging Tech Trends Report, where she’ll provide a data-driven analysis for the emerging tech trends that need to be on your radar in 2019 – and she’ll draw on those trends to show you scenarios for the future of business, governing, and society.

Brian Wong (Blockchain & Cryptocurrency) — Brian Wong is the co-founder and CEO of Kiip, a mobile consumer engagement platform that advertises in “moments” in 10,000 apps. Wong has been recognized with many awards for his accomplishments and leadership, including Forbes’ 30 under 30 for three years in a row and Business Insider’s Top 25 Under 25 in Silicon Valley. Wong recently launched his first book The Cheat Code, published by Crown Business / Penguin Random House. The Cheat Code contains 71 bite-sized and virtually effortless shortcuts to get a leg up on the competition, garner attention for creative thinkers and their ideas, and to accelerate success.

Jeff Zucker (Media & Journalism) — Jeff Zucker has been the President of CNN Worldwide since 2013. He oversees all of CNN’s businesses, including the CNN US television network, CNN International, HLN, all of CNN’s digital properties, and Great Big Story. Prior to coming to CNN, Zucker spent more than two decades at NBC Universal, where he rose through the ranks to become the company’s President and CEO. Zucker’s ascent at NBC began during his nearly eight-year tenure as executive producer of NBC News’ Today show.

Stay tuned for more Featured Speaker announcements throughout the 2019 SXSW season.

All speakers subject to change.

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