As everyone knows, the focus at South By Southwest this year (at least from a tech perspective) is on location-based services (I’m there representing BlockChalk).
Oh, and apparently we’re all at war! Foursquare and Gowalla are at each other’s throats, and the other startups are fighting over the scraps. It’s a Highlander-esque battle royale, and only one fighter can emerge with its head attached to its shoulders and thus claim The Prize. Or at least that’s the story everyone is writing about.
That story is inaccurate and it overlooks the real value of this event.
Yes, it’s true that Foursquare and Gowalla are in a fight, but what would you expect? They are the biggest names and their products are essentially identical. Look beyond these two players and you’ll find a group of startups that is as diverse as it is large.
Entrepreneurs and journalists who think of SXSW as a battlefield are making two key mistakes.
The first lies in the implication that “location-based” startups are all competitive with each other. That’s simply not true. Location is not a strategy or a product. It is a feature. BlockChalk is no more competitive with something like Gowalla than lettuce is competitive with asparagus. Just like everyone benefits from eating more vegetables, all location-based startups benefit from increased experimentation with and adoption of geo-local services.
The other mistake is in coming to SXSW looking for winners and losers. This is not a contest; it is a chance to talk to real people who use (or don’t use) your product. This is why we talk to users – to learn. Let’s not lose sight of that.
SXSW represents a golden opportunity for learning. Don’t miss it because you’re busy sharpening your sword.