How to Make the Most of SXSW: Tips from Social Tables Founder Dan Berger

March 7, 2012

1:06 pm

Imagine this: you attend SXSW with basically just an idea for a startup.  You haven’t started coding yet, you are weeks or months away from alpha, but you go anyway and talk to anyone who will listen to you, like Robert Scoble, who then tweets about you, which is picked up by someone at a big company in your industry who wants to form a major partnership with you.

This is exactly happened last year to Dan Berger, founder of DC-based Social Tables.  As Dan (pronounced like Don) said,

“Shit does get done at SXSW.”  

“Last year I was walking around with my laptop and a Photoshopped image of what Social Tables was going to be,” said Berger.  “I ran into Robert Scoble, who tweeted about me – and I didn’t even have a product yet.  Someone who worked at a major wedding destination site saw the tweet, contacted me, and now I am meeting with C-level execs at the company to discuss a partnership deal.”

While this was certainly a serendipitous event, Berger pointed out that SXSW is all about networking and warm leads – and that is what he worked on last year.  This year, he has a serious lead generation plan, which he showed to me on his iPad last night at The Fort here in DC.

Social Tables will have 5 people on the ground, deal sourcing.  “What they are doing is monitoring Twitter to see if there are any attendees I should talk to,” said Berger,” and they will keep me informed of who to meet where and when.  There is a ridiculous amount of noise at SXSW, and you generally don’t know who is attending til the last minute, so setting up meetings beforehand is impossible.  Twitter will let us set up meetings on the spot.”

The networking opportunities are awesome, of course.  “I met the VP of News Services for CNN last year – and got an invite this year to go their CNN Daily Grill, which they will be broadcasting from during the festival.”

Since last March, Social Tables obviously became a real company – and a lot has happened:  They launched in May and have seated 53,000 people at a variety of events – 75% weddings, the rest is a mix between galas, charity events, and conferences. Berger just hired his first employee on February 6, a brilliant Javascript engineer, and they are rebuilding Social Tables to take it to the next level.

They are also in the middle of raising an angel round right now – and are excited to announce that wedding planner-to-the-stars Marcy Blum is joining their board of advisors.

Berger’s one last piece of advice to SXSW newbies: “RSVP to everything.  You don’t know what is going to happen where, so be prepared!”

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Monika Jansen is a writer and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, newsletters, website content, and other materials. Follow her at: @monikacjansen

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