Social Imprints is a company that employees at-risk adults. 95% of their workforce is made up of ex-offenders, recovering addicts, people with less thana high school education, and returning veterans.

They are a full service printing company that prints t-shirts, hats, mugs, etc.

Based in San Francisco, a lot of Social Imprints’s clients are in tech which is why Daniel Phifer, a salesman for Social Printing, says they continue to come to SXSW.

In a trade show filled with marketing tactics related to donating money in exchange for a tweet, Social Imprints stands out as making doing good as an essential part of their business model.

Invention & Inspiration: Building a Better World


You may know Dean Kamen as the guy that invented the Segway. If your knowledge of Dean stops there, do yourself a favor and look him up after reading this. Dean Is one of the biggest American inventors of our time and has a laundry list of creations that make life easier and safer for everyone.

Dean is a very understated guy. The first thing you notice about about him is his quiet demeanor. For such a brilliant innovator, he seems to be remarkably humble and soft spoken. That is… until he gets talking about helping people. Dean lives to help make the world a better place through his inventions and his passion for this is extremely contagious. From the FIRST organization, to the robotic arm and his water filtration system, listening to Dean inspires you to deliver greater value to the world in all that you do.

The first thing Dean covered was the robotic arm. He launched into a story about a high level military representative asking for help. This military man proudly told Dean how well equipped the american military is. He boasted about the high-tech weapons and protection they provide the men and women that guard our lives.

He then told Dean about soldiers that get injured and lose an arm on the front-lines. No more state of the art technology for them. We send them home wearing a plastic stick with a hook to replace their arm. This, as the man told Dean, was unacceptable.

To fix this issue, Dean and his team built a self-powered, self-contained robotic arm in under two years. The arm could pick up a grape without damaging it and bring it to the owner’s mouth to eat. It’s nothing short of inspiring to hear about a man who can design and replace appendages. Think about that. He. Built. An. ARM. What did YOU do in the last two years?

Dean then went on to talk about the self-contained water filtration system he built. These things are the size of a mini-fridge and run on cow dung. That’s right. Not a typo. Basically the user inserts a hose from one end into anything with moisture, from mud to sludge, and fresh water comes out the other end. He can now distribute these to impoverished locations around the world to create clean drinking water for communities.

The great thing about Dean’s talk is that is picks you up and throws you out of the bubble these conferences leave you in. It makes you think about the bigger picture. We’re here to learn and observe, network and connect.

Maybe we should all be thinking less about how to do our jobs better, and more about how to make the world a better place.

SXSWi 2013 made me think about things... in a good way

Do a Google search for SXSW 2013 takeaways and you get many articles about everyone’s take on SXSW.  So I’m not even going to try to write a recap or identify the main trends.  Instead these were the things that kept crossing my mind as I kept going from session to session and from party to party.

“Damn there are a lot of Ad Agency people here”.  I work at an Agency so they were easy to spot.  At some point I thought I was attending a high school reunion as I saw so many people from my past that I hadn’t seen in so long that we had physically changed so much that I got whiplash from all the double takes.  The last time I attended 3 years ago I don’t remember seeing so much interest from the Agency community as it was considered a tech convention.  There’s that marriage between Agencies and Technologies that I wrote about a few years ago after I got back from the Next Web conference in 2011 and reposted on Tumblr early last year (

“I guess there’s no breakout star this year”.  Everyone cites Twitter and Foursquare as the poster child for SXSW success and 2013 didn’t produce the latest tech sensation.  While software solutions and apps were not buzz-worthy, hardware made a real strong play this year.  Wearable tech was everywhere.  And 3D printing made a big play for mainstream appeal (3D Systems’ Cube had someone walking around wearing it around his neck which was weird other than effective).  But the company that came closest to potentially breaking out was Leap Motion whose tent demonstration of their product and their session 3 days ago finally made real the prediction that gesture will be an industry-changing trend.  The only major issue was that other than cool gaming, Leap still seems to have some ways to go to become a mainstream phenomenon.  But their presence made it clear that it’s not “will it happen” it’s “it will happen”.  

“Space is not only for Sci-Fi geeks, it’s a business”. I couldn’t get into Elon Musk’s very very popular keynote speech which I heard was outstanding.  Its place in the conference threw me off at first but I came to realize that if technology is becoming a huge staple of human daily life that the work of companies like SpaceX and the innovators in those fields have lots to offer.  I’m expecting that in 2014 we might see some pretty advanced product offerings and ideas now that the focus is not on prepping for the next space shuttle launch.  

“Everybody loves data"  I confess, I didn’t really pay much attention to all the data talk as it all adds up to the same conclusion.  "We don’t take advantage of the intelligence good data science could get us”.  I was bummed I missed Nate Silver - huge fan.

“Austin wants to be New Orleans during SXSW"  Walk down 6th Street any night and you’ll swear someone’s gonna pelt you with beads.  

"The food’s pretty damn good"  I didn’t have one bad meal.  My three standouts were Frank (duh), Easy Tiger and Swift’s Attic.  (Follow me on Foodspotter, ahem).  

”****-ing Lines!“ It doesn’t matter what sessions you were at or what parties you went you, you couldn’t escape the long, long lines.  And not just one long line.  Sometimes there’d be three incredibly long lines in close proximity of each other.  You walk one block and there was a block and a half long line to get in to one venue and halfway up the next block there was a two and a half long line to get in to another venue.  Some venues had two long lines - one for VIPs and one for the non-VIPs.  SXSW: if lines will forever be a reality for SXSW, perhaps a hack-a-thon to come up with ideas on how to make them more bearable is in order?  That could be a great session for next year?

"Everyone loves cats”  There were huge lines to meet the Viral Web Grumpy Cat in Mashable House.  People were taking about the damn cat so much even I went to see it. And darn it, it was pretty cool.  


Watch our conversation with Oscar-winner Jared Leto at last year’s SXSWi conference in Austin.