Jake’s Take: SXSW recap – Blockchain, AI and inclusion

By Jacob Hsu

It takes time to recover from the hectic behemoth that is South by Southwest. Now having a few days to digest – both the content and the food – here are some reflections on this year’s hottest SXSW topics.

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies

The moderator in an unrelated session joked, “I’d better ask a question about blockchain or Bitcoin or else you won’t be able to cross it out on your SXSW bingo card.”

This was pretty true. Many sessions focused on these emerging technologies. There was even a fusion of blockchain with the SXSW food of choice, tacos.

But despite all the hype, there wasn’t a lot to show for it. Most of the conversations were theoretical, in the sense that these technologies could be the next big things. It will still take time before we start seeing concrete examples of major enterprise investment or consumer adoption of them.

Diversity and inclusion aren’t an end, but a means

Many of the sessions we attended were related to our mission: advancing human potential for the digital economy. They focused on creating new pathways into tech for populations aren’t currently well represented in the industry.

We heard from an organization in Austin helping military veterans transition from active service into IT roles. A panel of Washington, D.C. based groups discussed how helping with basic social services and improved mentoring can get (and keep) more minorities into tech jobs. The founder of a rural sourcing company talked about how to transition coal miners into being coders.

Throughout these talks, the ideas of diversity and inclusion weren’t the end. They were the means to creating a more productive workforce and the means to transforming whole communities.

This was best articulated in a talk from WayUp’s CEO. She presented the results of a study that showed that for every one percent increase in gender diversity, companies see a three percent increase in sales revenue. And for every one percent increase in ethnic diversity, they see a nine percent increase in sales revenue.

She also played a clip from EY, which stated emphatically, “You have the highest performing teams when you have the most diverse teams.”

What this means for Catalyte

Serendipitously, and without knowing the content of these other session, I gave a talk entitled “Kill the resume to bring back the middle class.” In it, I outlined why resumes are biased and unreliable, and how predictive analytics and AI can be better used to level the playing field and open new opportunities in technology by hiring based on aptitude, not pedigree.

The outcome of such hiring, which Catalyte has done for 18 years, is both a more diverse workforce AND a more productive one. We are the proof of what these other speakers discussed.

Our objective now, through growth and proselytization, is to advance this skill-based hiring revolution. It is the way to bring back the middle class while also making companies more productive and profitable.

– Jacob Hsu: Catalyte CEO