Ben Huh Has Advice for SXSW Hipsters: Shut Up

The buzz about South by Southwest (SXSW) can be very divisive.

If you’re going to the tech, music and film conference that takes place every March in Austin, Texas, then the buzz can reach giddy proportions. If you want to attend but can’t, you wish the entire Internet had a mute button for all things SXSW.

Someone who has been privy to the buzz for many years now is Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh. The man who brought cat videos to mainstream sat down with SUCCESS last year to discuss 7 Things You Can Learn from a Cheezburger. Now as the SXSW buzz begins to heighten, and the inevitable critics will weigh in on whether the prominent convergence conference is worth attending, SUCCESS has this leftover nugget from Huh’s interview: “Shut up.”

SUCCESS: How have you found the South by Southwest experience so far?

Ben Huh: You haven’t seen breakout technologies since you saw Foursquare and Twitter [debut at SXSW in 2009 and 2007 respectively]. That’s why technology companies used to come here. But nowadays it’s really about mainstreaming.

S: Is that a bad thing?

Huh: Not at all. I admit that I am a little biased because I am in the advertising industry. Cheezburger is a media company and we sell advertising. We can’t hit a stuffed cat without hitting an advertiser, which is awesome for us.

S: That’s a lot of the criticism, that SXSW has become too commercial and “It’s over.”

Huh: There is a lot of hipster-ism there. [They say] “I used to love this place when no one else was here.” When no one was here, it was not that fun. One of the terrible things that the tech industry is really good at is keeping people out. “Oh we are tech and you’re not.” Well that’s fine but we want their users and we want their dollars, experience and expertise. SXSW is what it is and if you can’t enjoy it, shut the f- up.

S: It is a shame to hear that elitism because isn’t that what they want? The mainstream to embrace whatever they are trying to put to market?

Huh: Most entrepreneurs who are trying to act snobby about South by Southwest would kill for the success that South by Southwest has had.

SUCCESS’s non-hipsters Shelby Skrhak and Josh Ellis will cover SXSW 2015 Interactive live from Austin on March 13–17. Follow their individual experiences at @shelbyskrhak and @josh_ellis11.

How did SXSW make it big? Check out 5 rules of great conference creation.


Journalist, podcaster and southpaw Shelby Skrhak is the former director of digital content and social media for Before joining SUCCESS magazine, Shelby launched the weekly suburban newspaper Plano Insider, and covered topics ranging from cops and courts to transportation and fashion. Her handwriting should be a font.

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