South by Southwest (SXSW) started back in 1986 as a series of conversations about entertainment and media in the offices of The Austin Chronicle. Ronald Reagan was President of the United States, the Berlin Wall was still standing, the Eurozone didn't exist and most phones used dials, SXSW team members recall. Participants were even sworn to secrecy.
It was a different time. And SXSW is now a different conference.
In 2016, 87,971 people registered to attend The SXSW Conference and Festivals. The event, which lasts over a week, brought in $325.3 million into the local economy, which is good news for many small-business owners, but it also means that the underground feel of the conference is long gone.
In recent years, icons ranging from Mark Zuckerberg to President Barack Obama have addressed the crowds. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and legendary Silicon Valley investor Chris Sacca will speak this time around.
The secret is out.