Axios Austin

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It's Thursday. Thanks for joining us.

☁️ Today's weather: Chance of showers and thunderstorms. High near 80.

ğŸŽ‚ Happy birthday to our Axios Austin member Michael Mcallister!

🚗 Situational awareness: Waymo co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana announced at South by Southwest that the company will roll out its driverless ride-hailing services in Austin later this year.

Today's newsletter is 914 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Outdoor Voices to close all retail stores

Austin's Outdoor Voices retail store is not long for this world. Photo: Nicole Cobler/Axios

Austin-founded athleisure brand Outdoor Voices is shuttering retail stores nationwide and moving online, several former employees told Axios.

Why it matters: Outdoor Voices took a big bet with prime locations in many of the country's fastest-growing cities, but the storefronts were short-lived, some lasting only a year or two.

  • The company, founded in 2014, was a celebrated Austin startup and grew to 15 retail stores nationwide.

Driving the news: Current and former Outdoor Voices employees at stores in Austin, Denver, Atlanta, Charlotte, New York, Houston and San Diego told Axios reporters that their stores would shutter by Sunday.

  • Outdoor Voices did not return Axios' requests for comment.

What they're saying: One Austin employee who worked on the company's marketing team said they and other employees were suddenly laid off in brief meetings Tuesday.

  • "It was very sudden," the former employee, who asked not to be named out of fear of retaliation, told Axios. "Store teams were told by their manager — who were also laid off — that effective as of end of day Sunday that every single one of our Outdoor Voices stores are closing as well."
  • They were told the brand is moving to online only.
  • An employee in Denver, who also asked to not be named out of fear of retaliation, told Axios' Alayna Alvarez that they and other retail workers did not receive severance pay.

Zoom in: An internal message obtained by Axios told retail employees that "Outdoor Voices is embarking on a new chapter as we transition to an exclusively online business."

Flashback: Founder Ty Haney abruptly left the company in 2020 and has been vocal about her displeasure with how the brand has changed in recent years.

  • The closures come after months of massive markdowns and the closure of its flagship store in Austin's Clarksville neighborhood.

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2. SXSW dispatch: Communications in the age of AI

A conversation at Axios House. Photo: Cori Baker on behalf of Axios.

After a solid year of artificial intelligence dominating the conversation, folks attending SXSW are starting to focus on the human elements of an AI world, Axios Communicators' Eleanor Hawkins writes.

Driving the news: Close to 300 SXSW attendees dropped by the Axios House on Monday to hear from GoFundMe chief corporate affairs officer Margaret Richardson, Weber Shandwick North America CEO Jim O'Leary, and LinkedIn vice president and workforce expert Aneesh Raman about the evolution of corporate communications.

The big picture: More than 90% of online content could be generated by AI by this time next year, according to some estimates.

  • And eventually this could lead to generative AI models being trained using data produced by other AIs rather than human beings.

What they're saying: This will make skills like communication, empathy and critical thinking even more in demand, Raman said.

  • "We're entering what we're calling the relationship economy, where social abilities, human unique skills are going to come to the center. And what's at the center of that is communication, connection and how you collaborate with others. Those are now core skills for comms professionals."

Zoom in: GoFundMe is also prioritizing personal stories to promote its corporate brand and help users fundraise across the donation platform, Richardson told Axios.

  • "Our platform is powered by human stories, and that will never change. I think we can see ways in which AI can help people to tell their stories, but it will never replace the dignity and the authenticity with which people are sharing and connecting with stories," she added.

The bottom line: As AI enters the mainstream, the role of thoughtful, strategic and human-driven communications will become even more important.

Dig deeper: Subscribe to Axios Communicators.

3. 🤠 The Roundup: Wrangling the news

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

⚖️ The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Texas law requiring parental consent to obtain contraception for minors. (Texas Tribune)

🍕 L'Oca d'Oro owners will open Bambino pizzeria today. (Austin American-Statesman 🔒)

🦫 Buc-ee's has secured a $4.2 million incentive package from the city of San Marcos and Hays County to build a store between Austin and San Antonio. (Austin Business Journal 🔒)

4. SXSW panel picker

Outside the SXSW premiere of "The Fall Guy" at the Paramount Theatre this week. Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Universal Pictures

It's day seven of South by Southwest. We've got you covered with panels, parties and more.

💻 Catch Dell chairman and CEO Michael Dell's conversation with analyst Patrick Moorhead about his company, created 40 years ago in his University of Texas dorm room. 11:30am at the Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D.

📝 Discover the secrets of Hollywood and activism at a panel with actress Jane Fonda, activist David Fenton and climate behavioral scientist Sweta Chakraborty. 4-5pm at the Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D.

💩 Check out Pourri's — yes, of Poo-Pourri — Camp Funk activation with five-star bathrooms, music and samples from 12-11pm at the parking lot of 318 E. 5th St. Open through Saturday.

ğŸŽµ Listen to PARTYNEXTDOOR on night one of The Billboard Stage. Badgeholders receive priority admission, and the general public will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. Music starts at 7pm.

🦘 Find new music at the Sounds Australia showcase at 77 Rainey St. Music starts at 11am. Free and open to the public, but badgeholders receive priority access.

5. 🍕 1 pizza to go

"The Falco" from Favorite Pizza x Anthony Falco. Photo: Nicole Cobler/Axios

👋 Nicole here. I stopped by Favorite Pizza's two-day pop-up with chef Anthony Falco last night.

To order: I loved The Falco pie with tomato, garlic, pork sausage, basil, red onion and sourdough breadcrumbs. Slightly spicy with perfectly crusty crust.

  • But there are three other options for pizza by the slice. Plus, muffuletta by the slice and salad.

📍 If you go: The pop-up is open for one more day, with games, tattoos and a DJ.

  • Stop by 801 W. 6th St. starting at 5pm today.

Thanks to Chloe Gonzales for editing and Kate Sommers-Dawes and Anjelica Tan for copy editing this newsletter.

☀️ Asher is out.

💚 Nicole is so excited to see "Wicked" tonight at Bass Concert Hall.

Follow us on Instagram @AxiosTexas.