Being a startup at SXSW – Our tips
AWE participated in SXSW (South by Southwest) in Austin, Texas. It was our first time at the huge festival and conference for interactive media, music and film. In this blog post we will tell you about how it is being a startup at SXSW focusing on the interactive part that happened from the 10th to the 15th of March 2017.
We will give your our best tips on how to:
- Find a platform for you business and take advantage of it
- Find the best places for networking
- Deal with FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
How to find a platform for you business
The planning for SXSW starts early if you want to get the most out of it. A great starting point is finding a platform or community to be part of. You can use the shared network to get easier access to special events and interesting companies. You don’t have to be a one-company-army.
With the advice of the cluster network Danish Sound we reached out to experienced SXSW-goers from Finland and their #NordicMade initiative. It provided access to a shared booth at the Trade Show and the possibility of sharing a Texas-size house (the Nordic Clubhouse) with more than 20 other people from the Nordics. We decided to be part of #NordicMade and join the other startups in the Nordic Clubhouse with breakfast and beers included in the price.
Besides Nordic initiatives there’s also a lot of Facebook-group where you can hook up with other startups from your country before SXSW and joining their platform or creating something together. Many countries have their own booth at the Trade Show similar to the #NordicMade booth.
…and take advantage of it
Inside the huge Austin Convention Center downtown you find the Trade Show which is quite big as well. Because of the massive interest in SXSW the price for a booth is the same – around $10.000 a day, but thanks to #NordicMade we essentially had it for free for four days. We used the platform to engage with passbyers from European museums interested in new ways for their visitors to experience their collections, Augmented Reality developers creating cinematic content from CieAR and a startup developing smart 3D audio headphones called Vinci that can be voice controlled. It is all people that we can collaborate with using Audio Augmented Reality and we are in dialogue with them all.
Sharing a house, food and beers with the Nordic startups made us some new friends in the Nordics. In addition it brought us the possibility of joining national events, which turned out to be great for networking.
How to find the best places for networking
SXSW is a great place to network. People are very open and everyone is talking with anybody, that’s the beauty of it! You never know if the person standing next to you is the CEO of a succesful startup from Silicon Valley or a guy with a potentially great idea that hasn’t found a market yet.
Networking is happening everywhere at SXSW and the talks can be a good starting point for engaging with people. However other free events all over town is as good to meet up with interesting people and companies. Our new Swedish friends hosted a rooftop party and we soon found ourselves sharing a beer with the New York department of ustwo – a digital agency known for Monument Valley (mobile game).
Ustwo is working with Virtual Reality (VR) and a wayfinder for blind people too. We visited them later at their New York offices to share tips on 3D audio. We managed to have a sneak peek at their current projects in VR as well. They have a lot of shared visions with us and we would love to collaborate some time in the future. This shows that the free events can be especially relevant for networking.
How to deal with FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
In preparation for SXSW we spend time putting together the schedule with talks, events, expo visits and so on. We RSVP’ed to (signed up for) day and night parties where you can experience live music and get free drinks and food. The schedule quickly filled up and therefore soon started to have a lot of overlapping events. You can easily be caught with FOMO – a term often used during SXSW – because so many great things are happening all the time. The phone was constantly buzzing with upcoming events from Eventbrite, Do512 or friends on WhatsApp.
We learnt that you need to ignore the buzzing phone and the schedule you have planned. Instead the strategy is to be ready to grasp whatever opportunity that shows itself. That led us to an unforgettable night involving Rodeo Austin and got us into a private Snoop Dogg concert. At SXSW there will always be something that you will miss, but a lot of other things you will experience.
BONUS – reduce FOMO – get a powerbank!
You want the best possibility to be able to grasp the opportunities. We believe that a powerbank is a must-have at SXSW. Being able to find your way around town fast can be the difference between making a talk or not. Data enabled is a need-to-have for the same reasons. Being able to find your friends and join them on adventures are quite nice.