What makes launching startups at events a good idea? Hugh Forrest, Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, discusses how events can help startups succeed.
For someone who doesn't know what SXSW is, how would you pitch it?
For someone who's not familiar with South by Southwest (SXSW), it's a nine day celebration of creativity across many different forms. Everything from speakers to films to band showcases, comedy, and everything in between. It happens in Austin, Texas in March so you also have that whole spring thing working. Ultimately we hope to inspire out global audiences to come up with new ideas and do better things.
Could you tell us a bit more about the building blocks on the program side?
On the program side, we have a conference which typically happens during the daytime. We'll have 15 tracks that cover everything from civic engagement to culture. This year we have climate change track, transportation track, a design track and so on and so forth. Within these tracks we will have keynotes and featured speakers alongside lots of other sessions. We also have a film festival that will have approximately 300 total films covering everything from documentary shorts to narrative features and everything in between. It very much celebrates independent filmmaking but also features some big Hollywood releases. Last but not least, we have the SXSW Music Festival which started about 30 years ago. The festival has around 1,500 bands from all over the world covering every variety of pop music.
Many different avenues to explore creativity, and I think that's one of the really unique value adds of SXSW. We're not just a conference, we're a festival where some of the best networking & business opportunities emerge.
What is the SXSW Pitch?
SXSW Pitch is our in-house startup competition running for 13 years now. It's a very competitive process where we typically get about a thousand applications from startups from all over the US and the world. We have a very rigorous judging process which picks out the best 50 startups and those 50 finalists pitch on site to an audience of VCs, media, and industry professionals. There will be winners in 10 different categories after the pitch presentations.
It's a great way for startups to leverage the SXSW platform and create new opportunities for themselves.
Hugh also shared his thoughts on hybrid events and how speakers will be able to make the most of SXSW in the future. Check out the full video of this talk here.
Interested in finding out more about this incredible annual event in Austin? Check out our Sesamers profile of SXSW 2022 🇺🇸