What Cancun and Spring break is to college students, Austin, TX, and the South by Southwest festival is to the Silicon Valley tech crowd. It started as a music festival, but now includes themes such as educational technology, film and interactive media, gathering close to a hundred thousand people over the course of two weeks. The Interactive part is known as a breeding ground for new ideas and creative technologies, with keynote speakers such as Astro Teller (Google X) explaining how to aim for the moon.
The Nordics were well represented this year, with the Oslo Lounge functioning as a co-working space during office hours, and an event space at night. Our investor in residence, Arne Tonning, participated in a panel discussion and explained how he advise startups to choose office locations based on customer demand, not where it is considered cool to be present.
MashUp hosted a pitching event at Oslo Lounge, where thirteen Nordic startups were given three minutes to present their business, and convince a panel of judges that they were worthy winners of this informal event. Søren Therkelsen from SCALEit was the host of the evening, making sure the entrepreneurs sticked to schedule. We were very proud when the winners were announced; TINC alumnus Feat.fm won the audience award by generating the most tweets, our good friends at Unacast were the Jury’s favourite, and Recho, a Scandinavian love child, won the overall prize.
The Swedes did a great job with their Try Swedish concept, hosting rooftop parties with live music at The Swedish Chamber of Commerce’s downtown office, and showcasing both startups and emerging bands at their trade show booth. It is safe to say that, with the Nordic Startup Bits booth located just across the hallway, the “Nordic pavillion” was one of the most trafficked areas of the trade show.
If you are considering attending SXSW next year, which you should, keep in mind that you need to plan ahead and schedule meetings well in advance. SXSW exemplifies serendipity; the context of informal parties and informative talks and sessions provides a great setting for networking, where meeting interesting people you never knew existed occurs regularly. However, in order to facilitate for such encounters to happen, you need to plan specifically based on what you seek to achieve. By doing so, you increase the chance of serendipity.