Finding your way around SXSW is no small task. This year, we’ve visited Austin again. We’ve mingled, networked, owned a booth, hung out at the movies …and observed startups. Here’s some advice on how to get the most out of SXSW if you’re an entrepreneur or startupper. You wouldn’t want to blow all that money and ruin it for yourself, right?
Don’t ignore those outside of your target group
The magic of SXSW is that it’s – as an academic would put it – interdisciplinary, in a way. It’s not your typical startup event. People from the music or film industry often find themselves wandering around the Trade Show exhibits, or stumbling upon startup talks. These people don’t often frequent startup events. Talk to them. You never know what might happen. If you can find a creative way for the tech and entertainment world to come together, it might get you one step ahead of the others. The great thing about SXSW that it’s the place for many crazy ideas – from all over the spectrum.
Don’t miss out on the top-notch knowledge
The best piece of advice I can give to an entrepreneur is GO TO THE TALKS. You’ll rarely find lineups like those at SXSW, but it’s not the names themselves that matter. It’s the focus of the talks. They genuinely aim to tackle real problems, they’re creative and the advice is gold. No more ‘inspirational’ crap talk. What’s more, the non-startup talks are worth taking a look at, especially those concerning more general economic issues. The political/economic climate is changing, and you’ll need to be aware of it. It’ll pay off.
Don’t put all your effort into finding investors
Not that it’s impossible, but from our experience, SXSW is less about mingling with venture capitalists. Though there were talks and meetups, and plenty of advice given, we’ve noticed far fewer investors simply hanging out in Austin than at the other events we’ve been to recently. If you focus all our actions on raising funding, you’re not going to get the most out of this event. However, it’s not impossible to work to give your startup a financial boost…
Don’t avoid the accelerators and national initiatives
If I were a startup founder, I’d head in this direction. The accelerators were visible and open to interacting with startuppers. You could get plenty of advice and support – much better to head there than blow your budget on a booth (no discounts for super-early-stage startups, folks). There’s also another thing, but you might start prepping before the next SXSW. See what your national startup hubs or programs have to offer. I’ve seen quite a few initiatives started by the EU and its member states, the New Dutch Wave, Berlin/Brandenburg Interactive Night and so on.
Don’t forget to plan ahead
Let’s state the obvious: it’s a huge event, even if you focus only on the Interactive part. While it’s good to have a free slot or two (for, you know, spontaneity), it’s best if you check out the schedule and plan where you really want to go. Many events are spread over various hotels, and it can be a bit of a walk. Especially problematic if they’re back-to-back time-wise. We ended up rushing from one place to another a few times. So if there are talks or events you just can’t miss, make sure you know in advance where they are and if you can make it.
Don’t avoid the fun parts!
It’s not all work, work, work. The evening parties aren’t just another excuse for more work (there’s ‘work’ in ‘networking’, you know). They’re really there for you to unwind and meet people, no pressure. This is also why people go to SXSW. The premium pass lets you hang around the film and music festival, and despite recent controversies, it’s really worth it. Go on, see what’s playing. Have a drink. Try being an astronaut for a moment (thanks NASA). All of these magic moments can serve as inspiration.
Let us know if you were there and have any other tips!