Does SXSW Make Sense for Canadian Startups? We’re Going to Find Out

Your social media feeds and favourite news sites are likely flooded with South by Southwest news, survival tips, and how-to’s. And you might be wondering if the spectacle and hype that surrounds the fest actually has a pay-off for Canadian businesses. 

In case you live under a rock, here’s a bit of info about the event: South by Southwest Interactive or SXSWi is a five-day festival featuring panels, workshops, and parties galore. Originally started as part of the music festival, SXSWi eventually grew into the biggest part of the event, attracting upwards of 25,000 people in 2012. Twitter launched there and Foursquare as well, but SXSWi can hardly be classified as the place to get made—especially if you are a small business with limited marketing funds. There are a lot of naysayers out there; festival veterans who now skip the madness in favor of less commercial conferences like XOXO in Portland, Oregon.

SEE ALSO: Is it Worth Investing in a Trip to SXSW?

Still, year after year, the fest continues to be a big draw for Canadian tech companies, from startups, to large agencies, to worldwide conglomerates. Our company, Toronto-based Kolody, a creative digital agency is heading down for the second time—and as a producer here, I’m tagging along.

But will we get our ROI? And will the other Canadian tech companies who are descending on Austin? Over the next week, I will be scoping out the Canadian presence in Austin and reporting here on what kind of impact these businesses are making in SXSWi’s frenzied marketplace. 

Here’s are some of the Canadians who hope to be in the spotlight.

Toronto’s Synaptop, a collaborative operating system in the cloud, and Waterloo’s Maluuba, an app often compared to Siri, were selected from over 500 applicants to pitch in the Accelerator competition. 

The SXSW Startup village—a space dedicated to new ventures and innovations—will feature Crowdact, “a subject-based social media and network” from Calgary, and Speeker, “a mobile social network where people can openly share pictures, news, and opinions based on proximity.” Three Canadian-led panels are also taking place in the village on the topics of mobile innovation, digital health, and new media storytelling

A number of Canadians also made it through SXSW’s competitive panel selection process, including:

If you or your company are being featured or are heading down to Austin I would love to hear from you — please contact me here.