You've likely heard of the "SXSW Accelerator," which has been a feature for several years at the huge, annual South By Southwest festival, held every March in Austin, Texas. Well, here's something new for 2012: SXSW has announced the creation of a home base for startups, VCs/investors, media, and other entrepreneurial-minded attendees to gather, mix, and mingle during the Interactive portion of the event. It's called SXSW Startup Village.
The 19th annual SXSW Interactive Festival takes place March 9-13, 2012. Startup Village will include the Accelerator program, targeted panels, meetups, lounges, and mentoring/coaching sessions, and will primarily be located on the fourth floor of the Austin Downtown Hilton, making it easy for the startup crowd to find the programming and networking opportunities most important to them.
Want to hang out with startups of the quality of Siri (which won the Accelerator's web category in 2010, then was acquired by Apple) and Hipmunk (the 2011 winner)? Then this is the place for you! I'm sure planning to attend.
I spoke recently via Skype with Chris Valentine (photo), coordinator of the SXSW Startup Village, and asked him some questions. How big is SXSW Interactive? He told me about 10,000 people attended the last one. And he noted it has an "international scope." How many startups applied to last year's SXSW Accelerator? About 400 in various categories, and that was narrowed down to 40 who were invited to present at the event. Who were the winners last year? Here's a link announcing the seven winners in 2011, which includes two that were music-related (there's also an Accelerator program for the music portion of the festival, which follows the interactive event). For the 2012 Accelerator, Valentine said 56 companies will get to present, due the the fact that new categories have been added, including Mobile and Health.
[Timeout for a Minnesota Connection: At last year's SXSW Accelerator, Minnesota gaming startup OONQR was a finalist in the Entertainment category. Cofounder and CEO Justin Peck told me that his company's SXSW experience "exceeded our expectations." He was impressed that the Accelerator program "made room for a tiny midwestern startup in their lineup of successful, well-established companies." He said their trip to Austin wouldn't have been possible without the two free tickets they got to SXSW as a result of being accepted to present at the Accelerator. "I'm glad to see they're expanding it. Startup Village sounds like promising addition to the program."]
UPDATE: Chris of course remembered the QONQR guys and spoke highly of their startup. Then I brought up how many Minnesotans have been attending SXSW Interactive for years -- hundreds went last year. Many gang up in cars and drive down, and some even rent houses to save on accommodation expenses! Chris seemed surprised when I told him we have one of the largest interactive marketing communities in the entire country. The Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA) has more than 1300 members and holds the largest annual event of its kind, right here in MInneapolis: the "MIMA Summit." It attracts more than 1000 attendees every fall. My coverage of the recent event, with my colleagues at Minnov8.com, is here, here, and here.
The SXSW people define the purpose of the new Startup Village as "uniting the startup, entrepreneur, and investor communities under one roof for focused programming and networking opportunities during SXSW Interactive."
Valentine explained: “Over the last few years, startups and the entrepreneurs who nurture them have become a vital part of the SXSW Interactive festival." He said SXSW wants these attendees to learn, network, and share their experiences, and to foster an environment of innovation and collaboration. "We’re magnifying that atmosphere by converging startup-specific programming, events, and the SXSW Accelerator program in one dedicated location.”
Startup Village panel programming will consist of discussions and workshops specifically designed to educate budding and current entrepreneurs on best practices and lessons learned. Startup Village will also feature mentoring/coaching sessions, lounge areas, and designated meetups for attendees to network with some of today’s up-and-coming startups, seasoned entrepreneurs, and investors.
The 2012 SXSW Accelerator competition kicks off its two-day Interactive showcase on Monday, March 12, while the SXSW Music Accelerator, which spotlights the latest in music technologies, takes place on Wednesday, March 14. For companies wishing to participate in the Accelerator program, applications are being accepted through November 18. To apply for the Interactive Accelerator, visit http://sxsw.com/interactive/accelerator/enter, and to apply for the Music Accelerator, visit http://sxsw.com/music/accelerator/enter.
Startup Village programming will be open to SXSW Interactive, Gold, and Platinum registrants. SXSW music registrants will be admitted to Startup Village programming and events on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. For more information, visit www.sxsw.com/interactive.