Why SXSW Matters for Entrepreneurs and Innovators

March 25, 2019

By Accelerator Manager Basha Holloway

Where can you find a multi-day, hyper interactive experience that attracts some of the best talent and leaders in the tech and innovation space? SXSW.

This year I had the pleasure to represent the Tampa Bay Wave Accelerator Team in Austin at the SXSW Conference. It was a great experience with amazing content and interactive spaces. With the onset of us preparing to launch our TechDiversity Accelerator, I was there to recruit and network with companies who may be interested in the program.

I also spent some time weeding through some of the latest trends in the tech and innovation space and was not disappointed, to say the least.

Another pitch competition I attended was hosted by mvmt50 Pitch Black Competition presented by Shea Moisture and New Voices where 10 African American women pitched to win $100,000. The event featured startups from multiple verticals such as GoTogether, a ride-sharing platform which helps schools coordinate parent carpools and walk pool and a Health-Tech company called TruDiary which is an interactive health app that uses blockchain technology to allow women to create a smart health diary. It’s one thing to be invested and engaged in conversation about the startup ecosystem but it’s a completely different experience to hear their stories and pitches as an attendee at such an electric conference.

While each day was filled with various workshops, talks on entrepreneurship and raising capital, one of the things I enjoyed the most was attending the pitch competitions. One of the events I was able to attend was the StartUp of the Year powered by Established where twenty-five companies competed against each other doing one-minute pitches to a packed house two of them were Wave member companies, Verapy and Immertec. Verapy also had the opportunity to pitch in front of a live audience at the Eleventh Annual SXSW Pitch Competition featuring twenty-five startups in a multi-day competition.

SXSW attracts people from all over the world from various cultures and backgrounds. It’s intriguing to me that there were the workshops centred on diversity inclusion of different races and cultures in the tech and innovation industry. I attended several talks that highlighted the most up-to-date statistics on the lack of diversity in these industries. One conversation was called “A Guide to Rewriting the Rules of Venture Capital” hosted by Bumble Bizz and Alice Ventures. The panel featured the Alice Ventures Founder and CEO Carolyn Rodz, Bumble COO Sarah Jones Simmer, and Harlem Venture Partner John Henry. The conversation highlighted ways to bridge the gap between the funding available and investor interest to similarly diverse startups and founders.

Overall SXSW was a great experience that I hope to be able to attend again. It was invaluable to make so many key connections in the industry we share across the globe. I’ll be taking time over the next few weeks to further digest all I learned and share that with the team and our companies here at Tampa Bay Wave.