Philly, It’s Time to Plan for SXSW 2017

Here's how you can be a part of the city's effort to put Philadelphia on the national stage.

Photos of SXSW 2016 scene. Photos | Ken Rimple

Photos of the SXSW 2016 scene. Photos | Ken Rimple

Though South by Southwest 2017 is a few months from now, some Philadelphians are already making an effort to draw the city’s attention to the global destination festival and conference.

Back in March, an estimated 300 Philadelphians—artists, technologists and supporters—made their way to Austin for the annual conference that brings together some of the world’s top innovators and creatives. This year marked the city’s largest concerted effort to elevate Philadelphia on the national platform, and organizers David Silver of REC Philly and Yuval Yarden of Philly Startup Leaders, want to make Philadelphia’s 2017 showing, from March 10th to 19th, even greater.

“SXSW is the leading conference in the country around innovation and technology,” said Silver, “When you think about where and when in the country do thousands of tastemakers and influencers, venture capitalists and businesspeople come together, SXSW is what comes to a lot of people’s minds.”

And Philly companies who have attended in the past have benefited big time with tangible results, said Yarden. Aside from brand exposure, which is a given at the conference, some companies have been able to hire talent to fill top positions; other companies got new customers on board and formed new partnerships.

Sponsors of Philadelphia’s 2016 effort included CHOP, Comcast, Zivtech, and the Penn Center for Innovation and attendees from tech world ranged from Curalate and DreamIt Ventures to BioBotsHabitat and NextFab. Musicians at the conference, organized by a Startup PHL initiative, Amplify Philly, included DJ Jazzy Jeff and Chill Moody.

“We’re looking to altogether raise Philadelphia’s brand on one of the biggest national stages,” said Silver, “There are corporations and startups and entrepreneurs and also musicians and artists of all kinds coming together under one specific initiative and mission.”

But there’s a lot of organizing to get done on the road to SXSW 2017 and right now, Philadelphia, unlike Atlanta, San Antonio, Des Moines, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., lacks an established organizing body for the conference.

“Philadelphia is really the only city that is doing SXSW in the way we are doing it,” Silver said. “Some of the heads of the conference have told us that other cities get a check from their local or state government that covers all their costs so they can focus on getting other things done. But in Philly, there isn’t one large check coming from anyone.”

In 2015, Washington, D.C. spent $375,000 on SXSW and the funding proved to be a controversial budget item. To some, the money was an investment in the city’s creative economy and to others, the funds should’ve been funneled to more important initiatives at home.

But controversy aside, Philadelphia is making do.

“There’s a lot to it and right now in mid-September, it’s a crucial time,” said Silver. It’s really important that we help Philadelphians understand how they can get involved to take advantage of this opportunity.”

The organizers want anyone interested in attending SXSW to leverage their brand at the conference and save money while doing so. Here’s how:

  1. Join the Philadelphia ticket.
    SXSX is providing discounted badge rates for a Philadelphia group registration. Contact Yarden at [email protected] or Silver at [email protected] to learn more about the discounted badge rates.
  2. Register for trade show spaces soon to meet fast-approaching deadlines.
    If you’re a startup or corporation interested in setting up a vending table at the trade show space, contact SXSW to apply to exhibit.
  3. Sponsor Philadelphia’s SXSW initiative.
    “Be one of the brands that aligns with Philadelphia’s presence at SXSW,” said Silver. “There are tons of benefits that go with it.” To join the conference effort as a sponsor, contact Yarden at [email protected] or Silver at [email protected]

“If we all want to band together to tell our story on a national level, this is the way to do it,” said Yarden. The organizers said most companies who were involved with the 2016 conference last year are already getting involved for 2017.

Follow @fabiolacineas on Twitter.