Here’s What Philly Has Planned for SXSW 2018

Hundreds of Philadelphians will head to the giant festival conference in March. Here's what folks will be doing.


Good Girl on stage at SXSW 2017.

SXSW 2018 kicks off in just two weeks on March 9, and Philly will have another big opportunity to show the country what it has to offer in tech, entrepreneurship, civic engagement and the arts. The Amplify Philly effort, this year being organized by REC Philly, Witty Gritty and Philly Startup Leaders, just released some of Philly’s plans for the big event

Here are five ways Philly will be represented in Austin:

1. The Amplify Philly House will showcase all things Philly.

Philly’s Amplify Philly effort has organized a house (a remodeled two-story restaurant) on the corner of 6th and Trinity in Austin that will be a standalone location for more than 15 hours of Philadelphia programming on both Sunday, March 11 and Monday, March 12. The house is the site where Philly has hosted a number of activations in the past.

Here’s a brief rundown of events:

  • March 11– Daytime panels will be tied to the theme of “Supercharging Your City,” with multiple discussions including “The NorthStar Connection: How Philadelphia is Supercharging Inclusivity and Becoming a Tech Diversity Hub” and “Healthcare Disrupted.” In the evening, Visit Philadelphia and Chill Moody will host a “Homesick Philly” happy hour and organizers will host the “Amplify Philly House Party” featuring DJ Jazzy Jeff directly after. La Colombe, Toney Luke’s and TasteyKake
  • March 12– Events will be tied to the theme of “Grit & Hustle.” Discussions will address how to make an impact in retail and community influence on art and public space, for example. La Colombe co-founder & CEO Todd Carmichael will also sit down for a one-on-one interview. In the evening, the house will host a concert with performances by DJ Aktive, Zeek Burse, Ivy Sole, Ceramic Animal, ILL Fated Natives, Hardwork Movement, Vita & The Woolf, Son Little and Low Cut Connie.

Amplify Philly House schedule of events for SXSW 2018.

2. Mayor Kenney won’t attend, but he’s sending a city delegation.

Despite Amplify Philly’s momentum and Philadelphia’s position as a finalist for Amazon HQ2, Mayor Kenney will not be making his way to SXSW this year. He attended the conference for the first time in 2017, where he visited startups on the trade show floor and sat on a cities panel, among other things.

In a statement to Philadelphia magazine, a Commerce Department spokesperson said, “Mayor Kenney greatly enjoyed his experience last year, but felt that the best way to represent our city and to use our limited funding for the event was to have more of our young talent – from both the City and the entrepreneurial community – attend and show first-hand the types of individuals driving innovation in Philadelphia. He felt particularly strong about increasing the number of women and minorities representing our city. That is why staff from the Department of Commerce and Office of Innovation & Technology make up the majority of City attendees.”

City employees making their way down to SXSW this year include:

  • Kathryn Ott Lovell – Parks & Recreation commissioner (SXSW panelist)
  • Francisco Garcia – director of business development: Innovation & Technology, Department of Commerce (SXSW Cities mentor; speaker at Amplify Philly House)
  • Heather Qader – business development manager, Department of Commerce (attendee)
  • Lauren Cox – communications director, Department of Commerce (attendee)
  • Ellen Hwang – program manager for innovation management, Office of Innovation & Technology and SmartCityPHL initiative (attendee)

3. Philadelphia is sponsoring young Philly founders from underrepresented groups.

The Kenney administration will also cover the registration costs for four startup founders of color to attend this year’s conference in an effort to boost representation at the conference. They are PeopleJoy founder & CEO Emeka Oguh, NaturALL Club founder & CEO Muhga Eltigani, PaletteGroup founder & CEO Nate Nichols and GoBabl founder & CEO Earl Knight.

4. The trade show floor won’t look like last year’s.

In 2017, about 20 startups exhibited on SXSW’s official Interactive trade show floor. This year, however, things will look different. Many Philadelphia companies will opt to showcase at the Amplify Philly house instead. They include Arcweb, Tonic Design Co., Webjunto, GoPuff and Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs.

The Penn Center for Innovation will also showcase inside the house and on the main trade show floor with its “[email protected]” branding. With a focus on Penn startups, tech and the Pennovation Center, startups traveling down to SXSW as part of Penn’s delegation include Aerial Applications, VitalityXR, Lilu, Keriton, Innervace, and Oncora Medical.

As to why companies will showcase in the house this year, Chariot Solutions CMO Tracey Welsson-Rossman says the new space can lead to greater exposure for startups. “Last year, after seeing the activation spaces by other cities, the Amplify Philly team wanted to see if we could have a bigger impact on the message of Philly as a tech innovation hub, by having our own ‘house,’” she told Philly Mag. “The trade show was great but not as conducive for allowing us to have our own programming and to really highlight Philly.”

She added, “the activation space is going to be the next progression of Philly’s presence at one of the largest tech conference in the country.” Chariot is a sponsor of the house.

5. Philly attendees will be sprinkled across SXSW panels all week.

Other Philadelphians will make their way to SXSW to speak on some pretty cool panels. Here are a few:

As in previous years, funding for the SXSW effort has come from local sponsors. This year’s sponsors are: StartupPHL (City of Philadelphia & PIDC), Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs, Visit Philadelphia, Chariot Solutions, Guru, Webjunto, Penn Center for Innovation, Tonic Design Co., Arcweb Technologies, GoPuff, Zivtech, Temple University Alumni Association and Campus Philly. Additional in-kind services have been provided by Fine Line Tees (printing partner), 20/10 Solutions (branding partner), Mid Atlantic FX (production partner), and Ballard Spahr (legal partner).