What Every City Can Learn from Austin and SXSW


If you have not visited Austin, the bustling innovation capital of Texas yet, you need to put it on your list. Not only is this city growing at an electric pace but it’s drawing some of the brightest minds and companies to its city which is a very positive sign of its future.

Some people associate Austin as the “live music city” but I think the title of “innovation capital of the south” is what this placed should be called. The largest and most important companies of our time have offices already or are setting up shop in Austin. We’re talking Facebook, Amazon, and Dell just to name a few. Companies that pack some serious punch and big wallets.

Not only is Austin attracting these types of companies, but also the people to fill these jobs at these top companies are coming from everywhere around the world. I want to highlight a few reasons how I feel Austin has been able to draw such amazing companies and bright people to its city. Want to know what the catalyst is? SXSW.

You might be thinking, SXSW? Yes. It’s a huge reason for Austin’s success. This is easily one of the top events in the entire world for innovation and Austin plays host to it every single year. It has been for over 30 years now.

The festival was originally formed around entertainment and media but has blossomed into a whole lot more than this. Yes, there are still film premieres, live performances, and panel style events happening all the time but the festival now boasts multiple tracks and the one that I feel is fueling the innovation happening in the city these days is the interactive track.

This track brings entrepreneurs, business owners, and c-level executives from all over the world into Austin for at least a few days. I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with government officials from the Netherlands, startup founders from Iceland, and several other very bright people doing out of this world stuff.

The intention of this article is to shed some light on what I feel other cities around the world can learn from Austin and why Austin is so successful with attracting amazing companies and talent.

Hold an Annual Event like Austin Does

I had the pleasure of speaking to a bunch of leaders representing economic development departments of cities around North America last year and one of the suggestions I told them was to “start an annual event”. Austin has done such an amazing job with SXSW that every year they take it up a notch and attract more companies, people, and exposure that it brings a lot of advantages to the city as a whole.

If you could take one thing from this article I’d say, attend SXSW for yourself next year and see how much fun you have at the event and how cool some of the events are that you attend. You will see what the fuss is all about and why it’s 100% justified.

Be Unique like Austin

I’ve had the pleasure of attending events all over the world and year after year I still end up recommending SXSW to people for attending. Why?

Well first off its very unique because it brings together an amazing mix of creative people in media, arts, and entertainment. Then it attracts entrepreneurs building top companies and startup founders that are tinkering with the latest technologies all together from around the world.

No other event that I have been to has created such a diverse group of people that I feel benefits the attendees more so than when you attend an event and only one type of person is there. This diversity that SXSW achieves with its attendees is impressive and one way I think it’s truly unique.

So ask yourself this question, how can you make your event unique from others? How can you be different and original? Don’t just do an event and make it like the one held last month or last year. Keep iterating it and innovating.

Make it Memorable, Austin Texas Style

Remember that time you attended that professional sports game as a child and you got that autograph from your favorite athlete? That feeling of being in shock and awe of what just happened.

That’s the type of experience you need the attendees of your event to experience on their way home from your event. One way that SXSW does this extremely well is by bringing the top people in every field to the festival. This year Hollywood A-listers like Kevin Costner, Olivia Wilde, and Matthew McConaughey were taking part in panels and taking pictures with attendee’s while top company executives at Spotify, and the founders of Instagram took part in exclusive sessions.

These type of people make memorable experiences that WOW attendees. Something that SXSW does extremely well every year and what you should strive for with your attendees after they leave your event or purchase your product.

The dates for SXSW 2020 have already been set for March 13-22 so pencil it in your calendar. Should be another one for the ages.

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