We couldn’t avoid it forever. Austin’s most beloved behemoth, SXSW, has realized its full potential and will tap into another market next summer — an arid, up-and-coming (more on that later) and unexpected market by the name of Las Vegas.
SXSW proper will launch SXSW V2V ("Visionary to Visionary" or "Visionary to Vegas") August 11-14, 2013, at The Cosmopolitan on the city’s infamous strip. But before the Austin-based masses panic and start accusing SXSW of selling out, the heads of the organization want everyone to know this was a carefully orchestrated choice of programming and location.
“The charm and magic of Austin is one of the main reasons that so many people from across the United States and around the world come to SXSW every spring,” Hugh Forrest, event director of SXSW Interactive, tells CultureMap. “We are definitely not leaving here, but we think that the March event has now created enough momentum that the time is right to expand our brand to another city.”
“In many ways, the expansion to Las Vegas will help shine even more light on all the amazing creative innovation that begins in Austin,” says Hugh Forrest, SXSW Interactive event director.
So why Vegas? Perhaps you've heard of the Downtown Project, spearheaded by Tony Hsieh, the 38-year-old CEO of Zappos. The New York Times Magazine recently reported that the $350 million initiative to remake Vegas into a center of creativity hopes to “draw 10,000 'upwardly mobile, innovative professionals' to the area in the next five years.”
Hsieh aims to “build the most community-focused large city in the world” — from walkable coffee shops to accessible healthcare. His target demographic is inherently young and entrepreneurial, aligning rather seamlessly with the intention of SXSW V2V, which is to bring together a small degree of intensely creative people in an upstart environment.
“Las Vegas has a small startup ecosystem and community, but this community has lots of energy and passion,” Forrest says. “In fact, there will be a large presence from Vegas-based tech companies at SXSW 2013. In many ways, the expansion to Las Vegas will help shine even more light on all the amazing creative innovation that begins in Austin.”
At this point, startup side conversations have been integrated into all pieces of the SXSW puzzle, like SXSW Music’s “How to Get your Music Startup Funded” panel or the Startup Showcase at SXSW Eco. SXSW V2V, however, will take on a larger view of the startup concept that will serve as the umbrella under which every other discussion — interactive, music, film, eco, edu — falls.
Forrest explains that it served SXSW well to start small 27 years ago, and the plan is to do the same in Vegas. The events will be priced similarly ($695-$1,150 a badge), but where more than 25,000 Interactive registrants come to Austin each March, only 1,500 total will head to Vegas.
When considering positioning, the decision to place SXSW V2V in such a distinct environment is more likely to widen the SXSW audience rather than draw from the existing pool of attendees who travel to Austin every year. And with Vegas’ surplus of hotel rooms, it may be the one SXSW event where you won’t have to promise your unborn child in exchange for a place to stay.