March is about to get weird.
Startland News is once again returning to the weirdness of Austin, Texas, for the annual insanity that is the SXSW Conference. Like last year, we’ll be venturing to the Lone Star State to report on the Kansas City contingent at arguably the nation’s top conference for innovative ideas: South-by-Southwest Interactive.
Similar to 2016, a herd of area entrepreneurs and Kansas City representatives from a variety of organizations will be pitching and presenting at SXSW events. From panelists discussing cutting-edge technology to hosting official SXSW events, it’s set to be a special year for Kansas City to illustrate its innovative spirit.
Arguably the biggest draw for Kansas City in 2017 is the KC Outpost, which will be kicking-off Sunday at the popular 6th-street bar Maggie Mae’s. Groups like the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, LaunchKC, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Husch Blackwell, American Airlines and Tech Cocktail have banded together to throw a day-long soiree with top Kansas City brands like Charlie Hustle and J. Rieger & Co. The event will also feature $1,000 pitch contest and a panel with the Kauffman Foundation’s Arnobio Morelix.
Drew Solomon, chair of the LaunchKC grants competition, said it’s going to be a big year for Kansas City to highlight why it’s a great place to live, work and play.
“It’s huge for Kansas City because it allow us to showcase and talk about everything that’s great in our ecosystem,” said Solomon, who’s also the vice president of business development at the EDCKC. “SXSW has become a conference with over 70,000 attendees and a must-go for cities, startup supporters and ecosystem champions because it’s a great way to network, meet new companies and represent yourself as a city.”
LaunchKC took to SXSW last year to garner more startup applicants for its grant competition, which snagged more than 400 interested early-stage firms. In 2017, its pitch to startups may be more enticing as the grants contest will be offering a $100,000 grand prize. LaunchKC applications opened on March 1.
Kansas City-based VML will also be returning to Austin this year to help with some clients’ events. Last year, I was thoroughly impressed by VML’s Gatorade Fuel Lab, which provided attendees with an interactive experience sharing the level to which Gatorade researches its products with athletes in mind. In 2017, the fast-growing agency is helping with Wendy’s, Twitter’s and Ford’s activations. I’m excited to see what they cook up.
In addition to events, a few Kansas City tech leaders will also share their knowledge via SXSW discussions. Integrated Roadways founder Tim Sylvester will sit in on the panel “Designing Infrastructure for Autonomous Vehicles and share his firm’s mission with MoDOT and KCMO to make public infrastructure self-sustaining.
Sylvester, whose firm created patented smart pavement with embedded IoT technology, is passionate about revamping U.S. infrastructure in a cost-effective manner. Recently making a case to President Donald Trump, Sylvester said there’s no better way to improve the American economy and support the public good than investing in public infrastructure.
“President Trump is currently advocating for fixing American infrastructure but lacks a funding solution — we provide the tech that makes infrastructure self-funding,” Sylvester said. “If we want to preserve and improve our status as the world’s leading economy and incubator of high-tech innovation, we need to not miss this once-in-a-lifetime chance to re-take the forefront of infrastructure innovation, which was the basis of the American economic power after WWII.”
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