By Steve Winter, Senior Vice President, Sage Communications
The Capitol of Texas bears a striking similarity to the Capital of the United States at SXSW, thanks to the involvement and participation of the Washington, D.C. Economic Partnership , known more colloquially here as WeDC.
Fueled by its mission to promote local economic development and business opportunities and to enhance the city’s economy through jobs creation, industry retention and new business attraction, WeDC has commandeered Crave Restaurant, located just across the street from the Austin Convention Center, which they boldly rebranded as the WeDC House.
“Welcome to Washington, D.C., in Austin” proclaimed District Mayor Muriel Bowser Friday night before a packed house of festival attendees, many of whom emanate from the city’s burgeoning startup community. “We want to let it be known that we are ‘all in’ with technology. We are a city that’s focused on investing in our future and seeks economic development as more than bricks and mortar. We see it as an opportunity to invest in big ideas that makes life in our cities wonderful for more and more people.”
With actions speaking louder than words, WeDC has clearly embraced that mission.
“We’re here in Austin to showcase Washington, D.C., to the SXSW community in order to celebrate our tech startups, our creative economy, our music and our film industry, hoping – in the process – to introduce people to a side of Washington, D.C. they don’t yet know,” said Julie Weber, WeDC’s Director of Marketing and Communication. “And we’re doing that in a big way by hosting a week full of activities at the WeDC House.” The fun officially began with the WeDC Kickoff event featuring the Mayor and AOL co-founder Steve Case which led into Saturday morning’s Tech Breakfast Spectacular featuring 30 startups, 25 demos, 15 kiosks and more than a thousand attendees who marveled at the genius and resourcefulness of new and emerging companies, primarily from the Washington, D.C. area
The launch events, however, were only the beginning. “MVMT50 is hosting a dinner one night, the Electronic Software Association is having an event and we host a Sunday film brunch here at the WeDC House,” said Weber. “This is significant because we’re discussing the film Sweaty Buddies, the only DMV-area film being previewed here at SXSW. We’re finishing it up with a Rock the Vote brunch on Tuesday before rolling into the SXSW music showcase, where we will present the first go-go band to ever perform at South-By.”
But the magic isn’t limited to the worlds of technology, film and music. Sports and entertainment are also getting into the act.
“This is year number-two for the sports track here at South By,” said Erik Moses, senior vice president for sports and entertainment for Events D.C., the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia. “We heard lot of interesting panels, about things like mega events and how to execute those as well as stadiums — or the new cathedrals as they’re now called. Most people don’t think of D.C. as a sports city as much as we’d like them to outside of our borders; so we’re thinking of ways we can constantly raise the profile of D.C. as a sports town. South By Southwest, and the sports track in particular, has given us a lot of ideas of things we can do in Washington to alert the rest of the country to D.C. as a sports city.”
Clearly, Washington, D.C., is making its mark here in Austin, and why shouldn’t it? After all, as startup luminary Steve Case most eloquently noted, the Nation’s Capital was actually the birthplace of the World Wide Web. “It’s worth remembering that the internet was started, funded and invented here in the Washington, D.C.,-area. It was initially created by the government 30 years ago a time when only three percent of us were online. Now, of course, everybody’s on line and we take it entirely for granted.”
As for the D.C. Economic Partnership, they’re taking nothing for granted. Through vision, planning and more than just a little bit of aggressive marketing, they have effectively taken their message to a viable, relevant and vibrant target audience – the attendees and participants of SXSW.
(Pictured above, L-R, is Keith Sellars, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C. Economic Partnership, Steve Case and Mayor Bowser.)
(Photo of Austin by Geoff Livingston.)