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How I Took SXSW to a Whole New Place

Roland Swenson talks about scaling this signature event.

This is the story of entreprenuer Roland Swenson, as told to Inc.'s Adam Bluestein.

This won’t be the first time that SXSW has done an event outside of Austin. We did an event in St. Louis, and we launched NXNW in Portland, Oregon.

But as SXSW has grown, our relationship with the city of Austin has become closer and more complex. By 2011, we wanted to learn how other cities work with large events, so we set up meetings with convention bureaus around the U.S.

Out of that process, we met people from Las Vegas, who offered to help us launch an event there. SXSW V2V will debut in August. Initially, we’re going to focus on a program called Accelerator. It’s kind of a contest for start-ups looking for investors, where they pitch to a jury of investors and business people, and after a couple of rounds, one is awarded winner.

Starting a new event is always risky. But we’ll be bringing people from Austin as well as hiring locals to work the event. This is going to be the first time we’re not restricted by how many places there are to stay or how many flights there are into town. We’re not going to put much of a dent in Vegas initially.

We’re hoping for maybe 1,500 people, and we don’t expect it to be a carbon copy of SXSW in Austin. Hopefully, it will meet different needs but have enough SXSW flavor to be familiar.

Does going to Vegas mean we’ve sold out? People have been complaining about that since 1990. Haters gonna hate. In my view, we’ve grown up. It’s become more useful and more fun.

From the July/August 2013 issue of Inc. magazine


Adam Bluestein is a frequent contributor to Inc., writing about health care, innovation, and new technology. He lives with his wife and two children in Burlington, Vermont.

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