houston innovators podcast episode 227

Podcast: The Houston founder's guide to navigating SXSW 2024

Headed to SXSW? Here's what you need to know. Photo courtesy of SXSW

Tens of thousands of people are descending upon Austin for SXSW — many of whom are ambitious startup founders. For Houston entrepreneurs, there's a lot to consider before heading down the street to Austin, and Marc Nathan can help.

The native Houstonian, who works with startups as senior director of market development at Michael Best and is based in Austin, has attended the conference for over 20 years. Every year, he assembles a comprehensive SXSW guide including round up of must-attend events, tips, and more.

He joined the Houston Innovators Podcast this week to provide his thoughts on how Houston founders can make the most of the tech-focused Interactive track — or the unofficial experiences taking place around Austin.

"You do not need a badge to enjoy and get the most out of SXSW," Nathan says, explaining that having a badge is ideal for a first timer experience. "For struggling founders who are typically broke, if you can swing the travel to get to Austin — getting here, staying here, and eating here, which are all not very cheap to start with — if you can swing that, then a badge is not that critical."

He also reminds founders that getting an invite to speak on a panel, pitch in the competition, or volunteering can score you a free or discounted badge.

On the show, Nathan shares more tips — from registering to everything you're even remotely interested in to making sure you have on your comfiest walking shoes and bring your external phone charger — on the podcast, but explains that there's really one big mistake new SXSW attendees should avoid.

"The biggest mistake I see year after year — and it's really an entrepreneur problem — but don't be too sales-y. Listen before you talk," Nathan says. "Everybody at SX is going to get it — they are going to understand the language you're speaking. It's not like explaining what your startup is to your 80-year-old grandmother. But you gotta give them a reason and a way to help you."

Headed out to SXSW? Here are a few Houston-focused events to attend.

March 9 - A $20 Trillion Challenge: Financing the Energy Transition (badge required)

A couple of Houstonians join the panel of a topic that is very prevalent in the energy capital of the world: funding of the energy transition. Juliana Garaizar joins the conversation on Saturday, March 9, at 4 pm.

March 10 - How NASA Supports Startups and Individuals to Collaborate on its Mission (badge required)

Last month, a Houston tech company launched a lunar lander in collaboration with NASA — and that's just one of countless examples of NASA's work with tech and startup companies. Join NASA for a panel discussing innovative partnerships on Sunday, March 10, at 4 pm.

March 11 - Houston House @ SXSW 2024 (badge required)

On Monday, March 11, at the LINE Hotel, the Greater Houston Partnership is hosting four panels and a happy hour. More info on the full-day event, which features over a dozen Houston-based experts, startup founders, and more, is available online.

March 12 - Women in VC Breakfast (registration required)

Houston Women in VC and Austin Women in VC are teaming up to host a breakfast with partners JP Morgan Chase and Born Global Ventures for all the female investors headed to SXSW on Tuesday, March 12, at 9 am. Request your registration online.

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