With SXSW canceled — and now the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has followed suit — and Austin and Houston entrepreneurs are reeling from the loss of networking, pitch competitions, and business opportunities. But unaffiliated organizations are trying to keep some of the spirit of SXSW alive in both Texas cities and online.
"Coronavirus dropped an economic bomb on Austin, and we are trying to triage the scraps," says Marc Nathan, vice president of client strategy at Egan Nelson, an Austin-based, startup-focused law firm.
The economic impact of SXSW 2019 was reported by the organization to have been over $350 million, and, even assuming this year's festival was on par with that, the city of Austin has lost more than that — from the affect on restaurants, lodging, and more. At this point, refunds are not being given out to badge holders.
Additionally, the organization itself is hurting. The 10-day festival has a year-round staff of over 150 people, and SXSW has recently laid off around 30 percent of those employees. Nathan, who says he highly suspects the organization will have to look into restructuring or even bankruptcy, also notes the cancelation will hurt individuals in a way that's not so easy to track.
"This did affect individuals," Nathan says. "Yes, the big brands were hurt and lost a lot of money, but it's not about them. It's about the little guys — the startups that wanted to launch, the bands that wanted to play, or the films that were selected for the contest. It's all the people who use SXSW as a platform, and that platform just disintegrated."
A group of scrappy Austinites have banded together to create Rally Austin and are putting together resources and events online for those still coming into the city and are looking to network responsibly. A few events are also taking place digitally. Here's a list of events to attend, and keep an eye on Rally Austin for any last-minute updates.
Houston-based WatchHerWork's Female Founders Day (March 12 in Austin)
Two Houston female founders — Reda Hicks and Denise Hamilton — saw an opportunity to make SXSW more female friendly, and that's what they've done by introducing this new unofficial SXSW event. Click here for more.
Hicks recently joined the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss the opportunity. Click here to listen.
SoFin @ SXSW 2020 (March 13 in Austin)
Focused on fintech solutions, SoFin will go on as planned and will feature Houston-based iownit.us, a blockchain-enabled investment platform. Click here for more info.
The Austin Tech Happy Hour will also still be held on Friday, March 13, in Austin. Click here for more info.
Houston-based Hatch Pitch Competition (March 16 hosted online)
The annual pitch competition, which is usually streamed online, will switch to completely online only. Click here for more info.
Hatch Pitch is also expected to host a Houston-based, cybersecurity-focused competition next month. Click here to read more.
OpenCoffee Club (March 16 in Austin)
Open Coffee Club, a monthly networking opportunity, will continue as planned. Networking is encouraged, handshaking is not. Click here for more info.
Digital Pitch - An Alternative to SXSW2020 (March 17 hosted online)
Houston's Startup Grind has organized a digital pitch competition that will be hosted completely online. Click here for more info.
Startup of the Year Virtual Pitch Competition (March 17 hosted online)
The Established's annual pitch competition is going online, despite The Established House's physical location being canceled. A Houston-based company will still pitch and the competition has Houston judges involved as well. Click here for more info.