For many years SXSW has seen representatives from all over the world migrate to Austin to connect, promote and learn. In the last five years in particular, more foreign country governments – Germany, France, Spain, Netherlands, Ireland, Chile, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore – and have invested in sending their companies and people to SXSW to extend their reach into the U.S. and other foreign markets.
By far, the U.K. has had the the largest contingency of representatives, up to 1,500 in 2014. Leading the way in this effort is UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), an economic development agency that promotes and supports the exchange of business, people and ideas between the U.K. and foreign countries.
Regarding their annual presence at SXSW, Haileigh Meyers, an officer at UKTI, stated last year, “The UK government wanted to ensure there were services and opportunities available to British companies, bands, and individuals to promote their product/band/idea.”
What I love about that statement is the inclusion of ‘bands’ in their business plans. When is the last time you heard about an agency for the U.S. government sending American bands to tour and gain exposure outside the states? We can’t even properly fund our homeland security. (No, I’m not bitter.)
And the UK does a bang up job at SXSW, hosting a slew of talent each year at the British Music Embassy Showcase, making Latitude 30 it’s headquarters. Last year I got to witness Young Fathers perform a mind blowing show up close and personal, and then reflect on that performance after they one 2014’s Mercury Prize.
It was last year at the Great British Breakfast that I met several members from UKTI, who then introduced me to London & Partners. This is yet another government funded resource, through the City of London specifically, designed to help foreign companies to set up business in London. Their ‘partners’ include legal, accounting, marketing, and other firms with unique skills and backgrounds in traversing the waves of work visas, banking, and other tasks that would overwhelm the average entrepreneur.
This year UKTI will again have a large presence, showcasing 50 UK companies on the trade show floor. Now in its 10th year, UK Expo will run over the course of four days, from March 15th through the 18th, with a range of tech companies presenting their wares, platforms and solutions.
A few UK companies to check out:
Fezzee, whom I had a chance to meet down in Elephant & Castle during my festival event technology research (shameless plug for my panel “Future of Event Tech”). CEO Gene Myers and his team are working on a mobile festival platform that supports a number of new features of interst to both festival promoters and fans.
The Ticket Fairy is “here to change how you attend clubs, gigs and festivals forever. And we donate a slice of all ticket booking fees to charity!” Having attended Intix earlier this year, and having experienced the pain-in-the-ass process of using an American credit card on See Tickets, that industry itself is ripe for disruption. Just maybe, these are the people to sprinkle some magic dust on the whole thing.
Sofar Sounds is a company I first learned about from a friend and SXSW roommate (three years running), Joanna Jurgens, who is running crazy during Sx to help manage their intimate secret shows. Based in London, they produce magical gigs all around the world, tapping well-known artists to perform in tiny places. Almost a year ago, the talented SOAK played her heart out for a Sofar gig, and this year she’s part of BBC’s Introducing Showcase during the Embassy.
I look forward to SXSW each year for many reasons, but one of my favourite times is connecting with the Brits, talking business, taking in their music, and yes, even getting my fix of bangers and mash (am also dying for a good Sunday roast).
The U.S. and the U.K. got through a bad break up back in the day, but for many decades we’ve remained very good friends. Their actors win awards on our shores, and vice versa. Our 19th century tradition of sending women of high means to marry their lords went into the history books, becoming inspiration for a fantastic drama series, sprinkled with moments of comedy, compliments of Dame Maggie Smith. We get up at the crack of dawn, literally, to watch Premier League football, not soccer, matches in British pubs. Even Winston Churchill’s mum was American.
So let’s hope our respective border and immigration representatives from each country make their way to Austin as well. They need to understand how the potential of these trade relationships between the U.K. and the U.S. could be even greater with more supportive visa policies.
Check out the full UKTI at SXSW 2015 line up here.