We couldn't avoid the probability of expansion forever. Austin's most beloved behemoth, SXSW, has finally realized its full potential and will tap into another market this summer — a dry, arid, unexpectedly up-and-coming market (more on that later) by the name of Las Vegas, Nevada.
"We are definitely not leaving [Austin], but we think that the March event has now created enough momentum that the time is right to expand our brand to another city." - Hugh Forrest
So why choose Vegas, of all the cool (pun intended) cities out there? You may have heard of the Downtown Project, spearheaded by 38-year-old Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos. A $350 million initiative to remake Vegas as a center of creativity, the New York Times Magazine recently reported that the Downtown Project hopes to "draw 10,000 'upwardly mobile, innovative professionals' to the area in the next five years." From walkable coffee shops to accessible health care, Hsieh aims to “build the most community-focused large city in the world.”
Hsieh's target demographic is inherently young and entrepreneurial, aligning rather seamlessly with the intention of SXSW V2V, which is to bring together a small degree of intensely creative people in an upstart environment.
“Las Vegas has a small startup eco-system and community, but this community has lots of energy and passion. In fact, there will be a large presence from Vegas-based tech companies at SXSW 2013,” Forrest says. “In many ways, the expansion to Las Vegas will help shine even more light on all the amazing creative innovation that begins in Austin.”
At this point, startup side-conversations have been integrated into all pieces of the SXSW puzzle, like SXSW Music’s “How to Get your Music Startup Funded” panel or the Startup Showcase at SXSW Eco. SXSW V2V, however, will take on a larger view of the startup concept that will serve as the umbrella under which every other discussion — interactive, music, film, eco, edu — falls.
Forrest explains that it served SXSW well to start small 27 years ago, and the plan is to do the same in Vegas. The events will be priced similarly ($695 - $1150 a badge), but where over 25,000 Interactive registrants come to Austin each March, only 1,500 total will head to Vegas.
When considering positioning, the decision to place SXSW V2V in such a distinct environment is more likely to widen the SXSW audience rather than draw from the existing pool of attendees who travel to Austin every year. And with Vegas’ surplus of hotel rooms, it may be the one SXSW event where you won’t have to promise your unborn child in exchange for a place to stay.