Startups · SxSW

Is SxSW worth it for startups or has it jumped the shark?

Ryan Weldon Founder/CEO at Breakable

March 3rd, 2016

I've heard a lot of people talk about SxSW just being too big and too expensive to be really value add for startups - I mean true startups, not Uber or companies that have raised series Cs and beyond. I've gone the last 2 years and I do see that it's different than even 5 or 6 years ago.  Even if you don't buy a badge, it's a couple thousand dollars for flights and hotel and hard to see the value. Do you agree?

Shawn Matthews

March 3rd, 2016

Ryan, I have been going to SXSW off and on for the past 10 years and I would say that it probably has jumped the shark, however I think it depends on what you are trying to accomplish for your startup. If you are trying to launch and get a big media push, then absolutely not because you are competing with huge marketing budgets and media outlets looking for big stories. However, if you are using the event to strategically meet people in your industry, then I would say it's invaluable. Think about this, you have people from all over the world in one place. There are so many "non-sxsw" events that even if you don't meet big names, there are still plenty of valuable contacts to be made that can help you in the long term with your company. I am going, mainly to have some cocktails, meet some friends and eat some bbq. If you have specific questions hit me up and shawn (at) swagbot (dot) com and I will give you some more advice. Shawn Sent from my iPhone

David Albert Founder & Principal at GreyGoo

March 3rd, 2016

SXSW is no longer a good venue for startups. Long gone are the days when one could "launch" at SXSW and gain traction from it. I agree with Shawn--I've been going to the conference on and off since the early days and the networking/meet-up opportunities can be invaluable (and fun), but not for getting media coverage. Not to mention it used to be very affordable to attend.

Peter Bray CEO at Bray & Co

March 3rd, 2016

Great points by everyone. Put simply, it depends in your desired outcome as a true startup

If you are looking to get cut through/noticed on merit only, probably not
If you want to meet like minded people, then yes.
If you want a good personal experience, then yes.

I know of a few large companies that are struggling to have their planned presence noticed without significant investment.

The good news is this sort of thing is always cyclical and there is already an event out there that is better for you, and is what SXSW was years ago. Good luck!

Kyra Reed Digital Marketing Consultant, Cannabis Marketing, Social Media Training and Educator

March 3rd, 2016

I quit going 5 years ago.  The magic that once was has been buried under the massive crowds and corporate sponsorships.  The fact that Obama and Mrs. are going to be will be insanity there and I imagine very hard to get anything meaningful accomplished.  

William Agush Founder and CEO at Shuttersong Incorporated

March 3rd, 2016

It all depends what what you're trying to get out of it. If you want to soak up the current vibe and immerse yourself in SxSW as an experience, it's probably worth it. If you're hoping to get your company noticed or raise money YMMV. 

David Coleman

March 3rd, 2016


What is your target market for your solution? is that the population that will be at SXSW? I spoke there about 5-6 years ago, and I thought it was large then, and did not even have to buy a ticket. What would you get out of going now? It is kind of like going to CeBit (which I have never attended) or CES, they are very big shows. Are you going to meet other vendors for partnerships? As a networking event, SXSW might be worth while, but otherwise I would stick with the prior advice and find a more local manageable show. I am lucky to live in Silicon Valley so there are shows here or in SF about every week or so.

Dean Harris Chief Marketing Officer- Fractional CMO-

March 3rd, 2016

I think it is wort it and agree you do not need a badge. The networking is excellent plus you are going to learn a lot. Go. Eat BBQ. Have fun . Sent from my iPhone. Any typos can and should be blamed on the phone even though it cannot defend itself. Yet.

Tom Price SVP & Partner at Bernard Group Communications, Cloud Computing, Heath IT, IoT, Mobility & FinTech

March 4th, 2016

As an Austin resident, I have had the opportunity to attend SXSW as both a badge holder and simply as a networker, think of the lobby bars at the Hilton and the Driskell. IMO, the event has gotten so large that for a startup, in the classical definition, I would recommend smaller, more focused events, ie, based on your product's target market. There are events and conferences that are focused on healthcare IT, IoT, security, FinTech, wireless, etc, where VCs are there specifically to seek attractive investment candidates in that particular market vertical.

Peggy Kelsey Creative Director at Change Your World-online courses to increase personal and professional productivity

March 6th, 2016

@Mark, you don't need to stay so far away. There are Airbnbs that rent rooms for less than $100/night, (some even cheaper). Find ones along a bus line and you don't have to worry about driving. Driving/parking is insane anyway, don't even think about it. Look online at for local info. and

Michael Burack

March 3rd, 2016

find smaller local venues they will be more profitable