The famous South by Southwest (SXSW) film, music and art festival is getting underway down in Austin, TX and so is a lesser known component of the festival, the SXSW trade show, which features an eclectic mix of exhibitors from a range of industries focused mostly on the tech sector and featuring a number of enterprising startups itching to get their idea more exposure as well as some more established brands, like WordPress.
Wading through the various pop up displays on the trade show floor you can see notice diversity of the attendees and the exhibitors alike. There are many people attending who you typically wouldn’t see at a trade show, and there are so many interesting tech startups with diverse niches and ideas. Each trade show display provides something new and interesting. There are no shortage of costumed representatives, including an alien and what appears to be a life-sized yam (apparently promoting a startup project that went defunct even before the trade show got underway, but the company couldn’t find it in their heart to nix the yam costume).
SXSW’s trade show has a much more laid back feel than many other expos, perhaps influenced by the hipster culture surrounding the festival itself. It certainly isn’t the smallest trade show. Even though it won’t compete with monsters like CES, there are nearly 150 exhibitors from across the spectrum of new media, internet startups and the larger entertainment industry. Browsing through the rows of simple pop up displays, you can see booths from the likes of the New York Times alongside cool startups like BlinkFX (which is pitching a light up bracelet that can be given to individuals in the audience or crowd at a live event and which synchronize with the music or performance to provide an interactive experience that makes the crowd part of the show–kind of like waving lighters for the 21st century).
Each trade show display at the SXSW trade show provides something novel and new. The mix of art and startup magic really makes the whole visit captivating and interesting. Every new tech startup undoubtedly hoping that a deep-pocketed hollywood star and aspiring venture capitalist will wander by and fall in love with the ideas pitched from behind their trade show display.
Definitely a more engaging and casual environment than most expos, which project an air of business formality, even as each trade show display screams out ‘fun’ and ‘exciting’, the SXSW trade show provides an interesting intersection of business and artful creativity, a fact which is driven home by the large-scale art performances and installations being created right outside the trade show floor.