The Startup Entrepreneur’s Guide to SXSW 2018


Attending SXSW is a great experience, no matter who you are. But, for entrepreneurs especially, all that SXSW has to offer can feel overwhelming. During the week of events, you can find funding for your company, make connections, pitch your startup, add talent to your team, and learn about how to grow your business.

The University of Texas at Austin is represented at more than 80 sessions during SXSW and SXSWEdu — Hook’em! Check out UT’s full SXSW event list here.

With so many incredible events, it can be difficult to navigate this world-renowned conference. Read on for our top 5 daily suggestions for SXSW 2018. Visit to add these events to your SXSW schedule!


The Anatomy of a Trend | 11:00AM — 12:00PM

Trends are all around us. We see them in what we eat, where we live and how we connect with each other. They dictate the products we want and the services we crave — and can even last for decades. By identifying trends before they reach critical mass, companies can tap into unlimited growth. To do so, they must connect the dots between influences to identify macro trends, filter them into their own brand DNA and innovate at the right time for the customer. So how do you forecast a trend?

Reach Out: The Networking Strategy You Need Today | 11:00AM — 12:00PM

Success in life is more than having goals and skills. You need connections. And to get connections, you need to Reach Out — fearlessly, strategically, and every day of the work week. This workshop/book talk offers practical guide to building valuable career connections―through tools participants already have and people they already know. Author Molly Beck shares how to use social media and simple digital tools to begin building and expanding the number of people — today.

Corporate Accelerators: What Startups Should Know | 12:30PM — 1:30PM

Every executive today wants to boost innovation beyond what comes out of in-house R&D. Increasingly, companies are setting up corporate accelerators to nurture start-up companies, aiming to tap into new ideas and technologies. But these accelerators can differ from independent accelerators, and entrepreneurs should understand that difference. This panel seeks to deconstruct the “black box” of corporate accelerators to highlight their metrics of success, and what makes them effective.

Return on Inclusion: Investing in Diverse Startups | 2:00PM — 3:00PM

A group of fund managers will discuss how investing in diverse startups can lead to greater financial success. Panelist will discuss the challenges that entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds face as they look to raise money and build their businesses, and will explore how startups can leverage their diverse perspective as a competitive advantage.

ATX Startup Crawl | 4:00PM — 8PM

The ATX Startup Crawl 2018 is one of the biggest startup party of SXSW. This is a fantastic opportunity to get visibility in the Austin startup community, launch your product, practice your pitch, and recruit talent. The ATX Startup Crawl 2018 is a celebration of technology and entrepreneurship in Austin!


Futureproof Your Business for the Next Disruption | 9:30AM — 10:30AM

What’s the secret (sauce?) for succeeding in digital transformation and for onboarding new technologies to drive your business? In Futureproof, based on their experience, research and many case studies, Caleb and Minter explore the key success factors, presenting specific and concrete action plans for individuals, entrepreneurs and executives. Looking at the 12 most important technologies that are bound to disrupt your business, we look at the key mindsets to adopt to drive results.

SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event | March 10 and 11 9:30AM — 6PM and March 12 11:30AM-1PM

2018 SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event presented by Dash will feature 50 Interactive technology companies from 10 different categories. These companies will dazzle a live audience with their company pitch and Q&A with our panel of judges.

“Business as Usual” While Revamping Decade of Code | 3:30PM — 4:30PM

Migrations are painful. It can take a company a long time to fully address “tech-debt” and dedicating resources to a migration can be detrimental to a business, but it doesn’t need to be. A migration can be a celebration of transformation, where tech teams continue to deliver value while implementing changes and upgrades. This talk outlines key factors to consider in maneuvering a tech transformation and offers a set of guidelines to continue supporting the day to day operations.

Where Startups Go Wrong Manufacturing Overseas | 9:30AM — 10:30AM

Often times, when a start up is ready to manufacture…they’ve made it passed the many phases that precede in product development…start ups believe it makes the most sense to travel to visit the factories. Sounds like a great idea in theory…but this usually leads to a slippery slope of mistakes if done incorrectly. Learn about the changing landscape in China and how the rising costs of labor is effecting factory willingness to work with small startups.

How to Lead the Global Race for Startup Innovation | 11:00AM — 12:00PM

Most Global 2000 companies want to tap into innovation hubs like Dublin, Tel Aviv, Singapore and beyond. After all, disruptive ideas can come from anywhere. But many have not yet developed systems in or ties to communities, even if they have a business presence there. These corporate leaders, all of whom spend time in the world’s top innovation markets, will share how to engage startups partners across the globe and what to watch out for as you establish outposts.


IP to IPO-Integrating IP into Your Strategy | 3:30PM — 4:30PM

Starting a business is both thrilling and overwhelming. Identifying and protecting your intellectual property assets early is often the key to later success. In this session, led by representatives from the United States Patent and Trademark Office in collaboration with the Licensing Executives Society and other IP-related organizations, learn how to integrate an IP strategy into your overall business plan and have the opportunity to ask questions one-on-one with these subject matter experts.

How Can Sustainability Coexist With Consumerism? | 11:00AM — 12:00PM

Sustainability and Consumerism seem in opposition. Creating a sustainable business model is a constant challenge for most industries; An example is a one company that has entered into the Mexican spirits industry & utilized the American agri-business models to achieve sustainability and consumer lead demand. Exploring how a strong sustainable business model can be a key to success

2018 Emerging Tech Trends Report | 11:00AM — 12:00PM

You’ve undoubtedly studied trends within your own industry, but how can you prepare yourself and your business for what’s next in a world of continuous disruption? In order to see the future of one technology, you must look at the interconnected future of many technologies. In this provocative session, futurist Amy Webb, professor at NYU Stern School of Business and founder of the Future Today Institute, will release her 11th annual Tech Trends Report. She’ll provide a data-driven analysis for the emerging tech trends that need to be on your radar in 2018 — and she’ll draw on those trends to show you scenarios for the future of business, governing and society.

Get Funded: How to Pitch | 2:00PM — 3:00PM

This free and open to the public session is presented by SXSW & General Assembly. To gain entry, download your free SXSW Guest Pass in two minutes at

Learn how to craft a compelling pitch for investors that will help your company get funded. This session will focus on teaching participants how to structure their pitch, how to build a complementary deck, and how to deliver the pitch to get the right result.

Restructure Your Startup Network in 6 Months | 5:00PM — 6:00PM

We all know the saying “your network is your net worth.” It means that you should invest in authentic relationships because social capital is important. From VC’s to Corporate Partnerships there are many ways entrepreneurs can start and grow their ventures. Restructuring your startup network in 6 months means understanding people buy into you before they buy into your product. Utilize the relationships you have and make a plan to obtain relationships you need.


A World of Blockchain Powered Communities | 3:30PM — 4:30PM

Beyond the shiny lights of cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology is having a significant and positive impact on the lives of many people. DigitalTown is working with communities around the world to rollout over 10,000 self-funding smart city initiatives, where residents and visitors locally search, shop and connect directly. This is already being deployed in major cities including; Austin, London, Dallas, Nashville, Miami, San Diego, Rio de Janeiro, and Sydney to name a few. In this session we will share our journey to introduce verified permanent digital identities, blockchain based shared ownership of City Platforms through local CityShares, and how CityTokens can help to energize the local community and support a peer-to-peer economy.

A Better World: Next-Gen Tech for Social Good | 9:30AM — 10:30AM

Let’s suppose that at night you can have whatever dream you wanted of a better world. What would the world look like? That’s what companies are asking themselves more and more. Next-gen technologies like blockchain, AI and machine learning have opened our eyes to the infinite potential of everyone’s lives, and increasingly companies are harnessing the power of these technologies to amplify a social cause or mission. Learn how companies are using next-gen tech for social good.

How to Hire Like Big Business, Even If You’re Not | 11:00AM — 12:00PM

Hiring quality talent takes time and effort that many small businesses struggle to find. Join LinkedIn’s Vice President of Talent and LiveIntent’s Vice President, People Development as they tackle some of the pain points for SMB hiring and provide tips based on enterprise recruiting tactics. You’ll learn about current hiring trends, the powerful impact of company culture, and discuss insights for entrepreneurs who are looking to grow their businesses.

Should You Sell Your Baby Unicorn? | 12:30PM — 1:30PM

Less than 1% of tech startups get VC funded beyond Series A. If you don’t fall in that very tiny bucket, should you just give up on your entrepreneurial dream? Not at all. There’s more than one way for a startup to reach a successful exit. Come to this panel to learn about alternative strategies for funding, growth and exits, and how acquirers think about buying startups. Our panel includes experts in alternative funding strategies, growth through partnering, and acquisitions.

How Can Big Companies & Entrepreneurs Collaborate? | 12:30PM — 1:30PM

In this panel, experts from top business schools and corporate innovation groups discuss best practices for startup-BigCo collaboration. BigCos often don’t know how to identify startups with relevant technologies or how to best work with entrepreneurs. Many entrepreneurs would benefit from working with BigCos as test customers and partners, but are concerned with IP or adapting to the structures and policies of corporates. The panel brings together unique perspectives from academic experts who have studied and worked with these collaborations, and the innovation executives that have implemented them.


What’s Next After Advertising? | 12:30PM — 1:30PM

In 2008, Seth Godin famously said, “Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left.” With native advertising and branded entertainment projected for $20B growth by 2021, to what extent has his prophecy come true? Join a talk led by Otto Bell, Chief Creative Officer of CNN’s Courageous Brand Studio, on taking the two-footed leap into branded content. Following, he will be joined by leaders across various industries to discuss how they are bringing brand storytelling into their marketing mix.

Funding 2020: Beyond the Status Quo Strategies | 9:30AM — 10:30AM

Serial entrepreneur Alan S. Knitowski has had multiple exits over a 15-year period, most recently raising nearly $100 million at Phunware — and often in non-traditional ways. Alan will discuss the ins and outs of funding in different ecosystems on the path to becoming Austin’s next billion-dollar company. Having built, sold and scaled companies from Silicon Valley to Silicon Beach to Silicon Hills, Alan will offer tactical advice for thinking beyond today’s status quo investment strategies.

What Have We Learned Creating 2000 Startups? | 12:30PM — 1:30PM

This session is about sharing our experiences and learnings on changing our university education guidelines to an entrepreneur-driven model. Learning by doing in extreme, problem and experience based learning are the guidelines, and we shifted our education model: all students must develop a startup as a way of integrating what they are learning with real-world problems. Throughout this journey in the past few years, 2000 startups were developed — and what have we learned?

Battling Brand Maturity With Innovation | 5:00PM — 6:00PM

No brand wants to jump the shark. So what does it take to keep leading brands ahead of the curve?

Learn how top food, beverage, and hospitality brands maintain their position as influencers by adopting a culture of innovation while staying true to their core values.

The brains behind Starbucks, Panda Express, and Marriott will discuss the revolutionary experiences they’ve created to reignite brand loyalty and redefine customers’ expectations, as well as what’s in store for the future!

5 Major Generational Shifts & Understanding Gen Z | 5:00PM — 6:00PM

The session will address big generational shifts between Gen Z vs millennials and baby boomers and how this affects hiring as well as marketing, branding, and user acquisition.

We will also cover why understanding your audience and conducting iterative research and user testing is necessary for everyone — from startups trying to figure out product-market fit to companies that have a nationwide footprint already.


PitchTX Competition and Happy Hour | All Day (See Website)

The best Graduate startups from across the US will compete against each other for bragging rights and up to $10K in prizes. On the day of the competition, teams will pitch their startup and field questions from investors and entrepreneurs from the Austin community.

UT Austin’s Best Undergrad Startups | 2:00PM — 3:00PM

In 60 minutes you’ll learn about five of UT Austin’s Best Undergrad Startups in a fun and fast-paced pitch session. Each entrepreneur will get 5 minutes to demo their solution and then they will get grilled by a panel of Alumni CEO’s and Investors. These startups are all part of the Longhorn Startup Lab at the University of Texas at Austin.

Cryptocurrencies: A New Future for Money | 11:00AM — 12:00PM

Cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, are poised to change the way we spend, invest, save, borrow, and lend. By marrying money and software, this technology enables new forms of trustless, digital transacting. This talk will illuminate the possibility of a new financial system and describe cutting-edge research being done at MIT to build the future of money.

What Is Blockchain? How Will It Change The World? | 11:00AM — 12:00PM

Blockchain technology is often compared with the Internet and the impact of it is expected to be even greater. We are already witnessing how it is radically transforming the world and have realised that it is not just a toy for geeks, but an efficient tool which can be deployed by financial institutions, businesses, governments and individuals. But how does it actually work? Dr. Julian Hosp, one of the world’s top blockchain experts, will explain the basics of blockchain, why it’s the beginning of a new era and what profound possibilities it can bring to society and economy. It is his mission to help people all around the world to become #cryptofit for the new decentralized world. Are you ready to join the revolution?


Equity Crowdfunding in the Wild | 11:00AM — 12:00PM

Funding a business is hard, especially when it isn’t the $1B idea that VCs are looking for. What happens to the amazing ideas that get ignored by traditional finance? Equity crowdfunding can help. Slava Rubin of Indiegogo/First Democracy VC will explore how a diverse group of founders achieve success with EC and shared it with their fans. From local restaurants, to tech, find out why EC is a great source of capital for any business.

Startups and Big Companies Working Together | 12:30PM — 1:30PM

Can the old adage “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” be applied to a world where startups and big companies work together in previously unthinkable ways? Can more, and not less, creativity and progress be made when a relationship that was once defined as ‘disruptor and disruptee’ decide to work together — in public? What can result when a company with seemingly endless resources, but burdened by their own historic processes — meets and decides to take a risk with a startup.

How Business Innovation Inspires Digital Savvy Fans | 12:30PM — 1:30PM

Iconic guitar manufacturer Fender has been striking a chord with consumers for 70+ years; however, integrating new digital services into an established brand brings fresh opportunities and challenges, especially with 90% of new players quitting guitar within a year.

This session will cover the impact of adopting new technologies for new and established companies in order to turn new tech savvy users into returning, loyal consumers. Join Ethan Kaplan as he discusses what Fender’s vital move into the digital space means for the music industry, and how companies can apply these concepts to grow their own music businesses and optimize user experience.

Social Maps and the Future of Location-Based | March 15 11:00AM-12:00PM

Mobile users are becoming increasingly comfortable with sharing their location. This, along with advances in location-based tech and the mainstream adoption of social mapping platforms (Snapchat Maps, Waze) is opening doors to how we use mobile apps to connect with our surroundings. It’s changing the way cities, events and brands engage with local users.
This session will cover the latest in location-based technology and what it means for developers, users, cities, events and advertisers.

How Blockchain Will Impact Financial Markets | 3:30PM — 4:30PM

2018 will be the year that blockchain moves from the whiteboard into the real world. Bringing together representatives from the tech community, financial institutions, and the industry’s largest consortium of its kind, this panel will explore the true potential of blockchain for fintech companies and financial services. Find out how blockchain can address legacy infrastructure problems such as data fragmentation, reconciliation and trade matching to achieve huge efficiencies and cost savings.




Herb Kelleher Entrepreneurship Center

At HKEC, we’re all about igniting world changing ideas and preparing UT Austin student founders with the tools for startup success.