The South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival takes place annually in Austin, Texas. Since its inception in 1987, the event has been held in March. This year’s festival was scheduled from the 13th to the 22nd of the month but canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Yoon Do-hyun’s bands, Jang Ki-ha and Faces, and No Brain participated in the event in 2014. With the creation of the K-Pop sessions, SXSW began to be more well-known in South Korea over the last few years. However, it was only recognized as a music festival in South Korea and its other important aspects were not known, especially its role in the promotion of start-up companies.
SXSW also includes Pitch, a competitive event that has promoted promising start-ups since it began in 2009. Surprisingly, besides its reputation for promoting music, SXSW has also served as an important startup door. At the most recent Pitch event in 2019, more than 5,000 startups applied and only 503 were chosen to be in the finals.
Such notable companies to be chosen include: building technology company iKON (ICON, 2018), Hipmunk (2011) providing pain index search services, Siri (2010) with voice-responsive technology, video analysis, and distribution tube Mogul (2009) and many others have all gone through Pitch at SXSW.
South Korean startups have also knocked on this door for a long time. In 2016, Searslab and AKA entered the SXSW pitch finals. In 2019, Biscu Smart Bike Lock won the finals in the sports and performance category.
According to SXSW's announcement, since Pitch began, 75 percent of the start-ups who have been listed in the finals have received investments with a total amount of over $6.6 billion.
Nebula Genomics won the blockchain category in 2019. In the blockchain sector in 2020, AgUnity, DrumG, Quantstamp, Votem, and Winning Tree all made it to the finals in this category as well.
In 2020, Looxid Labs from South Korea made it to the Pitch finals at SXSW.Looxid Labs was one of five candidates in the augmented and virtual reality category. The company successfully made it into the top 50 list of companies qualified for the finals, out of a total of 937 companies that entered.
Looxid Labs was expected to put up a good fight on behalf of South Korean startups at SXSW Pitch, which has gained the attention of accelerators as it has become a contest for cutting-edge ideas. It is a remarkable achievement just to be included in the final 50 finalists list. It also highlights how it is necessary to pay attention to such innovative companies in South Korea and not just waiting to do so until they receive recognition at an American conference.