AUSTIN, Texas – Startups and product launches usually try to catch the public’s attention at the annual South by Southwest Interactive Festival. This year, an entire tech community was looking for recognition.
L.A. technology companies and entrepreneurs – often collectively referred to as Silicon Beach – showed up en masse for SXSWi in Austin, Texas, this year.
During the March 8-12 event, part of the broader South by Southwest festival featuring film and music, L.A. techies could be found leading official SXSWi talks, participating in startup competitions and showcasing their companies.
The “i” in SXSWi stands for “interactive conference,” and it began in the late 1990s. It has become one of the nation’s largest gatherings of technology companies and executives.
The Silicon Beach company showcase, held last week at an Austin hot dog and beer joint, consisted of 20 L.A. companies, ranging from startups to public companies. It was part of a broader tech gathering that drew more than 30,000 people in downtown Austin, according to SXSW organizers.
At the Silicon Beach event, participating companies set up booths where representatives could pitch services or demo products for investors, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts.
Though this was the second year for the Silicon Beach showcase, Nicole Jordan, who co-produced both events, said last year’s effort came together just a few weeks before SXSW and included only 11 startups.
This year, she and co-producer Kevin Winston, who runs tech networking group Digital LA, started earlier, asking interested companies to fill out questionnaires. They received about 30 applications and reached out to other companies to make sure the showcase represented the diversity of the L.A. tech community.
“Last year was kind of an experiment,” she said. “This year we had more time to plan. One of the things we wanted this year was companies that represented every growth stage. It wasn’t just a startup showcase; it was an L.A. company showcase.”
The event, which had attendees lined up around the block waiting to get in, would not have been as successful as recently as two years ago, she said.
“The moniker of ‘Silicon Beach’ has really been a help,” said Jordan, founder and chief executive of communication firm Radix Collective. “It’s something for people to rally around. We didn’t have that two or three years ago, and doing an L.A. tech event then wouldn’t have had the same level of attention.”
Companies at the event included public firms Demand Media and Cornerstone OnDemand, and startups such as e-commerce site 20Jeans and mobile game developer Scopely.