Potential seen in Las Vegas’ inaugural SXSW event

Las Vegas’ inaugural South By Southwest will be a small but important fete with plenty of potential.

First, it’s not the Austin, Texas, event. Las Vegas’ version is all about the entrepreneur looking for help and the venture capitalist looking for the next great idea.

In Austin each March, SXSW LLC produces a two-week series of events geared toward film, music and interactive professionals.

The Austin event started out as a music festival, but the Las Vegas conference is finding its legs as a business-to-business event.

Last year, SXSW brought 147,000 people to the 26th annual conference, trade show, music and film festival in the Texas capital, resulting in an economic impact of $190 million for the city of Austin.

Although great for the Austin economy, the event doesn’t have much room to grow.

“It’s straining the capacities of our city in a lot of ways,” said producer Christine Auten.

There aren’t enough hotel rooms to go around each March, and parking can be a nightmare. Meeting space is tight, making any Austin-based brand expansion almost impossible.

Thus, the idea for SXSW V2V in Las Vegas was born.

“I love having the brand of Las Vegas associated with South By Southwest,” said Chris Meyer, vice president of global business sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Meyer said the Las Vegas event came about after he approached SXSW executives in March 2012.

“It’s the first time they’re bringing the brand of South By Southwest outside of their Austin headquarters,” he said.

From Sunday through Wednesday , V2V will take over the meeting space at The Cosmopolitan.

Its focus will be on the startup world and creative markets, with time set aside for networking and plenty of interactions. New businesses, entrepreneurs, hackers, venture capitalists and marketers are expected to attend.

“We put everybody together,” Auten said. “We really are in the business of providing a platform to the people who come to make it their own.”

A mix of Las Vegas residents and out- of-state and international visitors are expected to attend.

“This is a topic of particular interest to a lot of other countries and visitors around the world looking to solidify themselves as entrepreneurial and tech centers,” Auten said.

With about 1,500 people expected, Meyer said, “by all measures it’s a success for a conference-style event in its first year.”

Auten recommends attendees at SXSW V2V “put the phone away and talk to the person next to you. You could be sitting next to the person who could make the future of your business, and you don’t even know it.”

At the Texas event, the startup and entrepreneur demographic is one of the largest growing sectors, Auten said, making a spin-off for that group the next logical pathway.

Even so, the inaugural SXSW V2V is purposely narrow and small so that Auten and her crew didn’t bite off more than they could chew.

“I see it getting bigger. In the future years we’ll be able to diversify the content a bit more,” Auten said.

This won’t be the company’s last time in Las Vegas: SXSW has an active bid out to local properties for future events.

In Texas, SXSW has gradually expanded. The company recently added an education technology component and sustainability conference that have become standalone attractions.

“We have a destination that allows them to dream as big as they want to be,” Meyer said of the Las Vegas event.

He said he’d like to see the event grow in attendance but not get so big that quality is sacrificed.

“It’s something really unique for our destination,” Meyer said.

Anyone interested in attending the Las Vegas event can visit sxswv2v.com.

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