All eyes on Austin

By Nancy Salem

Friday, May 12, 2017

Sandia pitched a panel on clean-energy entrepreneurship, and South by Southwest said yes

South by Southwest, the 10-day conference and festival in Austin that celebrates the convergence of interactive media, film, and music, is famously hard to get into as a presenter. There are stories of people pitching ideas for conference sessions or panels year after year, only to be turned down again and again by the SXSW selection committee.

This year New Mexico made it into the elite ranks of SXSW presenters, including a panel led by Sandia. “It’s a very competitive process to get invited into SXSW, and we were able to sell our idea,” says Jackie Kerby Moore, manager of Technology and Economic Development Dept. 1183.

Last fall, Jackie and David Kistin (1183) pitched the idea of a Sandia-organized panel called “How the DOE Fuels Cleantech Innovation” focusing on programs that support entrepreneurs and small businesses. The panel was accepted into SXSW’s Interactive Festival, which spotlights emerging technologies and is known as a breeding ground for new ideas.

It includes a trade show, speakers, and a startup accelerator.

For those 10 days, Austin feels like the center of the universe and SXSW is the place to be.

The Sandia panel was part of the Startup Village, bringing together startups, entrepreneurs, investors, and “innovative tastemakers.” Speakers included Raymond Weitekamp from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Cyclotron Road, a cleantech incubator focused on early stage energy technology; Vladimir Mathias, a former Los Alamos National Laboratory researcher and entrepreneur working with Sandia through the Small Business Vouchers Pilot; and Jean Redfield, president and CEO of NextEnergy and an industry mentor to small companies in DOE’s Energy I-Corps program. Jackie moderated the panel.

“We wanted to look at new models for increasing national lab/small business interactions,” David says. “Each of our speakers represented different programs and unique perspectives that can be helpful for businesses interested in working with the DOE labs.”

SXSW kicks off with technology, and the Sandia panel was on the first day. “It turned out very well,” Jackie says. “Our focus was on innovation and we were able to share information about exciting new DOE programs.”

SXSW hosts people from all over the world. Jackie says that made the festival extremely energizing. “For those 10 days, Austin feels like the center of the universe and SXSW is the place to be,” she says.

She and David were part of a delegation from Albuquerque including Mayor Richard J. Berry and Economic Development Director Gary Oppedahl, as well as the New Mexico Tech Council. While there, Jackie and David were able to connect with the University of Texas and the Austin startup community.

Jackie says that prior to SXSW, Sandia participated in the Rise of the Rest Tour, a nationwide effort led by Steve Case, founder of AOL, to support entrepreneurs in emerging startup ecosystems. “We were thrilled to host Steve and his team and introduce them to several Sandia inventors,” she says. “Both SXSW and Rise of the Rest are really good examples of Sandia’s engagement in national entrepreneurial efforts.”