The Ins and Outs of The UKTI Mission to SXSW 2011


After a very busy, very tiring, but very productive week out to the famous SXSW we have returned. All companies in check, no broken bones or more importantly broken laptops and with some great stories to tell - lets start off at day one…


As we touched down in refreshingly sunny Austin you could tell it was going to be a good week, with the sun shinning and the geeky vibes buzzing there was a lot to look forward to.

Jumping timezones had left everyone slightly confused as to what day and time it was so we eased the companies participating on the UKTI Mission in slowly with a networking reception at the Moonshine Grill. The Texan food on offer including buffalo meatballs and “corn dog” shrimp definitely got our taste bubs ready for the next few days, washed down with a few magaritas.

It gave the companies a chance to get to know one another a little better as well as meeting the UKTI and Chinwag teams. With the easy start to the busy week ahead most of us headed to bed, minus a few that started the SXSW parties early!


Into the first full day of the mission, and our first stop was Palm Door for the “Doing Business in the USA” Masterclass. This session set the scene companies looking to expand into the US with sessions ranging from legal battles, protecting IP,  employment law to the venture funding landscape taking in trends and predictions for the future on the way.

First up we had James Vicery and Ben Olivas  from DLA Piper discussing how to conduct business in the US. Next up were lessons learned from first hand experience by various US businessmen - Matthew lliffe, Creative Director, Beyond and Andy McLoughlin, Co-founder and Global VP of Strategy at Huddle.

After a coffee and brain break it was straight back into it with Rodney Gibbs from Ricochet Labs and Aziz Giliani from DFJ Mercury discussing the US digital market’s trends and predictions. This was followed by a look at the investment landscape and advice on raising capital in the US from Chris Redlitz , TransMedia Capital and Chris Shonk an Angel Investor from Liahona Ventures.

The Masterclass closed with some handy tips from Shaun O'Keefe, Interactive Festival Producer at SXSW and our very own Sam Michel on how to get the best out of SXSW. Being a SXSW virgin myself, I have to say it was very useful! We would like to say a huge thank you to all of the Masterclass speakers.  

With the afternoon upon us, and lunch tackled we sent the mission crew headed off to pick up the week’s most vital piece of equipment, their SXSW badges.  Along with your badge came the handy pocket guide and the hefty SXSW Interactive programme, packed full of info on day sessions, evening events, maps of the city and all things South By South West.

Friday evening, the majority of the group headed to the HP Happy Hour, where we watched the sunset over the city, not a bad place for networking! The evening continued with the group exploring the networking & nightlife Austin had to offer, and ended with a few of us watching some Texan cowboys do their thing on stage in Maggie Mae’s.


With Saturday not having any official mission events, the companies had time to really take advantage of the excellent selection of sessions and panels. With this year being so busy, it was really important for everyone to work out what sessions they wanted to make, tough as it was with so many great sessions prioritising made sure everyone used their time effectively  

Lucky for you, we have some first hand footage what the queues were really like this year. Sam Michel recorded his very own “SXSW Interactive 2011 Queue Running”  and that was just the queue for the 2pm keynote! Fortunately, everyone got into the room in under 10 minutes, once the queue finally started moving. It certainly shows how popular the event has become.

On the plus side Saturday brought with it some lovely Austin sunshine, any queueing that took place outside was therefore greatly appreciated. After a day full of brain busting, part of the group headed to the Interactive Opening Party hosted by frog design, and then off to  The Mohawk for Ning’s Opening Night After Party.


Sunday morning brought with it a few sore heads from Saturday night’s activities but the SXSW sessions were not stopping for anyone and were once again packed out by 9am - another busy day for the companies.

Sunday afternoon was spent at Chinwag’s Global Grill, which was supported by UK Trade & Investment. The day, yet again, was glorious so our location at Brush Square park suited perfectly.

SXSW was really doing their part to help out with the awful events in Japan, also very keen to do our bit we decided to hold a prize draw to win a brand new shiny iPad 2 as well a collection for the Red Cross. We are thrilled to announce that with everyone's kind donations we managed to raise over $500 dollars, a huge thanks to those who donated! Picked out of the hat was lucky Andy Halliday who won himself the iPad 2! 

With over 600 SXSW attendees through the door, it was a massive success and we just wanted to say a big thanks to all our volunteers who helped out, as well as the team at High Beam events. Sunday night ended with the Party Like It’s 1986 event hosted by Google, and dancing the night away to the ultimate geek band Spazmatics.


Monday morning and time for the exclusive Round Table Breakfast organised for the mission companies and with the opportunity to discuss their business with representatives from several of the major players in the US market including; Microsoft BizSpark - Christopher Griffin, Google Profiles Product Manager - Rick Klau, Director of Marketing for Client Software for Dell - Russ Ray, Director of Marketing for Client Software, International Creative Management (ICM) - George Ruiz and Business Development Manager for Twitter - April Underwood.

The morning was a great success with companies coming away from the event with a real insight into US business. Big thanks to all our Round Table speakers.

Monday was also the first day of the SXSW trade show and with over 300 trade show exhibitors this year it was a busy one! The UKTI Mission had a huge stand taking up most of aisle 700, nick-named the British Aisle (geddit?) the stand was a great place for our UK companies to base themselves over the next two days offering wired up Internet, laptop and phone chargers, it was just like home.

The stand also gave our UK group the chance to distribute their own marketing material, along with the Mission brochures which promoted all companies on the UKTI mission, anyone visiting certainly had plenty to look at and take in.

Monday night was one of the busiest nights to date in SXSW. Mobile Monday was taking place, which saw some of mission companies, Flypost, Play Mob, Planzai and Psonar showcasing their mobile applications with other companies from Austin, Silicon Valley and other startups around the world. It was also the night of the Great British Booze Up at Shakespeare’s Pub, lets just say the free pouring spirits in Austin can catch you out!


The final day of the UKTI Mission, and another busy one! We arrived at the lovely Cedar Street Courtyard on yet another glorious day for the now-legendary fry-up, the Great British Breakfast (GBB).

The smell of a full English fry up (complete with Heinz Baked Beans) seemed to bring a lot of people back to life. To complete the English theme, each of the attendees from our mission donned a traditional bowler hat. We were lucky enough to have Dominic Chilcott, Deputy Head of Mission, from the British Embassy in Washington at the breakfast, who kindly welcomed the UK and US companies that attended the GBB.

After this little slice of home from home we headed back to the trade show for the last day of Interactive, very sad it was coming to an end. The UKTI Mission stand was buzzing all day and we even got involved in the SXSW Block Party, which was a great way to finish off the successful trade show.

Our last night at SXSW turned into a bit of a treat! Rumors were going round all day that the Foo Fighters may be performing at the Interactive closing party, rumours we more than enough for us to go down and check it out, once we saw the queue it was obvious they were true! Before we knew it Dave Grohl was rocking out on stage, not a bad way to end SXSW!

After a few hours head banging a group of us headed to the British Music Embassy to support our fellow Brits who were out with UK Music do their thing on the stage.


Wednesday was unfortunately home time, well for most of us. There were a lucky few who were staying on for music (not jealous at all) and some who were continuing their trip around the US (again not jealous at all).

So that was it, the UKTI Mission to SXSW was over. As you can see it was a great few days but most importantly it gave a brilliant opportunity for all those who attended to gain the knowledge and contacts needed for expanding their business.

All that is left to say is a huge thank you to all the UKTI staff, both the UK and Houston teams, and of course the real pros of the show – all the great companies who come out with us! Thanks for being part of such an adventure, we cannot wait to hear about all your success!

To find out about future missions, check out:

// Digital Mission Newsletter 
// @digitalmission on Twitter
// Digital Mission on Facebook
// Digital Mission on Linkedin

Photo (cc) Benjamin Ellis.


Thanks for Coming

Hiya Tom,

Just had a read, so glad Cyber-Duck had such a good time and got so much out of it! 

Thanks so much for coming along, was great meeting you all.



We did a blog post too! Thanks to everyone at Chinwag and UKTI!