South by Southwest is a beast. There’s no other way to describe it.

After an hour search through programming and events last night, I sort of planned just one of my three days in Austin this coming week. God help me.

The festival continues to grow every year because more and more companies and brands see it as the one place and time in the world where technology, business and entertainment collide with such magnitude. Conversations that happen at South By help to inform and provide context to the innovation going on in our communities.

And the chosen keynote speakers tend to paint a picture of trends and movements coming in the year ahead. This year, there’s Vice President Joe Biden, talking about his cancer initiative, CRISPRCas9 co-founder Jennifer Doudna, “Originals: How Non-Conformists Rule the World” author and Wharton professor Adam Grant, National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Cory Richards and Yasmin Green, whose work at Google think tank Jigsaw helps divert potential ISIS recruits from consuming extremist content online.

Below, check out how local entrepreneurs, thought leaders and startups are involved at the festival, and read on over the next week as we attempt to chronicle their activities and other trends from SXSW 2017.

Synthesize Love with Moogfest at SXSW

For anyone excited about Moogfest, here’s a chance to experience it a couple months early. In partnership with SXSW, Moogfest is taking over a venue for an afternoon and evening of programming and live music. There will be a “Future Thought” conversation titled “Optimism Through Discrimination”, seven live performances including a rap show by Durham artist Professor Toon, as well as its popular Modular Marketplace for attendees to tinker and experiment with synthesizers and other electronic instruments.

Governor Roy Cooper had committed to speak, but the legislative session has changed his plans. Word is he’ll be sending a replacement from his office.

City of Raleigh/Wake County Economic Development/GRCVB at the Interactive Trade Show

After a year off from SXSW, this Raleigh conglomeration is back with an even bigger showing of local entrepreneurs and makers. On hand throughout the interactive portion of the festival will be the founders/representatives of House of Swank, Videri Chocolate Factory, Hail Mary Bloody Mary Mix, Lonerider Brewing and Larry’s Coffee, along with Aly Khalifa, a serial inventor who created the Impress coffee brewer and LYF Shoes.

The same organizing group attended the festival in 2015 with a focus on talent attraction and company recruitment. This time it’s all about promoting Raleigh’s quality of life and culture through storytelling and free samples, WCED marketing manager Morgan High tells me.

Duke Clinical & Translational Science Institute in The Future of Research: Capability or Culture

Patients need to get more involved in clinical research in order for cures to be found, and this panel dives into that challenge. Duke’s Bray Patrick-Lake will talk about her work in patient advocacy and getting patients involved in the design of critical clinical trials.

Cultivate in the 2017 SXSW Music Startup Spotlight

Durham social media marketing agency Cult Entertainment Group has worked with musicians, bands and local startups to boost their presence across platforms. But in recent months, the team has turned its social media acumen in an automated software that creates tailored marketing campaigns and content optimized for each platform’s algorithms, while spitting out powerful data.

The software is called Cultivate, and CEO Joe Bell will get to pitch it Tuesday afternoon alongside 19 other up-and-coming music-oriented tech startups around the world.

Full disclosure: Cult Entertainment Group handles ExitEvent’s most awesome social media presence.

NC State in The New Idea Lab: Universities and Tech R&D

NC State has spent years putting infrastructure in place to support entrepreneurial students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community. There’s the Entrepreneurship Initiative and The Garage for students, Centennial Campus and NC State Technology Incubator for faculty, staff and community members, an angel network to extend financial support to alumni-owned businesses and the NC State Entrepreneurship Clinic for both students and community entrepreneurs.

Director of Centennial Campus Partnerships and Industry Alliances Leah Burton will get to share those efforts in a conversation about the changing role of the university in the local innovation ecosystem.

Envested in Startup Night Pitch Contest

What started as an app matching young people with local nonprofits and philanthropic causes has evolved into an employee donation and engagement platform that’s already functioning inside companies. The Durham startup’s business-to-business platform was always part of the plan to generate revenue, but interest from corporations made the team pursue it faster.

Along with 24 other startup founders from around the world, Envested founder Isa Watson will get 60 seconds to pitch her startup, in hopes of taking home a cash prize and winning the chance to compete for’s Startup of the Year competition in October.

The timing couldn’t be more perfect. Watson has spent a lot of time traveling for sales calls in recent months—the team hopes the national and global attention will help ink some deals.

Red Hat’s Jason Hibbets and PredictifyMe’s Zeeshan-ul-hassan Usmani: “Intelligent Future” at Ignite SXSW

With a talk titled “The Future of Civic Hacking is Open”, Red Hat senior community evangelist and local civic hacking guru Jason Hibbets will share his years of experience building a community around civic hacking in Raleigh, across North Carolina and within Red Hat.

Zeeshan-ul-hassan Usmani is on the hook for a talk about his work preventing suicide bombings in Pakistan using data science. He was a co-founder of PredictifyMe, a Raleigh startup that filed for bankruptcy last year. According to LinkedIn, he’s now working for Quarrio, a Silicon Valley analytics startup.

Along with eight other presenters on a variety of subjects, the men will be put to a test on Tuesday afternoon. Ignite allows only 20 slides and they auto-advance every 15 seconds.

Cindy Whitehead: Sex, Bias & A Billion Dollars

The Sprout Pharmaceuticals founder has been making the rounds lately to promote her latest venture The Pink Ceiling and her North Hills incubator for women-led and focused startups, the Pinkubator.

In the Startup Village Tuesday evening, Whitehead will give a talk about her experience building Sprout to its $1 billion exit in 2015, including detailed insights from her years spent convincing the FDA to approve the first female-libido enhancing drug.

Black Valley: Increasing Tech Internships & Jobs

In her chief of diversity and inclusion role at Booz Allen Hamilton in D.C., NC State and NC A&T grad Cheryl Wade is one of the instigators of Black Valley, a program matching HBCU students with internships in tech companies.

Along with fellow co-founder, 2016 A&T grad Paul Hammond, will talk about the effort, now with more than 540 students in internships and apprenticeships and plans to recruit more businesses to take part.

TransLoc in How to Uberize Public Transit to Save It

The transit tech company is one of the Triangle’s most exciting growth stories right now. With a mission to make it easier for anyone to ride public transportation, TransLoc working to democratize daily travel, alleviate traffic, improve the environment and provide much-needed revenue back to local governments.

CEO Doug Kaufman will talk about TransLoc’s work on a Monday afternoon panel.

One Answer to Driverless Cars: Keep the Driver

As head of Duke University’s Humans and Autonomy Lab, Missy Cummings is keenly focused on the future of all things transportation. Growing concern over the safety of autonomous cars has Cummings and her fellow panelists thinking about and planning for other options. They’ll talk about the issue during a Thursday afternoon panel.

Beyond Driverless Cars: Our Transportation Future

Former Mayor of Charlotte and recently displaced U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx sits on a Tuesday afternoon panel discussing the future of transportation, where he’s likely to talk about his role starting the Smart City Challenge and digitizing the nation’s transportation system.

Jessamyn Stanley: Every Body Yoga book release

By celebrating her self-proclaimed “fat femme” body and encouraging others to do the same, this Durham yoga instructor has become a global phenomenon with appearances in Time, Good Morning America, The Huffington Post and other national media. Now, she’s out with a book called Every Body Yoga, telling her story and sharing inspiration for breaking down barriers.

Stanley is in for a Monday afternoon book signing and of course, a yoga class for everybody preceding it.

Automated Insights in Future of Automated News: 2016 Election & Beyond

Alongside experts from The New York Times and The Washington Post, ExitEvent founder and Automated Insights chief product officer Joe Procopio will talk about his company’s work automating the type of news reporting that would require tens, hundreds or thousands of reporters to create. The session is going down Tuesday morning.

Office hours and panel featuring Duke University’s Bill Adair

Work at Duke University is nabbing headlines in today’s true-versus-false news world. After creating Politifact, a Pulitzer Prize winning fact-checking site, Journalism professor Bill Adair is now leading iCheck, which makes sure claims about a candidate’s voting record are true. He’ll sit on a panel about the automation of fact-checking, as well as sit for office hours.

The Business Case for LGBT Equality

Remember when PayPal announced it’d build a $40 million facility in Charlotte, only to revoke the plan after HB2 was passed last year? SVP of Corporate Affairs and Communications Franz Paasche sits on this panel looking at the impact of laws like HB2 and sharing why equality and acceptance is good for business.


If you’re heading to SXSW and have additional activities to share, please ping me and let me know what you’re up to!