By Brian Brus
Courtesy of The Journal Record
OKLAHOMA CITY – The annual South by Southwest Conference and Festival in Austin won’t be held until March, but Oklahoma entrepreneurs are already vying for space to pitch their ideas.
The Buffalo Lounge elevator pitch competition kickoff for South by Southwest, or SXSW, will be at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the IAO Gallery in Oklahoma City.
The music festival has evolved since 1987 to provide an opportunity for businesspeople and creative entrepreneurs to come together and discuss product development in other entertainment industries. Successful participants stand to bring economic development back to their hometowns and states, said Josh O’Brien, director of entrepreneurial development at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber Partnership, a joint initiative between the nonprofit i2E Inc. and the chamber.
The 10-day SXSW event attracts top business professionals for music, film and interactive media presentations, in addition to unregistered visitors interested in free concerts. Organizers of SXSW said the most recent event drew more than 80,000 attendees for music events alone, with 30,000 showing up for interactive electronics products such as games and social media, and 16,000 attending for films. A wide variety of other related exhibits and parties drew more than 150,000, officials said, so competition is fierce for limited space.
That’s why the Buffalo Lounge was created by the state Tourism Department in 2010, to provide a wedge for Oklahoma’s interests and a filter process to ensure that the best talents are given room at SXSW. The business pitch competition is a new addition, headed by the chamber.
“It’s a good environment to refine your pitch,” O’Brien said. “You’ve got lots of companies up there pitching their concepts; it’s fast-moving; it’s exciting. And you’re getting good feedback from angel investors, which is key.”
In the Buffalo Lounge business pitch competition process that began last year, Tulsa-based SpectrumFX claimed the $5,000 first prize for its final presentation at SXSW in March. Vice President Ross Faith delivered the award-winning, 90-second pitch for the fire extinguishing product line called Firebane. Two other Oklahoma startups from Tulsa, ICEdot and ReTenant LLC, each received $2,500.
SpectrumX’s success in Austin helped the company prepare for a big product pitch at the Paris Air Show in June, Faith said.
O’Brien said he expects this year’s competition to attract several new faces as well as a few who have continued to refine their business plans and are ready for a second shot.
“It was neat to see one of the companies share their experience at the Oklahoma Venture Forum earlier this year, talking about their subsequent success from that launching pad,” O’Brien said. “I think it shows this is a success program for providing opportunities to reach out to form partnerships and alliances.”