Planes full of eager entrepreneurs, investors, and tech enthusiasts touched down in Austin, Texas last week for the 21st annual SXSW Interactive Festival. Amid the endless networking events and boozy late-night parties, a strong showing of Nordic startups and government organizations participated in panels, pitch events, and trade show exhibitions.
In the SXSW Accelerator pitch event, 48 companies were selected to compete in front of a live audience and a panel of judges that included Garry Tan of Y Combinator, Jon Callaghan of True Ventures, Kevin Carter of SV Angel, and plenty more. The judges selected winners from nine separate categories that ranged from Health Technologies to Best Boostraped Company. In the Most Innovative Company category, the award went to The Eye Tribe, a Danish startup that develops eye control software for consumer devices. Competing for people’s attention at such a huge festival is a difficult task, but Eye Tribe CEO Sune Johansen explains that winning the event allowed them to get noticed: “Receiving the award helps get attention from people at the festival and companies that otherwise might have missed you.”
Charging $99 for both the tracking hardware and the software development kit, The Eye Tribe is the world’s first company to make eye tracking technology so readily affordable. By doing so, they hope to make eye tracking an integrated feature of everyday products, such as mobile devices, tablets, and laptops. And it seems that consumers are listening: their first batch of The Tracker sold out, and the second batch is on its way this spring.
While at SXSW, The Eye Tribe also announced the launch of a new cloud-based eye tracking analytics platform called EyeProof, which provides valuable data for marketers and advertising agencies. The festival provided the perfect setting for the launch; Johansen suggests, “At SXSW many of our potential partners or customers are present, so it’s a great place to connect and spread the word about our eye tracking technology. I think we got a lot of additional signups because we launched EyeProof during SXSW.”
AddSearch, a Helsinki-based company that we recently covered, was also selected to participate in the SXSW Accelerator pitch event. Along with seven other startups, AddSearch was named a Finalist in the “Enterprise and Big Data Technologies Category.” If you missed our previous articles about them, AddSearch provides an instant search tool for websites. You can try it out on ArcticStartup’s site--just head to the search bar in the top right corner.
Other startups from the region attended with the xNordics group, which hosted a trade show booth for Nordic companies to display their logos, demo their products, and hold meetings. A few of the startups showcasing their goods were Kahoot! (NO), Tespack (FI), Soundmark (SW), and Joberate (FI). But it wasn’t just startups that recognized the value of flying to Texas for SXSW. Governmental organizations like Innovation Norway, Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, and Team Finland also participated, sharing insight into how their countries’ business culture and economies help enable startups for success.
Along these lines, the xNordics group hosted a panel called “Nordic Success Stories.” The panelists included Maria Rannka from Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, Jostein Svendsen from WeVideo, Peter Green from Sensei, and Pekka Parnanen from Finpro. The event description claimed the session would be a “mix and match [of] very innovative people telling stories, sharing experiences and coaching others.”
The xNordics crew is sure to descend upon Austin again in a year’s time, so if you’re in the Nordics and have ever wanted to taste that famous Texas BBQ, ramble down 6th Street, and network with entrepreneurs and investors from around the world, you should join the group and make the Nordic presence ever stronger at SXSW Interactive in 2015.
Ben Norris is the Founder / CEO of The Peddle, a Helsinki-based company that provides native English language services to startups across the Nordic and Baltic regions. He moonlights as a contributor to ArcticStartup.