The Philly SXSW Initiative wants to provide a central focus for the city and its tech companies at this year's South by Southwest.

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The plan to emphasize Philadelphia’s burgeoning tech scene to the rest of the country started in October with an open Google group. Interviews with dozens of the city’s top entrepreneurs followed. 

Now, three months later, the goal has become a well-funded reality. Local digital leaders have coordinated to get some 70 Philadelphia companies and musicians to work in unison at the South by Southwest festival this year in a way to promote their products and services, as well as promoting Philadelphia as an ideal place in which to live, work and invest. Cities like Washington D.C. and Boston have done the same thing in the past, but it will be Philadelphia’s first coordinated effort. Sponsors including Independence Blue Cross and Comcast are helping fund it, with more companies likely to sign on in the coming weeks.

“The goal was to make it as broad as possible,” said Yuval Yarden, program director at Philly Startup Leaders and one of the organizers of this effort, “because we are telling the Philadelphia story.”  

The last few years, plenty of established and new Philly companies were making the trip. But you had to connect several dots on your own to realize Philadelphia’s particular strengths. That won’t be the case this year.

SXSW Philly has planned for Philadelphia’s startups and established companies to have booths next to each other at the Interactive festival’s trade show. In the middle there will be a booth highlighting Philadelphia as a whole.

One day during the interactive festival, the SXSW Philly crew is planning a “daytime mixer.” In a lounge area, festivalgoers can relax, sample Philly-related food and drink and make connections with Philadelphia companies. That night a concert is set for several Philadelphia musicians to perform.

In the past, VisitPhilly has attempted to showcase Philadelphia’s strengths through events at SXSW. Last year, Dave Silver’s RECphilly music startup also organized an all-Philly concert. But nothing has been planned to this same extent.  

“This is really an all-out Philadelphia initiative,” Silver said.

Funding from the sponsors will be used to pay for branding and marketing, t-shirts, travel expenses, the concert and the daytime mixer, among other things. Organizers hope to receive a total of $80,000 in support.

Archna Sahay and Rebecca Lopez Kriss have been helping the organizers of the initiative with marketing and communications on behalf of the Kenney Administration’s Commerce Department. Yarden and Silver said the city has been involved since the beginning of their plans.     

One of the things that we haven’t done well enough over the last years is tell this story outside of Philly,” Yarden said. “We haven’t tooted our own horn well enough. This is the beginning of us telling the story of Philadelphia innovation outside of the city.”

For anyone interested in getting involved, Yarden asks you to reach out by filling out this Google Form.

Mark Dent is a reporter/curator at BillyPenn. He previously worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he covered the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State football and the Penn State administration. His...