Music to their ears – Vancouver tech firms cash in on SXSW fest

One Vancouver firm has raised $2 million from SXSW organizers for technology it has developed

Photo: GSPhotography / Shutterstock

There are about 70,000 people making their way to Austin, Texas, for the city’s annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, which begins this weekend.

And Meetingmax CEO Jeff Duncan is confident at least 14,000 of the reservations made so far shouldn’t have any issues.

It’s the first time SXSW has enlisted a third party to handle accommodations for the music, film and interactive festival running March 13-22.

After two years of back-and-forth, organizers signed a deal with the Vancouver tech company to handle arrangements at 70 different hotel properties. Since September, more than 60,000 room nights have been booked for SXSW attendees through Meetingmax’s platform.

“The size of the event and the scope of what they’ve been able to do in the world of technology, film and music has gotten them to a point where they really require a comprehensive and much more complex system,” Duncan said, adding seven to 10 of his staff will be on-site to supervise the rollout of the platform during its debut at SXSW.

Meanwhile, 2015 marks the fifth year since Vancouver-based Eventbase partnered with SXSW to provide a mobile app serving as an events guide.

The app includes maps leading to different venues around Austin, a search function for concerts and film screenings, a photo sharing feature and a social media component allowing users to check out profiles of other attendees.

Last year, the company deployed 40 beacons — wireless devices that detect when a smartphone running an appropriate app is in close proximity — at SXSW to assist attendees as part of a pilot program.

Eventbase co-founder Jeff Sinclair said the number of beacons this year totals 1,000.

“The key reason we’re deploying is around (social) networking,” he said, adding app users who come into proximity of a beacon at any of the official venues will be alerted to the presence of other app users who’ve checked in.

“You’ll be able to see everyone who is in the room with you and be able to find the people you really want to connect with and you can even send them a message through the app.”

Eventbase impressed organizers so much that the company raised $2 million in seed funding from SXSW last fall — the first time the tech startup has sought any sort of financing since its founding in 2009.

“Our booked monthly revenue has doubled in the past six months since we got that investment, so we’re growing even fast than before now.”