By Steve Winter, special to wtop.com
AUSTIN, Texas — The capital of Texas bears a striking similarity to the Capital of the United States this week at SXSW with the participation of the Washington, DC Economic Partnership , known more colloquially here as WeDC.
Aiming to promote local economic development and business opportunities and to enhance the city’s economy through jobs creation, industry retention and new business attraction, WeDC has commandeered Crave Restaurant, located just across the street from the Austin Convention Center, and rebranded it as the WeDC House.
“Welcome to Washington, D.C. in Austin” proclaimed District Mayor Muriel Bowser Friday night before a packed house of festival attendees, many of whom emanate from the city’s burgeoning startup community.
“We want to let it be known that we are ‘all in’ with technology,” said Bowser. ” We are a city that’s focused on investing in our future and seeks economic development as more than bricks and mortar.
“We see it as an opportunity to invest in big ideas that makes life in our cities wonderful for more and more people,” said Bowser.
“We’re here in Austin to showcase Washington, D.C. to the SXSW community in order to celebrate our tech startups, our creative economy, our music and our film industry, hoping – in the process – to introduce people to a side of Washington, D.C. they don’t yet know,” said Julie Weber, WeDC’s Director of Marketing and Communication.
According to the Washington Post, the District spent $350,000 to host the event.
The Friday WeDC Kickoff event featured Bowser and AOL co-founder Steve Case. Saturday morning’s Tech Breakfast Spectacular featured 30 startups, 25 demos, 15 kiosks and more than a thousand attendees.
The D.C. contingent also hosted a Sunday film brunch, said Weber. “This is significant because we discussed the film Sweaty Buddies, the only DMV-area film previewed here at SXSW.”
The District’s attention isn’t limited to the worlds of technology, film and music. Sports and entertainment are also getting into the act.
“This is year number-two for the sports track here at South By,” said Erik Moses, Senior Vice President for Sports and Entertainment for Events D.C., the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia. “We heard lot of interesting panels, about things like mega events and how to execute those as well as stadiums — or the new cathedrals as they’re now called. ”
“Most people don’t think of D.C. as a sports city as much as we’d like them to outside of our border,” said Moses. “We’re thinking of ways we can constantly raise the profile of D.C. as a sports town. ”
The District’s prominence in startups has precedence, with Steve Case reminding that the nation’s capital was actually the birthplace of the World Wide Web.
“It’s worth remembering that the Internet was started, funded and invented here in the Washington, D.C.-area,” said Case. ” It was initially created by the government 30 years ago a time when only three percent of us were online. Now, of course, everybody’s on line and we take it entirely for granted.”
Editors Note: Longtime trade show attendees Steve Winter and Kenny Fried are contributing reports from SXSW. In their day jobs, they are public relations professionals with Sage Communications. During SXSW they will not be reporting on any of their clients’ products or those of direct competitors.