When we received word that more than four dozen Alberta-based startups were marching toward Texas for this year’s South by Southwest, it felt like the rumblings of war.
Perhaps not war, but exciting nonetheless: Alberta Innovates has summoned 50 local ventures to the battlefield of SXSW to take on the iconic annual event in Austin with true Canadian gusto.
The formidable marching band of startups hail primarily from Alberta Innovates’ Scale-up and Growth Accelerator Program, which attracts home-grown entrepreneurs and others around the world with the twin aims of growing international collaborations and attracting capital to Alberta’s ecosystem.
Combined, the armada represents the province’s strength across agri-food, health-tech, digital technologies, and more.
And let it be known that these Alberta entrepreneurs are not just descending on SXSW for a good time, either (although that is usually inevitable). They are “both ready and interested in expanding in the US market—and in bringing investment back to the province.”
Indeed, “considerable effort has gone into preparing the companies going to SXSW to take full advantage of the opportunity,” it has been reported.
“From sharpening their pitches, attending workshops, and receiving one-on-one coaching, they’ve all put in the work,” affirms Laura Kilcrease.
Kilcrease, the chief executive of Alberta Innovates, believes that “building global business networks will help these Alberta companies scale up much faster.”
It’s been hard work, but everyone is confident the preparation will pay off. Next up, the event.
“During their six days in Austin, the companies will attend curated one-on-one meetings, participate in invitation-only networking events with potential US investors, customers, and partners, and take in workshops and events at SXSW,” she said.
Kilcrease appears well suited to lead the charge of Alberta startups for a Texas takeover.
Prior to her appointment as CEO of Alberta Innovates, she was a driving force in Austin’s technology and innovation community—founding the Austin Technology Incubator, cofounding the Austin Technology Council, and serving as executive director of the University of Texas IC2 Institute’s Center for Commercialization and Enterprise.
“There are many similarities between Austin and Alberta,” Kilcrease has noted. “Both grew up based on natural resources and have continued to pivot into innovation and technology at all levels and stages. They both have highly educated populations and phenomenal research universities that can support tech growth.”
Among the companies seizing the opportunity with poise is Digital Carbon Bank, a Calgary-based sustainability technology company that promotes itself as the world’s first “joint venture enabled emissions management platform.”
Regarding SXSW, Digital Carbon cofounder Brian Mellor looked to make impact before even landing in Texas: his startup offered to donate carbon credits to make the delegation carbon neutral.
“SXSW is a big deal for a startup to go to,” says Mellor. “The networking opportunities for mobilizing our product in a new US market are exciting.”
Another startup armed and armoured for the occasion is OneCup AI. Founded in 2019 by Geoffrey and Mokah Shmigelsky and Keith and Connie Day, OneCup AI is tackling challenges in agriculture head-on with a tech-forward solution.
Look for their flagship product, BETSY, to make an appearance at this year’s South by Southwest conference.