By LAURA LOREK
Publisher and Reporter with Silicon Hills News
The EU has 28 member states and various ones like the United Kingdom and Ireland have been at SXSW for years in different capacities, said James Barbour, spokesman with the European Union.
But 2017 is the first time for “EU@SXSW,” which is based at the Palm Door on 6th Street and features ten startup companies from throughout Europe. The EU is also promoting its film and music industries at the conference. And EU Ambassador David O’Sullivan is at SXSW promoting trade and cooperation between the European Union and the U.S.
SXSW has become the “go to place” for people who see themselves as leaders in the fields of technology, film and music globally, Barbour said.
“It’s about an exchange of innovative ideas, people working together,” Barbour said. “Also, the trade side is extremely important. The EU, as a whole, is the world’s largest single market for the U.S. to invest in and trade with.”
The EU is hosting panels on cybersecurity, innovation, cinema, creative cities and culture throughout SXSW.“At that end of the day, it’s all about jobs, and growth and innovation,” Barbour said.
SXSW is also an opportunity for the European Union to show off some of its best and brightest startups, Barbour said. More than 200 companies applied to be part of the EU’s SXSW Startup Showcase and ten companies made the cut.
GirlCrew, a startup based in Dublin, is one of the ten demonstrating its technology at SXSW. This year, the company is expanding to the U.S. with an office in San Francisco, said Aine Mulloy, spokeswoman.
“GirlCrew is the easiest way for girls to make new friends,” she said.
It’s a social network for career women, targeted at those between the ages of 25 and 40, to meet other women in the cities they live for networking, friendship and fun and to share advice and support.
In Austin, 400 women belong to GirlCrew. And Globally, Girl Crew has more than 85,000 members in 46 cities. It has a waiting list of 200 cities earmarked for further expansion, Mulloy said.
“We find that actual true connections happen offline,” she said. “Twenty women flying off to Morocco together and others getting together to go a walk and to have a coffee.”Thingthing, a smartphone keyboard platform, based in the London, is getting a lot of attention at SXSW, said Olivier Plante, its CEO.
“We disrupt what a mobile keyboard should be,” Plante said.
“Switching between apps on a mobile phone is a nightmare,” he said. “We’ve created the keyboard as a platform to solve that problem.”
Thingthing has created mobile keyboard technology that lets users insert photos, send calendar appointments, share links or search for documents with their keyboard without switching to other apps on their phone, he said. The company raised $350,000 Euro seed round and is in the U.S. meeting with investors for further expansion and to open a U.S. office, Plante said.
Thingthing, founded in 2015, is also in talks with smart phone manufacturers about licensing its software, he said.
The EU showcase not only helps the EU Startups but Austin-based startups looking for further expansion internationally can benefit too.
On Sunday, Joah Spearman, founder and CEO of Localeur, met with the startups from the EU and talked about how they can work together.Localeur, a travel site for locals by locals, is now in 45 cities including Toronto and London and plans to expand to more international cities this year, Spearman said. Localeur launched at SXSW four years with just Austin and now it’s going global, Spearman said.
“There are a lot of Millennial travelers out there that want travel recommendations from locals,” Spearman said.
In 2017, Localeur plans to launch in more English speaking foreign cities: Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne and Dublin, he said. And then expand into Spanish speaking countries like Barcelona and Madrid, he said.
SXSW is a great place for networking and making connection, Spearman said.
“During SXSW, Austin becomes the center of the world, in technology especially,” he said. “If you are a founder or an investor, you have to be here.”
Next week, Localeur is launching a print publication featuring content on 38 cities. And in April, its launching a video product, Spearman said.
“You have to reach people where they are,” he said. “You can’t wait for them to come to you.”
A lot of companies are trying to go international and building those network relationships early on is extremely important, said David Altounian, professor of entrepreneurship at St. Edward’s University and founder and CEO of Motion Computing.
“The overseas markets are critical to a businesses’ growth,” he said. “You’ve got to have an international pres