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Kapor Takes SXSW

South x Southwest is Austin’s annual convergence of creative energy — the massive event spans fields and industries. Since our focus at the Kapor Center is on leveling the playing field in tech, we had staff across our focus areas present throughout the entire conference, with a special focus on access for underrepresented groups. Here’s what we found:

Kapor Capital portfolio company Genius Plaza hosted “A Genius Reception!” a groundbreaking social event bridging the gap for English language learner attendees ,with dual-language content and learning resources. It was an evening full of networking, learning, a demonstration of the Genius Plaza platform, music, and dancing!

Building Diverse Communities

We saw an increase in diverse representation at SXSW and spaces where these communities could convene and celebrate. Below are a couple of examples of what we feel exemplified community done right.

Culture House

Culture House sponsored by Cross Culture Ventures was an example of how inclusive you can make any space feel. What made this experience stand out amongst the rest however, was the full-day of valuable programming for our diverse tech community. Cross Culture Ventures successfully executed and hosted a conversation around tech that brought together creatives, investors, entrepreneurs and entertainers in a three-story home in South Austin.

From Brian Dixon of Kapor Capital:

Brian Dixon, Partner at Kapor Capital

“Culture House was a highlight of SXSW. It was amazing to see an all-day event filled with useful programming for aspiring and existing entrepreneurs. These type of events will have a long-lasting impact on founders and will allow for them to build the proper support network when building a company”

Josh, Jonathan, and Chris representing for Kapor Center

Hustle House

Another incredible effort was Hustle House- put on by Black and Brown Founders which was a day of programming held on the Huston-Tillotson University campus by and for the Black and Latinx community at SXSW. Chris and Josh both were included in the programming, and we were so glad to be a part of this inaugural event that we can can’t wait to see continue to grow. You can read more in-depth about it here.

Panels & Workshops:

With the litany of panels and discussions to attend, the intake of information and inspiration was astounding. While it would be impossible to mention everything we enjoyed, here’s a few highlights from our experience:

Chris McLemore, Oakland Startup Network Program Manger:

“I was most inspired by the panel featuring Bernie Sanders moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper. Not only was it the first discussion I witnessed at SXSW, but the conversation provided a beacon of hope to those in the audience interested in incremental change for our nation. Senator Bernie Sanders touched on gun control, the wealth divide in America, and DACA… ensuring that each and every individual in the room would ‘Feel the Bern’.”

Jonathan Garcia, Community Engagement & Inclusion Associate:

“We saw a theme of D&I across all areas of SXSW. Panels in film, TV, media, business, and tech were prevalent all throughout Austin — it was difficult to choose from! One session to highlight was “What Does Leadership Look Like?” run by Dominique Turner of the Chicago Scholars program. Dominique challenged us to think about who we have been led by, who haven’t we been led by, and what we will do when we are leaders trying to build an inclusive space? It was incredibly empowering and emboldening to be surrounded by changemakers in varied sectors who are dedicated to uplifting underrepresented communities.”

Josh Torres, Latinx Tech Program Manager:

“A favorite talk I was so lucky to hear was Bumble CEO, Whitney Wolfe Herd in conversation with Gina Rodriguez at the Bumble house. Both women were exceptionally inspiring and spoke to the need for creating a kinder internet that focuses on celebrating and empowering all people.”

Gina Rodriguez speaking truth to power

All Work, All Play…

While we attended SXSW to execute on programming, present on panels, and network with colleagues from around the world, we also had a lot of fun. We all love what we do, so our work is always fun, but we definitely took in the all of the experiences the conference had to offer.

Josh Torres: “I had the opportunity to visit HBO’s activation for Westworld which was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. The effort really showed me what could be done when imaginative people come together to create for others. Whereas most of the activations were focused on emerging tech, including hardware, VR, and AR, the magic of the Westworld experience was how it relied on real life immersion to bring about playfulness and wonder that drove you to explore elements of the show and kept you talking about it long after.”

Chris McLemore: “As a lifelong fan of Steven Spielberg, I made sure to block some time in my schedule to attend the Ready Player One activation. The installment seamlessly captured the 80s nostalgia and tone of the book, as well as prepped guests for the surprise movie premiere at SXSW. Arcade machines, a Delorean, and an installment from the Iron Giant made for great photo ops; while the VR experience allowed us to be players in the game. Acclaimed Director Guillermo del Toro also made a visit to the pop-up, sitting on a panel to talk film and his love for the Oasis.”

Jonathan Garcia:“I was consistently floored with the wonderful food Austin had to offer. Because of the hectic nature of SXSW, planning a day’s agenda, let alone meals, proved cumbersome. Because of this, we often ended up eating at the closest restaurant or food truck nearby. And each time, we were warmly greeted and treated to Austin’s finest. My favorite was Odd Duck and their incredibly gracious servers and attention to detail.”