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[UK] If you are a technology startup and want to network with Silicon Valley type then one way of doing it is to go to South By South West Interactive. Those who attend in the past have informally called it ‘Spring Break for Geeks’, but it is a little more significant that that suggests. Twitter took off in the US by launching there in 2007, Foursquare launched there last year and it’s generally a pretty interesting platform to test the waters of American geekdom.

Organised by Chinwag and the UKTI, the Digital Mission (a kind of punk trade mission) to SXSWi is back for it’s second year after a successful trip to Austin in 2009. There are 35 slots available on the 2010 mission (12-16th March, 2010) and applications are now open – but the dealine is Friday, 27th November so you better hurry. TechCrunch Europe is a media partner because to get on the mission all you have to have as a company is a UK headquarter, so in other words any European company with a UK HQ counts. Thus, this year, Zemanta, which is really built in Slovenia but has a UK HQ, came along. The rest of the selection criteria is below.

Here is the the application info page.

SXSWi features five days of compelling presentations from the brightest minds in emerging technology, scores of exciting networking events hosted by industry leaders and an unbeatable line up of special programs showcasing the best new websites, video games and startup ideas the community has to offer.

Digital Mission to SXSWi 2010 is a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of the publicity and profile from a group of British companies attending SXSWi. Plus, there’s a plethora of features to help develop relationships/partnerships with US companies, look into opening an office stateside and make valuable contacts for the future – not to mention brushing up on your industry knowledge.

Entries are welcome from a broad range of digital companies ranging from start-ups, marketing agencies, through to ecommerce operators, mobile service providers and any qualifying company that operates in the digital space.

To qualify your company has to:

• Be “innovative”
• Be UK headquartered (so in other words a European company with a UK HQ counts)
• Be classified as an EU SME (small to medium enterprise, less than 250 employees)
• Have two years trading history, or failing that, compelling early-stage fast-track potential
• Provide references from key sponsors/industry players
• Be ready to do business in the US or potentially attractive to US investor
• Able to cover travel and accommodation costs
• Able to cover contribution towards event expenses

Successful applicants will be chosen by the Digital Mission Advisory Board which is traditionally made up of top UK digital entrepeuners, VC’s, journalists, UKTI and regional representatives.

Enquiries to mission@chinwag.com

  • http://chinwag.com Sam Michel

    Thanks Mike, love the ‘punk trade mission’ tag. That may get re-used.

    We’ve just got back from the Digital Mission to NYC, and if that’s anything to go by, the impact of the second year’s trip is even bigger than the first.

    If anyone has questions on the mission, application or process, do give us a shout.

  • http://www.artandsoul.co.uk Duncan McMillan

    Shouldn’t an SME be 250 employees?

  • http://www.artandsoul.co.uk Duncan McMillan

    If my comment hadn’t fallen foul of the HTML tag stripping then it would have made more sense.

    An SME is *less than” 250 employees, not *greater than*.

  • http://chinwag.com Sam Michel

    Yes, that’s our fault. SMEs in official EU parlance are under 250 employees. Typo on the Digital Mission website – corrected now. Sorry.

    Interesting titbit, I was told that Chinese SME’s are under 2,500 staff!

  • http://www.nsyght.com Geoffrey McCaleb

    We’ve applied, if we make it I will personally take everyone out for BBQ on 5th street. ;)

    Erm, by everyone I do mean on the trip – otherwise I would probably bankrupt myself.

  • http://danieltenner.com Daniel Tenner

    £550 plus own travel/lodging expenses (potentially for 2 people) seems fairly steep for the average early stage start-up (which seems not to be the main target of this initiative).

    Companies which can afford to go there and care about it probably have already decided to go and bought themselves tickets. What do UKTI offer beyond the “Digital Mission” branding?

    • http://twitter.com/smashing Alx Klive

      Daniel, as a former Digital Mission attendee (NYC 2008) I can say that the trip offers a wealth of add-on value that could not be achieved if going independently.

      I do agree that if a Company is already going, then the additional benefit and cost is debatable. I agree also that really these trips should be subsidised further. However. They cost an awful lot to organise and if you are not going already, the cost of £550 is a fair price to pay for the halo effect of being one of the attending UKTI companies, and all the benefits that brings.

      If you do apply… good luck!

    • http://chinwag.com Sam Michel

      @Daniel – the £550 includes the interactive pass to SXSW, as well as a bunch of other benefits which are listed on the Digital Mission website (http://digital-mission.org/sxsw10-apply)

      In addition to the halo effect that @Alx mentions, there’s also the Masterclass and the promotional part of being on the SXSWi stand.

      It’d be great if there was more support, we’re already incredibly lucky that the majority of costs covered by UK Trade & Investment, generous support and input from Winston & Strawn and help from Sun Startup Essentials.

      Depeding on your region there’s also a possibility of getting additional grant support towards travel and accommodation. It’s on a case-by-case basis and companies have to apply directly, but we’ll always try and put companies into contact with the relevant trade advisers.

      Hope that helps explain things, but if you need more info or want to chat through anything, do drop us a line.

  • http://www.nsyght.com Geoffrey McCaleb

    Didn’t notice this when I applied, but successful companies won’t be notified until the “week of the 7th”, however MS is sponsoring the Bizspark Accelerator and their deadline is the 4th. It’s a shame the Digital Mission can’t let people know sooner as the Bizspark submission fee is not refundable.

    • http://chinwag.com Sam Michel

      @Geoffrey – sorry, the timing isn’t ideal but it’s always tricky getting everything aligned. We’re in touch with the guys at BizSpark Accelerator to see if we can get an extension on the deadline.

      It’s Thanksgiving in the US this week, so we probably won’t have any news until next week.

      Any additional publicity you can get during SXSW all helps to build profile whilst you’re there. The Six to Start guys got heaps of publicity with their award wins last year, so I’d encourage everyone planning on attending to enter the appropriate awards.

      You’re not losing anything by entering BizSpark as Digital Mission gets passes at the same rate as offered. If you’re successful, I’m sure we can work something out to reduce the contribution towards costs.

      Hope that helps.

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