THERE are quite a few folk from the North East off to "geek spring break" this year.
UKTI has broken the good news that its Trade Mission to this year’s South By Southwest conference will feature more of the region’s companies than normal, with a healthy number making travel plans for the trip to Austin, Texas, in March.
This year’s crop of 34 companies chosen for the UKTI Mission to SXSW include six from the North East.
There’s Cramlington’s Palringo, which has been building up a mobile group messaging service with more than 10 million users.
Gateshead’s Recite has developed a service that allows websites to become more accessible to dyslexic or visually-impaired users.
Sharemyplaylists.com from Boldon, South Tyneside, has already won the admiration of Spotify for its work in allowing music fans to create and share their own playlists.
Newcastle’s Happiest aims to create a social network that helps people share their positive experiences.
And Addiply is promising a new way for publishers to attract hyperlocal advertisers, while Thrive offers a lovingly-designed management tool for freelancers.
South By Southwest has a pretty sparkly reputation for music, film and emerging technologies. Fortune magazine hailed it as “the single best place in the creative innovation world to build relationships and get to know people”, while Popular Mechanics calls it “an ideal laboratory for the wired world of the future”.
So when the companies from the North East emerge blinking from the airport into the Texas sun, they’re in for a heck of a ride if they play their cards right.
“It’s about exposure”, says John Holmes-Carrington, an international trade adviser for UKTI in the North East region. “It’s all about being able to show people what you’re doing face to face, rather than just describe it or do it on Skype.
“South By Southwest is one of the biggest events on the calendar. The idea is to go over there and get the business done straight away, so companies need to be ready to go. But you can walk into a bar and there’ll be someone from Universal next to you.”