As soon as the White House announced it would throw a South By South Lawn party, Whurley’s phone and inbox started lighting up. Friends and associates wanted to know what he might know and how they might get an invite.
Whurley, after all, hosted a fundraiser for President Obama at Austin Music Hall after Obama’s South By Southwest keynote speech in March. But Whurley didn’t have any inside knowledge. He said he found out about SXSL along with the first wave of Austinites who heard the White House had plans to throw its version of SXSW, only condensed to one day and under some of the tightest security conditions on Earth.
“When I heard about it, I sent an email to Hugh Forrest. I was like ‘well-played, that was great,'” Whurley said. “So if anybody planted a bug in (Obama’s) ear while he was down here for South By, it was probably Hugh.”
It’s not clear how it got started or who from Austin is headed to SXSL Monday. But we’ve chatted with a few Austin entreprenuers who have been invited to the festivities, which will be streamed live (see below).
— DivInc (@DivIncatx) October 3, 2016
Among the Austin Crew: Whurley, who co-founded Chaotic Moon and Honest Dollar; Joshua Baer, founder of Capital Factory; Hugh Forrest, director of SXSW Interactive; Caroline Lee, a student at the University of Texas; Preston James, a former Dell executive and co-founder of DivInc; Dana Callender, co-founder of DivInc; Noah Zandan, founder CEO of Quantified Communications; and Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who is expected to speak at the event.
And there may be more, but presidential parties, especially those looking to mimic the SXSW magic, leave a lot of room for surprises.
“It just shows what an awesome president he is that he would still be going out and is still finding new ways to do creative things at the White House and get the White House more involved with the tech community and Millennials and everyone else,” Whurley said. “So, I’m a pretty big fan of what they’re doing.”
Obama, with assistance from SXSL and Austin-based C3 Presents, is putting a decidedly social good focus on the White House rendition of SXSW. Aside from Obama’s keynote conversation with Leonardo DiCaprio, many events focus on how art, technology, music and film can expedite social change and environmental good.
Though the White House has announced the lineup, no one knows exactly what to expect on the South Lawn Monday.
“I’d say that this thing is an experiment from my perspective. I don’t quite no what to expect,” Zandan said. “You know what they’re trying to replicate, but you also have no idea what to expect.”
Attire for #SXSL is “Casual, comfortable, and weather appropriate. Dress for being outside all day, and maybe even to sit on the grass.”
— Joshua Baer (@JoshuaBaer) September 27, 2016
Dana Callender, co-founder and CCO of DivInc, said she wants to spread the word that Austin aspires to be a national leader in advancing minorities and women in tech.
“We have an amazing opportunity at SXSL at the White House to spread the word about how DivInc is helping close the diversity gap in tech,” she said via email. “Not only will we create partnerships with others leading the charge for women and racial equality, but we’ll talk about the issues our startups are solving with their innovation on a national stage.”
Here is the live stream of SXSL.
Image by Executive Office of the President [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons