Pixability CEO and founder Bettina Hein and CMO Rob Ciampa (far right) with two Zumiez marketing leads at a previous SXSW Interactive. Ciampa is speaking at SXSW again this weekend.

It’s that time of year again when entrepreneurs, thinkfluencers and companies flock to Austin for the annual SXSW Interactive festival, which runs from Friday through Tuesday (March 11- March 15). Now onto its 30th year, the festival has become a hotbed for emerging technology, with Twitter gaining early traction there in 2007 and Foursquare launching at the festival a few years later. However, not all the hype has been sustainable: less than a year after Meerkat was named the festival’s breakout technology, the startup recently announced it’s giving up on live-streaming.

Fortunately, SXSW Interactive isn’t just about launching new apps and partying with brands. It also brings a wealth of interesting people together from across the country and across the world to talk about ideas ranging from online harassment and robot companions to the future of parenting. And Boston’s tech scene is well represented.

One of the more notable panels with local flavor is a panel titled “Dropping a Billion Dollar Economic Bomb on Startups,” which will discuss the impact of Boston startup accelerator MassChallenge. Another notable Boston panel is an interview between New Yorker Editor Nick Thompson and Rethink Robotics founder Rodney Brooks.

What’s more, four Boston tech companies are finalists for SXSW Interactive’s Innovation Awards, and there a few others that will be exhibiting there as well. Unfortunately, no Boston companies were named as finalists for the festival’s Accelerator Awards, unlike previous years.

Here’s a few highlights of Boston tech leaders who will be speaking on panels:


Liz Powers, co-founder of ArtLifting

ArtLifting co-founder Liz Powers

Liz Powers started ArtLifting with her brother, Spencer, as an online marketplace that sells artwork created by homeless, disabled and other disadvantaged people. The startup’s social impact has recently made headlines in the New York Times and on The Today Show. And last fall, it announced that it had raised a $1.1 million seed round.

Powers will be on the panel about MassChallenge, of which ArtLifting is a previous winner. In an email to BostInno, Powers said she’s “looking forward to meeting innovators across from the world,” in addition to “listening to new ideas and learning from entrepreneurs from a wide variety of fields.”

She added that she’s also excited to “hear Obama speak about the role of civic engagement in the future of our country and economy.”


Scott Bailey, managing director of MassChallenge

MassChallenge Managing Director Scott Bailey

As you could probably guess, Scott Bailey will be another speaker on the MassChallenge panel with Liz Powers. Founded in 2009, the startup accelerator based in Boston’s Seaport has had a tremendous impact in the startup world, with 835 alumni having raised more than $1.1 billion in funding, generated more than $520 million in revenue and created over 6,500 direct jobs.

And the impact hasn’t just been in Boston. The startup accelerator, which takes no equity with the funding it provides, opened a location in London last year, and it most recently expanded to Israel, Mexico and Switzerland.

“By supporting innovation, communities can drive billions of dollars in value for their economy, and we’ve seen this first-hand in Boston,” Bailey said. “Following the announcement that President Obama will deliver this year’s keynote, I’m looking forward to conversations around the economic impact of robust entrepreneurship at SXSW.”


Rob Ciampa, CMO at Pixability

Pixability CMO Rob Ciampa

Pixability, which runs an advertising and marketing platform for YouTube, most recently moved into a larger office in Boston’s North End after raising an $18 million Series C round last spring. Founded by Bettina Hein, the company has made four pivots, starting out with the idea of making home videos more watchable. Now it’s riding on the success of YouTube’s ad business.

Rob Ciampa, CMO of Pixability, will be on a panel titled “Chevies and Teslas and Zipcars. Oh My!” that will talk about how the rules of consumer and customer engagement has changed with consideration to the “entire automotive ecosystem.”

“After bringing down the house on video marketing at SXSW a couple of years back, we’ve been invited back to share our perspective on the digital video revolution upending the automotive industry,” Ciampa said.”The bad boys from Boston won’t spare the legacy of Joe Isuzu.”


Here’s the full list of Boston tech leaders who will be speaking on SXSW panels (that we’ve found anyway—email me if you’re someone from the Boston tech community who’s speaking and we’ll add you):

  • Colin Angle, iRobot (event)
  • Scott Bailey, MassChallenge (event)
  • Cynthia Breazeal, Jibo (event)
  • Jennifer Briselli, Mad*Pow (event)
  • Rodney Brooks, Rethink Robotics (event)
  • Jonathan Bush, athenahealth (event)
  • Dries Buytaert, Acquia (event)
  • Rob Ciampa, Pixability (event)
  • Alexandra Drane, Eliza Corporation (event)
  • Semyon Dukach, Techstars Boston (event)
  • David Koelle, Charles River Analytics (event)
  • Paul Liberman, DraftKings (event)
  • Panos Panay, Berklee ICE/Sonicbids (event)
  • TJ Parker, PillPack (event)
  • Rosalind Picard, Empatica/MIT Media Lab (event)
  • Liz Powers, ArtLifting (event)
  • Katie Rae, Project 11 (event)
  • David Rose, Ditto Labs (event)
  • Brianna Wu, Giant Spacekat (event 1, event 2)
  • Bill Clifford, SessionM (event)
  • Cory Rellas, Drizly (event)
  • Jim Lawton, Rethink Robotics (event)
  • Ashley Reid, Wellist (event)
  • Connor Shewmake, PillPack (event)
  • Christopher Lee, MIT Hacking Medicine (event)
  • Susan Mercer, Mad*Pow (event)
  • Alex Revelos, MIT Hacking Medicine (event)
  • Aartik Sarma, MIT Hacking Medicine (event)
  • Amy Cueva, Mad*Pow (event)
  • Hari Iyer, MIT Hacking Medicine (event)
  • Molly Binder, MIT Hacking Medicine (event)
  • Alex Gruzen, WiTricity (event)
  • Kyle Flaherty, Rapid7 (event)
  • Michael Putnam, American Well (event)

Some of these speakers will be on panels happening at the MIT #HackMed Health House, which will run from Saturday through Monday.

Outside of speakers, Marty Tenenbaum—the founder of Boston-based Cancer Commons, a site that’s considered the “LinkedIn of cancer”—is a finalist for the festival’s Dewey Awards.


Besides individuals from Boston’s tech scene, there will be a handful of companies as well. Four of them will be representing Boston in the festival’s Innovation Awards.

Brain Power is a Cambridge startup that’s developing software for wearable technology to help children with autism learn how to better socialize, and it’s a finalist in three categories for the awards: Health, Med & Biotech; Innovation in Connecting People; and Wearable Tech.

Waltham-based Neurometrix is also a finalist in the Wearable Tech category for its Quell wearable pain relief technology. Meanwhile, Somerville-based Formlabs is a finalist in the Innovation 3-DIY category for its latest 3D printer, Form 2, and Boston-based biotech company Orig3n is a finalist in the SciFi No Longer category.

Here are some other local companies that will have a presence at SXSW:

Kyle Alspach contributed to this report. Is someone missing from our list? Email me.

Featured photo provided by Ciampi. Other photos are from each person’s respective company.