A message of innovation: Reflecting on SXSW

Arlington Economic Development embarked to the 2016 SxSW show to stand alongside innovators in the private sector and to have a discussion about technology transfer in government. As we all know, Arlington is home to many federal research agencies (DARPA, NSF, ONR) and government contractors, as well as the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), who is at the forefront of technology advancement and advocacy. Our presence at SxSW Interactive only confirmed what we already knew: Arlington belongs in the discussion, and is the right home for many of these emerging technology sectors. Below is just a highlight of some of the events we attended and helped present.

AED had two panels selected (from more than 7000 entries) to be presented at SxSW. Our first was Big Fat Data Revolution, which focused on data utility and how the public and private sector can take advantage of data already being harvested through technology and turn that data into thriving business. We featured panelist Alex Laskey, CEO of Arlington-based Opower, as well as Aneesh Chopra, the United States’ first Chief Technology Officer and currently of Arlington-based Hunch Analytics, and Paul Melby from Capital One Labs. The room was packed for our session, with attendees asking great questions and providing some fantastic insight in their discussion with our panelists. Who knows? Maybe the next great company founder was sitting right in the room. 

Meanwhile, “Be the Next Tony Stark,” was a conversation that looked at Federal agencies and how the the groundbreaking technologies at their level can then also get into the hands of consumers. How can Homeland Security improve the lives and performances of soldiers and first responders? How can the CTA ensure that legislators and regulation don’t hamper the advancements of the autonomous vehicle and hold an entire industry at bay? We brought in Dr. Reginald Brothers from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), Kearie Peak from RL Leaders, and Dr. Daniel Patt, a Program Manager at DARPA. Definitely another high point in conversation as the panelists discussed how government can help...or hinder... innovation. As Gary Shapiro sharply pointed out, the government cannot be in the business of stopping innovation through regulation. 

But of course, it can't be all work and no play when you're dealing with SXSW. Arlington Economic Development partnered with the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership and Tech.co to host an entrepreneur pool tournament in downtown Austin during the festival. The event drew hundreds of Festival attendees looking to interact with fellow business leaders and technology innovators. AED and AEDP also hosted a Fireside Chat with Virginia Secretary of Commerce & Trade Maurice Jones, U.S. Homeland Security’s Dr. Reginald Brothers, and Hope Shimabuku from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, to discuss why Arlington, Alexandria and Virginia in general are important strategic locations for technology and government services companies. Northern Virginia and D.C. metro companies attending the SxSW Festival were invited to participate in the dinner and discussion.

Arlington County needs to be at the forefront of attracting emerging technologies and industries. AED’s presence at SxSW was meant to market the County’s assets and to interface with companies and individuals who are rapidly changing the world in which we live. The connections and impressions made at SxSW can have lasting impacts for the County in the years to come and are an important component in our mission of lowering the office vacancy rate throughout the County. Arlington is an innovative place for startups and tech companies in general. We recognize the opportunity for companies that are disrupting regulated industries (Opower, Uber, Lift, etc.) and need to be near the Nation’s capital. As the government looks more and more towards the private sector in building the new economy, Arlington needs to be the place to have an office.

Topic: BIG Update
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