SXSW Sydney announces first conference speakers, event precinct

Speakers at the SXSW Sydney conference.

American futurist Amy Webb, author and CEO/founder of the Future Today Institute, is the first keynote speaker announced for the SXSW Sydney conference this October.

Webb will be flanked by international speakers from across the screen, games, music and tech industries, such as Twitch chief product officer Tom Verrilli; BAFTA-winning games designer Sam Barlow; Yoomin Yang, CEO of Korean production company Wow Point, and Korean film critic Youn Sung-Eun.

Also speaking at the SXSW conference, which runs concurrently with the screen, music and games festivals, are locals Netflix ANZ director of content Que Minh Luu, Screen NSW head Kyas Hepworth and filmmaker Larissa Behrendt.

SXSW Sydney unveiled a first look at its conference and music festival line-up at a press conference today, and announced the event will have a “walkable footprint” around the CBD and Tech Central district of Haymarket, Darling Harbour, Ultimo and Chippendale.

First announced last June, SXSW Sydney marks the event’s first expansion outside of North America, lured here with support by TEG, the NSW Government, and Destination NSW. Like in Austin, the focus is on tech and innovation, games, music, screen and culture. The event is secured for Sydney for the next five years.

At the press conference today, NSW Arts Minister Ben Franklin said he hoped that SXSW Sydney would aid in the reinvigoration of the city’s nightlife, with the event expected to attract at least 27,000 visitors and generate $24 million for the state economy in the first year.

The conference, set to have more than 400 keynotes, presentations, panels, workshops and mentor sessions, will be held primarily across The University of Technology, Sydney (UTS); The Powerhouse Museum and The International Convention Centre (ICC).

Other speakers announced today include entrepreneur and co-founder and CEO of Colossal, Ben Lamm and Andrew Pask of the School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne; Canva chief evangelist Guy Kawasaki; Jack Reis, co-founder of Baidam Solutions and women’s rights activist Manal al-Sharif, pioneer of the right-to-drive movement in Saudi Arabia.

Further speakers include CEO and Founder of quantum technology company Q-CTRL, Michael J. Biercuk; Swedish CEO of Pophouse Entertainment, Per Sundin; Tesla chair and operating partner of venture capital firm Blackbird Ventures, Robyn Denholm; Rohit Bhargava, founder of The Non-Obvious Company; Sean Miyashiro, founder and CEO of 88rising; Sheila Nguyen, regenerative built environment design professional, and artist and entrepreneur, Yiying Lu.  

The artist showcase precinct will be focused around Broadway, with the area from Central Station through to the The Lansdowne Hotel on City Road to play home to more than 500 performances. Other key sites include The Abercrombie Hotel, Central Park Mall, Tumbalong Park and the Sofitel Darling Harbour.

At the press conference, SXSW Sydney managing director Colin Daniels said to expect events in new and existing venues, car parks, and shopfronts.

“Today’s announcement is the first of many, and with every announcement, the full magnitude of this remarkable event will become apparent,” he said.

The SXSW Sydney event precinct.

Speaking of the decision to come to Sydney, SXSW partner and executive vice President Darin Klein said the city was “a leading connector to innovation and creativity”, and singled out its natural beauty, arts and culture scene, galleries, theatres and the ICC.

“The Asia Pacific is one of the world’s hotbeds of tech development globally, which is really why this makes for an ideal setting for a South by Southwest event,” he said.

Specific screening venues for the SXSW Sydney Screen Festival, which will focus on film, episodic, digital, XR and social content from across the Asia Pacific, are yet to be announced. The festival also promises Q&As and panel discussions with creators and immersive events, as well as screen industry specific networking, workshops, mentoring, meet-ups and showcases. Submission for screen projects close in mid-April.

Also announced today was the SXSW Sydney Gaming Festival, which will see 100 local and international independent games playable across venues in the SXSW Sydney precinct. There will also be demonstrations, product launches, hands-on play, stage sessions, performances, screenings, unique exhibitions and social events.

The first music artists were also unveiled, including Nigerian-British indie-pop songwriter Connie Constance; Canadian new-wave solo artist Ekkstacy; London-based quartet Los Bitchos; Japanese punk four-piece Otoboke Beaver; and American rapper-producer teenager redveil.

SXSW Sydney will run October 15-20. Platinum and industry badges are on sale now.