How to Launch Your Startup at SXSW for $460


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generate leads and awareness. Here is how: charge for admission and do not provide free alcohol.

A. Get a focus and a theme. Lets say you pick #csMajorCEO
B. Get an RSVP page up on Eventbrite and Facebook
C. Tie in a celebrity component
D. Do partnerships with blogs, startups, and personalities to help promote them
E. Get and control a venue and book a back-up venue

5) Pre-network.

In this age of “everything is faster” and Moore’s Law, I think you should get your ROI for the party/conference BEFORE you even go.

For example, you can drive the registrations through a Facebook groups page. Having people “Facebook fan” you is presumptuous. Getting people to write on a Facebook group wall (which makes them join) is social.

6) Get Local.

If you’re from California, the best thing you can do is get away from California people.

In producing an event for $450, you can enlist the help of local Austin-ites. If you’re charging, offer comp passes. If its free, offer comp demo booths so that companies can demonstrate their offerings but with the requirement that they pre-blog the event.

7) Pre-blog Your Own Event.

When someone asks me to blog about them, the first question I have is, did you blog about it yourself?

Pre-blogging is critical. If you’re only spending $460, preblogging once or twice before your launch is critical. For those founders who have never blogged or rarely blog, the bare minimum for a post is simply three paragraphs, two pictures and one focus. It relates specifically to event promotion because before you promote an event, you have to elevate you and your brand. An inexpensive way to do this is to pre-blog.

For example, freshman Stanford CS majors with zero budget were encouraged to blog as a way to engineer three internships in a row and gain access to expensive conferences. Kiki Garcia pre-blogged about Peter Thiel’s keynote at Stanford’s NextGen conference. John Yang Sammataro pre-blogged a venture capital conference. Both were offered comp passes to attend pretty expensive conferences.

8) Get Others to Pre-blog Your Event.

After your Eventbrite page is up, get someone else to pre-blog your event by offering a secret discount only for their readers.

For example, to woo the Austin startup community, I offered comp tickets to Bryan Menell’s group via his blog post.

9) Hack Up an Eventbrite Page.

The urban myth about hosting an event is that you need to have all your ducks in a row before you publish an invite.

This is a misperception.

Heck, you don’t even need a venue to get started. For example, WordPress is hosting a party March 13. They have a placeholder page up.

As of this time, they have invited some Dallas people, got the commitment of WP Engine and have a decent looking RSVP list.

*  *  *

The basic formula I use is


-Promote, and

-Value-addedly hijack.

This strategy helps to overcome two core problems startups face: no need (for your product/services) and no trust (people trust people, not websites).

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Larry Chiang is CEO of Duck9 and teaches Engineering 145 as a Stanford Entrepreneur in Residence. He has a fund called "Larry Chiang Stanford G51 Fund of Stanford Founders." Follow @

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5 responses to “How to Launch Your Startup at SXSW for $460”

  1. Larry,

    Stick to basketball. I’ll teach you how to introduce a product cheaply. :-)


  2. Eric says:

    Great down to earth and practical advice Larry! I loved the article and I loved Guy’s funny comment even more :-)

  3. So do you think the best place to launch a new product and get worldwide attention is SXSW?

    FYI: I’m not based in US

  4. noah says:

    funny, i’ll see if Guy can cut me a discount on all those leftovers.