AUSTIN – As the SXSW Interactive enters its final day on Tuesday, film and music portions of the annual festival in Austin are gaining momentum. Traffic in and out of San Antonio’s “icehouse,” a hub for Alamo City advocates and local industry experts, inside the Austin Convention Center was notably slower on Monday than the trade show’s first day on Sunday, said Choose San Antonio Program Director Nicolette Good.
Nonetheless, David Heard, a Choose San Antonio volunteer and chief marketing officer for SecureLogix, was impressed with meeting trade show visitors from around the globe at the trade show.
“So today, I’ve met with someone from Copenhagen (Denmark), France, London, China and now Argentina,” Heard told the Rivard Report.
The co-founder of TechBloc was helping out at the icehouse, affixing free temporary “SATX” tattoos on the arms of visitors while talking all about the city.
Local filmmaker and educator Sam Lerma showed up at the trade show space as one of Choose San Antonio’s select “cultural ambassadors,” tasked with promoting the city’s growing creative class. He had a short video playing on a loop on his iPad, featuring aspects of San Antonio’s film community.
Matt Wilbanks, CEO of HelpSocial, also volunteered at the icehouse. He smiled as his colleagues were essentially marketing San Antonio to attendees, suggesting they take part in a beanbag toss game or enjoy a free paleta.
“This is really nice, promoting a new side to San Antonio,” Wilbanks said.
Meanwhile, a handful of San Antonians were elsewhere at SXSW, spreading the word about how San Antonio’s growing environment for innovators and disrupters in culinary and science-related businesses.
Ryan Beltran, founder of Elequa, was part of a workshop at the Austin Convention Center. Beltran and his colleagues have been developing Elequa as an online hub for open source water innovation, collaboration and education.
Beltran has been advocating for a panel discussion or workshop about open source water purification at SXSW for several years. The technique can prove effective in communities struggling to secure their long-term water supplies, he said.
“We want to engage people, and what we’re really trying to do with this workshop is show what the power of crowdsourcing and collaboration can do for water issues,” Beltran said. His organization, Elequa, educates people by having them put together a water purification kit.
It is important to open source this technology, Beltran said, because it is evolving and, with more people testing and studying their own results, the more effective water purification could be in the future.
“There is so much potential but there are gaps in the knowledge of what this can do,” Beltran said. “We’ve found this perfect area where innovation and education merge, so we teach a class – we learn, they learn and we’re all evolving a technology.”
In another SXSW panel, Ryan Salts, outreach director at Cafe Commerce’s Break Fast and Launch program, facilitated a discussion about niche beverage makers and how they’ve grown successful businesses in San Antonio.
Manny Carral, co-founder of Revolucion Coffee + Juice; Boyan Kalusevic, co-founder of Dorćol Distilling Co.; and Cathy Tarasovic, partner of Shrub Drinks, shared their experiences as entrepreneurs in the local craft beverage scene.
Ventures such as the ones Carral and his fellow panelists run are based on lean business models, he said, similar in nature to those that support technology startups. But in this case, the lean business model is applied to a brick-and-mortar business where efforts to introduce new products are challenging. Revolucion has long aimed to promote health and fitness in San Antonio, Carral said.
“We kind of disrupted the scene. Back then, nobody was really selling coffee and juice. Now, all the coffee shops sell juice,” Carral said. Revolucion is now emphasizing juices and by-products of the juicing business, he added, including vegetable chips and kombucha.
While Dorćol keeps making its signature rakia (apricot brandy), it will launch beer brewery operations later this spring. It is rarity for a distiller to branch off and make beer, Kalusevic admitted, but he and his colleagues think it’s the right time to diversify their business, and Southtown – where the distillery/craft bar is based – is a perfect location.
“We did the demographics and found that the Southside is exactly where a $60 bottle of brandy belongs,” Kalusevic joked. The distillery’s South Flores Street location is ideal, he added, because utilities are adequate and the community is thriving.
“It’s home. Someone has asked me why don’t we move to Austin or Houston. We could, but we’re San Antonio products,” Kalusevic said.
Tarasovic has spent more than 30 years in San Antonio, and said she cannot think of a better place to grow her business, which offers artisanal drinking vinegars.
“It’s been a great city. I’ve watched it grow so much,” she said. “It’s a trendier city, and a lot of great restaurants and bars are coming in.”
*Top image: Casa San Antonio at SXSW. Photo by Scott Ball.