The month of March means SXSW, that crazy big global gathering of minds in Austin, Texas. For the fifth year, Michigan House will be at South By and will host significant mobility conversations during the week of programming.
Going to an event like SXSW that attracts people from Silicon Valley and from New York and from L.A. and from all over the world, it felt like here’s a venue, people might not expect Michigan to this large and this thoughtful of a platform in but in that platform we can really again, sort of change people’s minds about what’s possible here in Michigan.
That was Ted Velie, co-founder of Michigan House at SXSW. He’s our guest on Driven’s Mobility Moments Podcast. We’re talking about Michigan House, about South By, about mobility and about Michigan’s legacy of leadership in automotive and what that means to present and future mobility.
Stay tuned because Ted shares come cool insider details on this year’s event, including a word you’ll want to add to your own conversations about SXSW.
I’m Claire Charlton, your host of Driven’s Mobility Moments podcast.
Well Ted, welcome to Mobility Moments podcast. How are you today?
I’m well. I’m well. It’s a little warmer today than yesterday so that makes me happy.
Good. Awesome. Okay. Ted, you are a co-founder of Michigan House at SXSW and I’m hoping that you can share with us a little bit of background. What is Michigan House? And how did it get started?
That’s a good question. I feel like a lot of people know, have heard of Michigan House but not a lot of people truly know what it is. The best way to describe it is Michigan House is really, we’re sort of an embassy to SXSW. I call it an experiential embassy to SXSW with a goal of connecting innovative people, creative people, innovative businesses in Michigan to SXSW’s global audience of almost a quarter million people who show up to SXSW every year.
Yeah, right? And this’ll actually be our fifth year at SXSW and really we started off as kind of a project and a pretty really kind of a guerrilla effort to just have a place where Michiganders could sort of have a home away from home during the conference and festival. The first year or two it was really kind of just a backyard party. Now in year five, we’re an official part of the conference. We have a downtown location. We actually have a two floor, beautiful venue this year. We host official SXSW content and we’ll have probably more than a 100 Michiganders going down to Austin with us just as part of our kind of group, much less all the people that are coming from all over the country and all over the world that are connected to the state and to companies that are in the state.
One day during the week of programming at the Michigan House will be Michigan Mobility Day. I’m guessing that this is Michigan’s chance to invite people from all over the world to come, come over to the clubhouse and talk about Michigan’s strengths in mobility. Can you share a little bit more about what’s going to be happening on that day? And do you know which day it is?
I do. Michigan Mobility day is actually going to take place on Saturday March 9th, which is the first full day at SXSW. The conference sort of kicks off Friday afternoon but Saturday’s the first full day. It’s going to be a day full of a lot of different kinds of programming. We have four official SXSW panels that are going to talk about a lot of different topics within mobility. We’re going to have some different presentations, some different announcements being made and that’ll all sort of culminate in a large what we’re calling sort of a Mobility Mixer at the end of the day that General Motors, GM Maven is actually going to sponsor.
It’s going to try and bring together a lot of different people from a lot of different places who all are interested in or working in mobility. It’s such an enormous topic and Michigan has a such a legacy of leadership there. It just, it seemed like a place where we could continue that leadership at SXSW which has become such a sort of a thought conference and a place where people are thinking not one or two years down the line but five to 10 years down the line. For Michigan and Michigan House to have a day dedicated to the mobility space, just seemed like a natural fit.
Cool. I noticed on the Michigan House website there seem to be some goals of build, educate, interact and invite. Tell me how you see those goals, if they are indeed goals.
They definitely are.
Good. Tell me how you think those fit in with Michigan Mobility Day?
Just a little bit of background. Last year some of the co-hosts of Michigan Mobility day which includes PlanetM, the Detroit Regional Chamber, Ann Arbor SPARK, they all went down to SXSW for the first time and realized that the mobility conversation was something that was going on at South By but it was sort of in its nascent stages and there was room for some leadership from Michigan. And when we talked about after last year, we started talking about last June about what a mobility day could look like, one of the things we said was this doesn’t have to be a conversation that’s dominated by things that are happening in Michigan. Michigan’s real leadership is that it’s leading a global effort in mobility.
What we’re really are doing with Mobility Day is inviting people from around the country and around the world to be a part of this larger conversation and we’re also going to sort of, even though we’re hosting events all day, we’re also going to be creating a schedule for people so that other conversations around mobility that are happening during SXSW, both on that day and throughout the conference, so we can highlight those as well. Because what we really feel like, we really would rather be the host of the conversation than the people that need to be talking the whole time. That idea of kind of inviting people in, is a really, really important part to what we’re doing with this Michigan Mobility Day.
You mentioned that there’s a lot of programming at SXSW and there’s a lot of mobility programming as well. An intelligent future track of programming. How do you plan to make Michigan House and specifically the mobility programming really rise to the top of the must-experience list for people who are going? And maybe even people who weren’t intending to learn more about mobility while they were at South By.
That’s always a really good question and a challenge for us because the truth is at SXSW, there is so much going on all the time. Oftentimes when you’re going there for the first time or even the fifth time, you sort of feel like you’re drinking out of the fire hose with the amount of information that’s available and the amount of activity that’s going on. The way that we’re really going to try and involve as many people as possible and try and keep the room and the conversation as vibrant as possible is by doing a lot of work in the next month or so to invite people to the conversation and to work with a lot of different networks of people, a lot of different companies, a lot of different fields and invite them to be part of what we’re talking about.
Over the last five years, that’s kind of what we’ve learned how to sort of crack the code of South By. You really have to appeal to people directly and connect with them ahead of time so that they feel like they’re coming to something that feels a little more personal than the other 1,000 things that are going on at any one time at SXSW.
With many other things, it’s about developing relationships and personally inviting people to come by the Michigan House and see what we’re talking about with regard to mobility. They might even be surprised.
In fact they will be surprised.
I definitely think they will. I actually had a phone call with a gentleman in Austin yesterday and he gave me a new term that I had never heard before. And he told me I could use it. But he described it as South-by-dipity. It’s this idea of going to South By and discovering ideas, discovering people, running into things and just really going there with an open mind and being surprised and sort of amazed at the things you’ll find. We really want to be a place where that kind of South-by-dipity can happen. We’re doing a little bit upfront to sort of design some of it into our own programming. But yeah, a lot of reasons that we go down there and a lot of the reasons a lot our partners go down there is for those personal connections into it’s a place where for a few days, a lot of really, really interesting innovative people are all in the same city and they’re all looking to meet each other. That’s what makes South By such a cool environment and the kind of place where Michigan House wants to be.
South-by-dipity. I guess it’s a play on serendipity.
I would think. Okay. Good. We’ll have to remember that one. Can you tell us how people can catch up with or prepare for all of things happening at Michigan House? What channels can they go to to find out what’s happening?
Well so the easiest one and it’ll be even easier in about a week ’cause we’re doing a relaunch of our website with our full 2019 schedule on it and that’s at just michiganhouse.org. You also can follow us on all the normal social channels. We do a lot on Instagram. We have a very engaged Instagram team. That’s just @michiganhouse. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, all of the above. Just look for Michigan House and you should be able to find us.
Excellent. It sounds like fun. You’re also involved with Creative Many. It seems like Michigan House is an initiative of Creative Many. Am I right? Can you talk a little bit about that?
Yeah, yeah. From basically the first four years of Michigan House, Michigan House is just kind of interesting partnership between my own company which is called Michigan House Creative and Creative Many Michigan where we sort of partnered together to raise the money, plan and create Michigan House. This year actually Creative Many is remaining a partner. They’ve taken a bit of a step back on some of the planning and they’re kind of focusing in on a couple of different pieces and we’ve sort of taken the front seat and the driver’s seat. But, yeah, they’ve been a long time partner of ours from the very beginning.
Creative Many for those who don’t know, is a statewide advocacy group for the creative economy. That’s everything from industrial designers and architects to artists and musicians. They sort of work to further really the sort of the development of those professions and the support that the state gives those professions.
Excellent. Cool. Is there anything else that you’d like to say about Michigan House or about your experience or what people can expect at SXSW?
Well I think one other to me really exciting thing that we’re doing this year and I think it’ll appeal to a lot of people who would listen to this podcast and are interested in sort of the mobility space in Michigan, this year for the first time we’re actually going to have a presence within the SXSW trade show which is your typical trade show and gets about 75,000 people that go through it. Part of the trade show this year is the SXSW Job Market and Michigan House is actually going to have booth within the Job Market that’s going to be 100% concerned about talent attraction and about sort of letting people know about all the opportunity there is within the state of Michigan. Whether they’re jobs in the automotive space, in other sort of technology spaces, design, etc.
South By has these 200,000 and some people that come that are innovators and thinkers and we just want to sort of let them know all the opportunity that exists in Michigan right now and let some Michigan companies have a chance to get in front of them within this really pretty interesting environment that is SXSW. It’s the first time we’ve ever done that before. It’s the first time we’ve been in the trade show. It’s a little bit of an experiment. But we’re pretty excited about it. That’ll actually take place from March 10th through the 12th and it’s kind of a second piece to Michigan House and a new thing we’re doing. It’s something that we’re hoping to get a lot of different Michigan companies involved with.
Excellent. It sounds wonderful. I really appreciate hearing about Michigan House and about Michigan Mobility Day and about the Mobility Mixer and about all of the things we’ve talked about. It sounds really, really fun and I’m very envious.
Yeah, it’s going to pretty good. We have a number of different Michigan companies that are coming down with us. Some of the organizers I talked about. We actually have the North American International Auto Show is going to come down to South By with us this year ’cause they’ve got some big announcements about 2020 and they actually are sort of want to go and check out SXSW conference to see what they can learn from them. It should be pretty cool. It’s going to be a really good group of people and we will be doing Michigan proud, I promise you that.
Wonderful. Thank you Ted. I really appreciate talking with you and we will definitely will be following you at Michigan House at SXSW.
Yeah, it should be fun. We’ll be doing everybody proud, like I said.
We’ll share all the wonderful Mobility Moments from Michigan House at South By so make sure you subscribe to our newsletter at detroitdriven.us so you can keep up too. For Driven and for Driven’s Mobility Moments podcast, I’m Claire Charlton. See you again soon.
Photo of Ted Velie by Carbon Stories. Photo of Michigan House @ SXSW 2018 by Jesse David Green.