South by South West (SXSW) is one of the biggest events on the tech, usually attended by around 400,000 people each year. Held by the City of Austin, Texas, the event spans film, music, comedy and more, but it’s famous for the startups that launched at the festival (as well as the parties).
Twitter and Foursquare are perhaps the most famous example of launches at SXSW, but the gathering of tech and creatives made it widely attended by plenty the big names in tech.
As coronavirus continues to spread across the US, there was increasing pressure and even a Change.org petition to have it cancelled. That petition accumulated more than 55,000 signatures.
In the past couple of days, we’ve seen a couple of major attendees withdraw their attendance at the event, namely Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and plenty of others.
Without these major players, it’d be difficult to draw a significant numbers to the event and combined with increasing community concern, SXSW had little choice but to cancel.
Overnight, we had confirmation SXSW was cancelled. Here’s the full statement by the City of Austin.
The City of Austin has cancelled the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU. SXSW will faithfully follow the City’s directions.
We are devastated to share this news with you. “The show must go on” is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.
As recently as Wednesday, Austin Public Health stated that “there’s no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer.” However, this situation evolved rapidly, and we honor and respect the City of Austin’s decision. We are committed to do our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites.
We are exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, starting with SXSW EDU. For our registrants, clients, and participants we will be in touch as soon as possible and will publish an FAQ.
We understand the gravity of the situation for all the creatives who utilize SXSW to accelerate their careers; for the global businesses; and for Austin and the hundreds of small businesses – venues, theatres, vendors, production companies, service industry staff, and other partners that rely so heavily on the increased business that SXSW attracts.
We will continue to work hard to bring you the unique events you love. Though it’s true that our March 2020 event will no longer take place in the way that we intended, we continue to strive toward our purpose – helping creative people achieve their goals.
At the time of writing, Coronavirus has had 101,781 confirmed cases, with 3,460 deaths. The SXSW joins many other large event cancellations and until this is contains, or we have a vaccination, don’t be surprised to see most large public gatherings cancelled.