Macnas and Miss Panti help promote Irish start-ups at SxSW

A healthy mix of business and creativity makes South By SouthWest Interactive 2016 a success for ‘Ireland Inc’

Macnas presents its pop-up theatre spectacle on 6th Street in Austin, Texas sponsored by IDA Ireland during SXSW

The Taoiseach may not have been present at this year's South By SouthWest (SxSW) Interactive festival but the Queen of Ireland was an appropriate substitute. The presence of Miss Panti and Galway-based street performance masters, Macnas, alongside stars of Ireland's tech startups, the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and the Dublin Commissioner for Startups, Niamh Bushnell, ensured Ireland Inc stood out from the crowd.

At a festival where it’s easy to be missed, Ireland’s business community were front and centre when it mattered. Even Enterprise Ireland’s stall at the Austin Convention Centre Exhibit Hall was the first thing you saw as you walked in the main entrance.

A number of talented Irish companies were present including cloud- based language translation platform Based in DCU's Invent Campus, the company already boasts a client list including US-business news agency, Bloomberg, and the world's largest online translations provider, Translations. com.

Describing his newest venture as an ‘Uber’ for shipping, Co-Founder of Overhaul Barry Conlon has his sights firmly set on the US market for his truck and shipping solutions app. “I’ve been a part of the supply chain security sector for more than thirty years so I already understand this market,” he says.


The augmented reality technology used to showcase bands on a smartphone, developed by tech start up Firstage, has proven very popular at the festival, particularly among an Austin crowd who are already enthusiastic consumers of live music.

Kabzy has developed a ‘black-box’ style technology for cars and other vehicles so that a more detailed analysis of collisions and accidents can be made. The list goes on.

At the Dublin Wake for StartUps event held on Sunday evening, a huge crowd showed up to the Palm Door venue in downtown Austin. Many were turned away disappointed, however, as the venue filled to capacity within minutes of opening its doors.

Frequent shots of Irish whiskey were doled out guaranteeing a more engaged audience as a variety of Irish and international speakers discussed failed startups and mistakes made that proved fatal to various business ventures in the past.

Macnas Creative director Noeline Kavanagh highlighted the importance of failure and a willingness to put oneself in positions of vulnerability in order to achieve real success.

"It was a real privilege to put on the Macnas show in the middle of Sixth St in downtown Austin," she told The Irish Times. "I feel we genuinely engaged with the city's community and over 200 locals voluntarily gave their time to help make the spectacle such a wonderful success. It was hugely supported by Culture Ireland and the IDA. Likewise, the Austin City Council and Austin Police Department were a joy to work with for an event the likes of which has never been staged at SxSW before."

"The importance of having Macnas on Sixth St - having Ireland on Sixth Street - was that it demonstrated our creativity and innovation," says Martin Shanahan, chief executive of the IDA. "These are the kinds of things tech companies want to see. The IDA met with lots of businesses from Austin and across the US during the event. The Macnas performance was a very visible manifestation of what Ireland has to offer the tech world." SxSW Interactive ends this week, but the festival continues with music and film until March 20th.

John Holden

John Holden

John Holden is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in science, technology and innovation