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A Year Later – SXSW and Michigan House are Back

March 9, 2021 Press Releases
MichiganHouse2021 Dates-purple background with salmon colored abstract graphics

Updated March 15 at 11 a.m.

Michigan House is again preparing to serve as a platform for the state’s innovators and creatives to connect with the worldwide audience that attends the South by Southwest Conference and Festival (SXSW) next week. No one is traveling to Austin, TX, though, this year, as SXSW has gone completely digital as SXSW Online.

“We were kind of canaries in the coal mine last year when SXSW was cancelled a week before it was set to begin. In the moment it was devastating, but even within a couple days it was clear the right decision had been made,” says Ted Velie, a co-founder of Michigan House. “Who would’ve guessed a year later we’d still be struggling with the repercussions of the COVID? We were thrilled then, that SXSW found a way for us to still connect this year.”

Over the course of the five day virtual conference, Michigan House will host three Official SXSW Panel Discussions, a virtual meet-up for entrepreneurs, a Michigan Startup Portfolio, and a Michigan House Booth on SXSW’s digital platform. In addition, Michigan House has a full schedule of daily online events aimed at an instate audience using a variety of social apps and platforms from Instagram to Clubhouse to the Detroit based social app Plain Sight.

“The pandemic has forced us to reimagine the way meaningful connections are made,” says Plain Sight founder James Chapman. “Our tool was originally built to help people do this in-person, but we’ve seen tremendous response to offering remote opportunities to connect because at the end of the day, we need community now more than ever. I think that’s what this year’s SXSW will be all about.”

Michigan House has always been a massively collaborative effort and this year is no different with conversations featuring leaders from Ford, Bedrock, Trinity Health, Ann Arbor SPARK, the City of Grand Rapids, DTE and Michigan’s new Office of Future Mobility & Electrification to name just a few. In fact, more than 40 other Michigan companies and organizations will be partnering on the four day activation including the Grand Rapids SmartZone, Bedrock, Quicken Loans, Ann Arbor SPARK, Start Garden, Seamless, MEDC, the City of Grand Rapids, Traverse Connect, Elevate Marquette, Select, Bamboo, Detroit Startup Week, StudioC and many more.

“Participating in Michigan House at SXSW amplifies the Ann Arbor region’s visibility to the innovators that we want to attract to grow their companies and their careers here,” said Jenn Cornell Queen, SPARK’s senior vice president, marketing, communications and events. “Through our relationship with Michigan House, we had the opportunity to pull together a panel discussion on the future of mobility as an official SXSW event, putting the tech that’s being developed and tested here prominently center stage in front of a global audience. It’s exciting to work with the Michigan House and SXSW teams to extend our efforts to promote the exciting things happening in Ann Arbor’s tech ecosystem and throughout the state.”

Mark Washington, the city manager of Grand Rapids and a speaker on another of the SXSW Panel discussions, echoed that sentiment, “Grand Rapids has long stood at the intersection of technology, innovation and creativity. Global events like SXSW are a great opportunity for us to remind the world that in Michigan you can have a high quality of life and affordable cost of living while pursuing cutting-edge careers in a supportive environment.

Michigan House has served as the Great Lakes State’s embassy to SXSW since 2015. Numerous foreign nations stage similar programs in the hopes of building a bridge to the innovative Conference, but Michigan is the only state with such a reliably robust presence. For more information and the full schedule go to or email

Michigan House Official SXSW Events

Clean Mobility Investment

SXSW Panel presented by Ann Arbor SPARK: 3/16 at 11:15 a.m.

Sean Gouda, Electrification Business Development, DTE
Ken Laberteaux, Senior Principal Scientist, Toyota Research Institute –North America
Sophia Nadur, Managing Partner, bp Ventures
Missy Stults, Sustainability & Innovation Manager, City of Ann Arbor

Rules of Attraction: Bringing the Best & the Brightest to Michigan

Michigan House Panel: 3/17 at 4 p.m. featuring intro with Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchirst II

Anne Partington, Ann Arbor SPARK
Camille Hoisington, Michigans Creative Coast
Ryan Hundt, Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Tifini McClyde-Blythe, Interlochen Center for the Arts
Joe Thiel, Innovate Marquette SmartZone

Starting Up in the MI: Virtual Meetup for Founders

SXSW Official Event: 3/17 at 5 p.m.
Hosted by Start Garden, Ann Arbor SPARK, Detroit Startup Week & MEDC

Health & Our Built Environment After Covid

SXSW Panel Discussion: 3/17 at 9 p.m.

Emily Anthes, Science Writer & Author
Kofi Bonner, CEO, Bedrock
Marcus Shipley, CIO, Trinity Health
Mark Washington, City Manager, City of Grand Rapids

Making a New Mobility Region

SXSW Panel Discussion: 3/19 at 3 p.m.

Komal Doshi, Director, Mobility Programs, Ann Arbor SPARK
Trevor Pawl, Chief Mobility Officer, State of Michigan
Carolina Pluszczynski, Development Director, Ford Michigan Central Mobility District
Heather Wilberger, CIO, Bedrock

Michigan House Partners

  • Quicken Loans
  • Bedrock Start Garden
  • Seamless
  • City of Grand Rapids
  • SmartZone
  • Ann Arbor SPARK
  • MEDC
  • Traverse Connect
  • Innovate Marquette
  • Select
  • Bamboo
  • Detroit Startup Week
  • Madcap
  • Plain Sight 
  • Renaissance
  • Venture Capital
  • StockX
  • Whirlpool
  • Steelcase
  • Emergent Holdings
  • Trinity Health
  • Amway
  • Wakestream Ventures
  • NEI Cruise Chaco
  • Merrell
  • Artprize
  • North American International Auto Show
  • Audiotree Music 
  • Studio C
  • New Holland Brewery
  • MSU Alumni Association
  • MSU Foundation
  • Red Cedar Ventures
  • Spartan Innovations
  • Lansing Chamber of Commerce
  • LEAP
  • Detroit Mobility Lab
  • Founders Brewing Company
  • Michigan Office of Outdoor Recreation
  • Industry
  • Lafayette American
  • Farmhaus Cider
  • Grand River Realty