With big plans to organize, host and promote multiple days of complete programming at Capital Factory House, an official SXSW venue, you can imagine the impact on the team when SXSW was understandably canceled due to concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19. Despite the sudden setback, we quickly got up, dusted ourselves off and got to work pivoting to continue to support our community. AFWERX, a community of Air Force innovators who strive to connect Airmen to solutions across the force, was one such example.
What happens when you’re handed lemons? You make lemonade.
What was initially planned as a three-day in-person defense innovation event with 600 collaborators, AFWERX’s 2020 Spark Collider and Pitch Bowl was an essential occasion that we just had to move forward with- by any means possible. With the news that SXSW would be canceled, we brainstormed with AFWERX on how we could quickly bring this event to life outside the confines of physical walls.
In the span of three days, Capital Factory worked with AFWERX, the U.S. Air Force, and its joint partners to promptly create a one-day virtual mega-event including keynotes, presentations, and collaborative engagements with more than 2,000 online and small group attendees across the country from government, industry, and academia.
What resulted was a quick-turn virtual experience that boasted more than 150 individual events in 15 virtual rooms over the course of 8 hours with a total of 5,000 virtual viewers- 4x the number of participants expected to attend the actual in-person event.
The event also included morning and afternoon Spark Collider breakout sessions and educational programming, which were designed to bring service members of all ranks together with industry professionals to discover potential solutions to Department of Defense problems and learn from each other.
Adam Welch, Assistant Director for Spark Cells at AFWERX said, “What ended up happening was we had just over 80 companies that all participated in virtual pitches that lasted eight hours. Everybody jumped in the role and it went on autopilot. It was really cool to see.”
The comment above is from Capital Factory’s upcoming podcast episode, which will give listeners a behind-the-scenes look at how the event all came together— featuring our Senior Programs Manager, Maryann Alspaugh, and AFWERX members Adam Welch and Tony Perez. Subscribe to the podcast and check out the full episode when it’s released on Tuesday, March 24!
“With the need to pivot from a live to a virtual event, the AFWERX team knew Capital Factory would roll-up their sleeves and drive into the trenches alongside us. Capital Factory and its staff, led by Maryann, were essential to the success of the virtual event. To have collaborative teammates who are willing to jump out on a ledge and trust that this event was possible made us even more determined to put in the hard work to see it through. This virtual event wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Capital Factory,” said Tony Perez, Director of Spark for AFWERX.
We’re incredibly proud of what our team was able to accomplish in just a few short days. The success of this virtual mega-event has given us an optimistic glimpse of what’s to come for our startup ecosystem as a whole.
A Look Towards the Future
At Capital Factory, we’re currently planning programming for our community that will provide the same level of connection, insight, and advice they have come to appreciate from Capital Factory— now through virtual means. Our goal is to allow our community to continue engaging with each other, making valuable connections and thriving during this time. Even during a time of social distancing, it’s crucial for us to stick together and help each other grow.
The Capital Factory Family Supports the Stand With Austin Fund
Capital Factory is famous for our t-shirts. We printed a limited number of SXSW 2020 shirts before SXSW was canceled and this is your only chance to get one of the most exclusive Capital Factory shirts ever! All proceeds go to the Stand With Austin Fund— which makes grants to nonprofits assisting individuals and small businesses most negatively impacted by the cancellation of SXSW and least able to recover on their own.
Click here to get yours before they run out! Three different versions to pick from.