SXSW may be corporate, but start-ups still flock to it

SXSW 2015
Ari Levy | CNBC

South by Southwest Interactive is big, corporate, unruly and losing its edge, but whatever you think of it the tech festival is still a haven for early-stage start-ups, a survey says.

Nasdaq Private Market conducted the survey of private companies at SXSW to see the maturity, focus and fundraising expectations of businesses in attendance. The poll received 111 responses, with 34 percent of answers from company founders, co-founders or chief executive officers and most of the rest from an executive, director or associate.

As much as the start-up conversation of late has been about massive financing rounds and high burn rates, the companies at SXSW don't fit the mold. Of the respondents, 41 percent said they'd raised less than $2 million, with 12 percent having reeled in more than $50 million.

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An equal number, 13 percent, were in the $2 million-to-$10-million and $10-million-to-$20-million range, 11 percent said $20 million to $50 million and 10 percent said they weren't sure.

"SXSW brings together influencers, venture capital, media and other similar companies looking to do the same thing in one spot, which makes it an ideal location," Jeff Thomas, vice president of sales at Nasdaq Private Market, wrote in an email. "Larger companies are still attending the conference, but more as corporate sponsors."

In the past, SXSW has been a place for hot Internet start-ups to be discovered. That perception has faded in recent years, but it hasn't diminished the popularity of the festival.

And apparently it hasn't deterred newbies from flocking to Austin, Texas.

Some 37 percent of respondents were at companies that are 1 to 3 years old, and 38 percent have been around four to six years. Plenty of elder statesmen join the festivities, too, with 18 percent of answers coming from executives at companies that are at least a decade old.

The five-day conference ends Tuesday, though the city of Austin won't let up as the SXSW music festival rolls into town.

At interactive, not surprisingly, the dominant industry is technology. More than 4 in 10 respondents are in software and hardware tech, with finance the second most common at 9 percent and health care and biotech at 7 percent. Even with 10 categories available, 13 percent chose other.

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As to where future money will preferably come from, 63 percent of respondents still see venture capital or private equity as the best option. Wealthy individuals are preferred by 20 percent, and crowdfunding by 13 percent.

Initial public offerings were covered in a different question, with 23 percent saying an IPO was in the future, and 26 percent saying no way.

What about the other half? They gave a definite maybe.