Ann Arbor SPARK, Michigan House to host panels at SXSW

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ANN ARBORMichigan 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,” said 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,” said 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,” said Cornell Queen.

“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,” said Washington. “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.

See the schedule below for the panels, organized by Ann Arbor SPARK’s Komal Doshi, and the Michigan-focused SXSW event.


SXSW Panel presented by Ann Arbor SPARK

When: March 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


SXSW Official Event

When: March 17 at 5 p.m.

  • Hosted by Start Garden, Ann Arbor SPARK, Detroit Startup Week & MEDC

To attend the free event, register here.


SXSW Panel Discussion

When: March 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


SXSW Panel Discussion

When: March 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

For more information and the full schedule, go to