Ann Arbor SPARK, Michigan House is hosting panels at SXSW

ANN ARBOR – Michigan House is once again preparing to serve as a platform for the state’s innovators and creatives to connect with the global audience attending the South by Southwest Conference and Festival (SXSW) next week.

Nobody is traveling to Austin, TX this year, however, as SXSW has been fully digitized as SXSW Online.

“We were a kind of canary in the coal mine last year when SXSW was canceled a week before it started. Right now it was devastating, but even within a few days it was clear that the right decision had been made, ”said Ted Velie, co-founder of Michigan House.

“Who would have thought that a year later we would still have to struggle with the effects of COVID? At the time, we were thrilled that SXSW had found a way to connect this year. “


During the five-day virtual conference, Michigan House will host three official SXSW panel discussions, a virtual entrepreneurship meeting, a Michigan startup portfolio, and a Michigan House booth on SXSW’s digital platform.

In addition, Michigan House offers a full schedule of daily online events aimed at an immediate audience using a variety of social apps and platforms, from Instagram to Clubhouse to the Detroit-based Plain Sight social app.

“The pandemic has forced us to rethink the way meaningful connections are made,” said James Chapman, founder of Plain Sight. “Our tool was originally designed to help people do this personally. However, we’ve seen a tremendous response to offering remote connectivity as we ultimately need community more than ever. I think that’s what this year’s SXSW is all about. “

Michigan House has always been a massive collaborative venture, and this year is no different when holding talks with executives from Ford, Bedrock, Trinity Health, Ann Arbor SPARK, the City of Grand Rapids, DTE, and Michigan’s new office for future mobility and electrification to name a few.


In fact, more than 40 other Michigan companies and organizations will be participating in 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.

“Attending Michigan House at SXSW increases the visibility of the Ann Arbor area to the innovators we seek to grow their businesses and careers,” said Jenn Cornell Queen, SPARK senior vice president of marketing, communications and events.

“Our relationship with Michigan House has given us the opportunity to host a panel discussion on the future of mobility as the official SXSW event and to showcase the technology being developed and tested here in front of a global audience,” he told Cornell Queen.


“It’s exciting to be working with the Michigan House and SXSW teams to expand our efforts to promote the exciting happenings in the Ann Arbor tech ecosystem and across the state.”

Mark Washington, Grand Rapids city manager and speaker at another SXSW panel discussion, echoed that sentiment.

“Grand Rapids has long been 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 Michigan can have a high quality of life and an affordable cost of living while pursuing a cutting-edge career in a supportive environment.”

Michigan House has been the Great Lakes State embassy at SXSW since 2015. Numerous foreign nations are running similar programs in hopes of bridging the gap 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 at Toyota Research Institute – North America

  • Sophia Nadur, managing partner, bp Ventures

  • Missy Stults, Sustainability and Innovation Manager, Ann Arbor City


SXSW Official Event

When: March 17th at 5 p.m.

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

To take part in the free event, register here.


SXSW panel discussion

When: March 17th at 9 p.m.

  • Emily Anthes, science writer and author

  • Kofi Bonner, CEO of Bedrock

  • Marcus Shipley, CIO, Trinity Health

  • Mark Washington, Grand Rapids City Administrator


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, please visit

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