AUSTIN, Texas — As the first full week of South by Southwest (SXSW) gets underway, there's still ways to navigate the festival all for free – even with a badge.
These events, which can range from pop-ups to performances and exhibitions, include free swag, food and drinks. The hard part about accessing these events is knowing where to find them. If you're feeling overwhelmed or don't know where to start when navigating SXSW, a helpful resource to turn to is WhenWhereWhat Austin.
Started in 2015, Founder and CEO Chris Cates created the Instagram page that now has over 300,000 followers. The account has now spiraled into a trademarked brand and growing startup company.
Known for the staple blue backgrounds in their Instagram posts, the page updates Austinites and anyone coming to town about where they should be spending their time.
Since the beginning of the year, Cates and his team have been working on what they call "The Blueprint." The Blueprint is a spreadsheet that people can sign-up, or RSVP, for a variety of events for SXSW during the 10-day festival.
"I think right now we exist, as, you know, curating people's experiences, curating people's weeks in Austin and telling them where to spend their time, you know, like that trusted voice that kind of cuts through the BS and tells you when, where and what you should be doing instead of kind of throwing a dart at a board on a listing," Cates said.
For the WhenWhereWhat team, prepping for SXSW begins year-round and requires putting in overtime hours to find all the various events going on.
"South by Southwest is chaotic. It can be organized chaos, but it's entirely chaotic. Especially if you've never been and even if you have been, it's just it's more to take in and you could really even begin to do so," Cates said.
Cates also started The Dirty Team, an Instagram account started around the time WhenWhereWhat was founded.
"We would put out a spreadsheet every year like a Google sheet every year, an Excel doc in the early days, and it would just kind of be a listing of our favorite parties. The way WhenWhereWhat hits in August is just amplified by 100 in March. So Dirty Team functions as our seasonal arm of WhenWhereWhat," Cates said.
During SXSW, Cates explained that there will be hundreds of parties to RSVP to, which is where his team comes in handy. Helping festival attendees make sense of everything that is happening during SXSW is what Cates and his team enjoy doing.
"It's all meant to make sense of the chaos a little bit and be that most trusted guide, trusted voice through these 10 days where I think, I would hope, between the list, The Blueprint, the Discord, all these different platforms that we can kind of help guide people through the madness a little bit with advice and information," Cates said.