Full House – SAS concept proves a winner

From Danish royalty to the cream of politics, business and culture, the House of Scandinavia at this year’s SXSW in Austin once again proved to be a huge draw for visitors from the region and way beyond.

Last year’s inaugural House of Scandinavia, a pop-up venue where travelers could meet, eat work and have fun during SXSW, proved the potential for a concept that’s here to stay. So 2019 provided the ideal opportunity – in a new location – for SAS to make further tweaks and improvements. 

In terms of getting things off to the perfect start, once again the idea of offering a direct flight to Texas proved to be major winner. Not only did it provide a real sense of occasion and out-of-the-ordinariness, but also set the mood for what would be an extremely successful week. 

SXSW is of course based originally on a fledgling music festival. Music is still very much a draw to those visiting, and in honor of that tradition it provided a red thread throughout the week, starting on the flight from Copenhagen, when Paul Rey played a memorable one-off performance of his new single. 

Rey appeared again on the ground during the opening party, while this year’s partnership with Roskilde also produced a “mini-festival” that featured bands from across the region, all rounded off with a storming set from Danish popsters Alphabeat. 

On the final day meanwhile, former Abba star Björn Ulvaeus also dropped in and used an event to exclusively unveil the news that the music credits company Auddly has officially been rebranded, changing the name of “the first music credits ecosystem” to Session.

It wasn’t the only premiere to be announced here. Acclaimed Danish film director Jeppe Rønde took the opportunity to launch his thought-provoking new movie Almost Human, while British photographer Jimmy Nelson literally unveiled the AI-driven “Preservation Robot” that will help collect and spread his and others’ stunning pictures of indigenous communities from all over the globe. 

Not to be outdone, in his speech to officially open the House of Scandinavia, SAS President and CEO Rickard Gustafson revealed that the airline will export the concept to Tokyo next year and Beijing in 2022, as part of its collaboration with the three Olympics committees from the region.


In many ways, the House of Scandinavia is a microcosm of SXSW itself – a lively platform for the exchange of ideas and a perfect opportunity for the region not only to find new ideas to bring back home, but also to show off what makes the three nations “punch above their weight” on the world stage. 

There were perfect examples of this everywhere during the week, no more so than in the zero-waste themed pop-up restaurant “Lokal,” which featured a trio of top chefs, Paul Svensson, Kamilla Seidler and Atli Mar Yngvarson. “We’re working with a bunch of ingredients that would either be thrown away or discarded as they are unfit to be sold in supermarkets,” says Seidler, who also used her influence to help push a much-needed message on diversity, especially as the opening day of SXSW coincided with International Women’s Day. 

“It’s about a mind change in society in general. We’ve been talking to parents and students who’ve been told they shouldn’t be chefs, because it’s a ‘woman’s profession.’ Then I ask  who cooks at home and the reply is ‘no but that’s different.’ So although we’ve made progress, we still need to work a lot on that mindset,” the chef said.

With Scandinavia being such a leader in fields such as sustainability and diversity, both were also recurrent themes throughout the week. 

“I’d like to be humble here, but the fact that despite our country’s size, we’re the first in the world to appoint a Global Tech Ambassador (Casper Klynge) and my EU role, are reflections of how Denmark is perceived internationally, said EU Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, one of the many high profile figures from the world of politics to take part, ahead of her panel discussion at the pop-up venue. 

And of course the venue and the entire concept wouldn’t be the success it has been without the participation of SAS’ partners. From Aquavit cocktails in the bar, to the pop up restaurant, the music stage and entertainment, and the high-profile list of speakers and panelists, House of Scandinavia is an exercise in cross-border cooperation. 

“We love the House of Scandinavia concept. We need each other, not just our companies, but our respective regions,” says Roy Sosa, co-founder of major partner Rev. “We can even envisage the idea of having a permanent House of Scandinavia here in Austin, to really build a bridge – we’d like our partnership with SAS to empower entrepreneurs to discover the world,” he says.  


The value of such partnerships was not lost on Her Royal Highness, the Crown Princess of Denmark, who visited the House of Scandinavia as part of a Danish culture initiative in the US strengthening ties between the two countries. “SAS and its partners have once again secured a strong Nordic presence here this year at SXSW. It’s an outstanding collaboration across so many areas, such as design, fashion, culture, food, and music that bind us all together,” said the princess, who became the second Scandinavian royal to visit the venue, following Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway’s visit last year. 


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