Photo: Travis Lilley/SXSW


Musician Kristian Riis is the Nordics’ man at SXSW

For the past seven years, Nephew guitarist Kristian Riis has been helping to promote Nordic bands, brands and businesses at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. Here he tells us how he makes the most of the festival and what makes SXSW special.

The SXSW festival aims to help creative forces to achieve their goals. It was founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, and has become a major international event for professionals in fields such as music, film, tech and science.

Foto: Cal Holman

One of the participants in recent years is Kristian Riis, award-winning musician in rock band Nephew, entrepreneur and founder of consulting and events company NordicLA, which is based in Los Angeles. NordicLA organizes events and helps Nordic companies to gain exposure and establish networks.

“In NordicLA, we’ve created a home in Los Angeles for Nordic companies and artists, where we help them with all the practicalities and commercial matters, such as visas, business set-up and so on, and also establish a strong network for Nordic stakeholders through regular events,” Riis says. “We provide exposure for Nordic brands and culture and at the same time connect them with the local LA scene for music, design, film/TV, food, art and technology.”

Riis has a special relationship with SXSW as a platform that provides exposure for the Nordic region.

“I’ve been involved at SXSW seven times. Six of those were on the music side of SXSW as a coordinator and organizer of the Nordic band showcases. Last year I was involved in the interactive element through NordicLA’s partnership with House of Scandinavia and SAS. My focus as an entrepreneur extends beyond the music industry and I own businesses within fashion, tech, design, entrepreneurship and ticketing. That’s why the whole interactive element of SXSW is a place where I can find plenty of inspiration as a serial entrepreneur.”

What do you think makes the festival special?

“SXSW is a very special festival. It’s important to understand that it’s not just American, it’s very international. Not only can you experience and be inspired by a whole lot of bands, but last year I listened to talks from people such as Elon Musk, which really enhanced my understanding of technology and the developments we will see over the coming years. SXSW showcases the latest trends and the sharpest minds in the world. That’s something really special.”

Menneske møder maskine. Extreme Bionics på SXSW 2018. Foto: Michael Caufield

What are you hoping that you/NordicLA will get out of attending this year?
“Despite all the inspirational talks and experiences there are at SXSW, the most important part for NordicLA is the networking. We already have a strong foundation and a large, well-functioning network in Los Angeles, but I’m sure that we’ll be even stronger throughout America after this year’s SXSW. It generates tremendous value for our team at NordicLA and for the people and businesses that we help. Among other things, this year we’re behind a session at HOS (House of Scandinavia, ed.), where a Nordic or American startup can pitch their idea or business to a panel of investors. Of course, I’m hoping that some of those pitches will be picked up by the investors. That’s something we’ll be following up on over the next few years.”

How do you think the Nordic countries can benefit from each other? 
“The Nordic countries are individually very small players on the international scene. When we come together, though, we are strong and we possess an incredible amount of talent within tech, music, film/TV, food, design, architecture, gaming – in fact culture in general. At the same time, we’re not as different as we often think, so we can learn a lot more about ourselves and each other – including when we’re working together on the international markets. Being Nordic – it’s a strong brand!”

House of Scandinavia.

What do you think House of Scandinavia brings to SXSW?  
“House of Scandinavia is built on Nordic values, design and culture. Things that are currently much in demand around the world. House of Scandinavia will be an inspiring place to hang out during SXSW, where you can enjoy the Nordic spirit and all the experiences that come with it.” 

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