The mayor of Austin, Texas declared a state of emergency Friday and canceled the South by Southwest (SXSW) in response to the growing coronavirus on U.S. soil.
The popular music and tech event was expected to draw 100,000 people and drop $400 million into the Austin economy, but the cost of the cancellation expands far beyond the Line Star State.
Trust & Will is a San Diego startup company.
It’s one of a handful picked from a pool of hundreds to pitch its business plan at SXSW. It was an opportunity of a lifetime for CEO Cody Barbo, but he made the decision to skip the festival days before it was officially cancelled.
"I just became a father," said Barbo, who is fresh off paternity leave. His daughter Charli was born just four weeks ago.
"What is more important to me in life? Winning a pitch competition or making sure my kid is healthy,” Barbo said.
Fearing the spread of coronavirus, Trust & Will made the difficult decision to cancel his trip.
Social media giants Facebook, Twitter and tech news outlet Mashable cancelled for the same reasons last week.
"It’s a bummer. Austin is an incredible city. You have so many influential people. Venture capital and startups in business," Barbo said.
Friday, health officials said there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Austin but SXSW was canceled anyway.
"So, I felt like I was letting myself and my team down by pulling out, but I feel a little bit more comfortable now," Barbo said.
On its website SXSW wrote:
“This situation evolved rapidly, and we honor and respect the City of Austin’s decision.”
Austin stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars.
Small companies like Trust & Will stand to lose business opportunities they may not be able to replace.
“Hopefully, next year the event will come back stronger than ever,” Barbo said.
SXSW was scheduled to run March 13-22. Festival organizers are exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW on line.