SAN JOSE -- South by Southwest, the massive music, film and technology conference that helped launch Twitter and Foursquare, draws tens of thousands to Austin, Texas, each year.
The brains behind a fledgling event modeled on SXSW -- in the heart of Silicon Valley -- would be happy with just "a couple thousand" people.
But Dan Pulcrano, the CEO of Metro Silicon Valley, has huge ambitions for C2SV, or Creative Convergence Silicon Valley, which kicks off Thursday. He wants to marry technology and music into a festival that captures the spirit of Silicon Valley.
"It seems that everybody in technology now is exploring their creativity side," Pulcrano said. "There's no longer this bifurcation between the two disciplines. There needs to be a social space for Silicon Valley people to trade ideas to get everybody together to discuss issues. This was happening everywhere but Silicon Valley."
Like any startup, Pulcrano's festival faces a lot of obstacles.
Rich Larson, who teaches event management at San Jose State, outlined one of his biggest challenges: "With all due respect to the San Jose we love, it itself is not a draw," Larson said. But, he added, "if this works, it could be a reason for people to come to San Jose besides hockey. It is an opportunity for San Jose to shine."
While Pulcrano used SXSW for inspiration, he expanded last year's one-day Silicon Valley Sound eXperience music festival with speakers he invited this year including Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, Yahoo (YHOO) board chairman Maynard Webb and anti-virus creator and one-time Belizean fugitive John McAfee to attend the tech portion of C2SV, which will be at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center.
Sessions are tentatively entitled "Finding the Next Steve Jobs," "Using Digital Technology To Reform Government and Improve the World" and "Flying Machines: From Friendly Drones to Personal Air Vehicles."
While techies will focus on the three days of events at the Convention Center, Pulcrano hopes they cross over with music fans who will spread out among 12 downtown clubs and music venues hosting more than 70 bands over four days, including an outdoor concert Saturday at St. James Park featuring Iggy and the Stooges, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. Other notable bands include the Thee Oh Sees, the Limousines, the Coup and Social Studies.
Stooges' guitar player James Williamson, who spent 30 years as a Silicon Valley tech executive and retired as vice president of technology standards for Sony Electronics, epitomizes C2SV's attempts to blend music with technology. He'll be featured Saturday during a keynote onstage conversation at the Convention Center.
"Last year, at the Silicon Valley Sound eXperience, one act got a manager and that led to recording offers," Pulcrano said. "This year, we are not only promoting bands but promoting emerging companies. We want people to walk away with great ideas and great connections. We'll put a lot of smart people together and see what happens."
What happened at SXSW is part of tech's lore. In 2007 Twitter took the conference by storm, and the event helped start its march to global influence. In 2009 SXSW helped launch the social networking/locator app Foursquare, and now it has become one of the premier launchpads for hot tech startups.
The interactive portion of South by Southwest represents the biggest tech conference of its kind and organizers this year said it drew 30,621 people from 58 countries including the U.S.
It won't be easy for Pulcrano to attract SXSW-type numbers -- or get music lovers and techies to attend each other's events.
For instance, Portland's MusicFestNW attracted 34,000 people, but only about 5 percent attended the technology sessions, said Mark Zusman, the editor of Willamette Week in Portland who is also president of the 12-year-old MusicFestNW.
MusicFestNW just wrapped up its six-day festival this month, the second year that it included a technology component. Zusman did not yet have attendance figures for this year's festival but said attendees came from 14 countries and 48 states.
Pulcrano, especially for the first year of C2SV, has no expectations of attracting a small city-size crowd to downtown San Jose the way that SXSW pulls fans to Austin.
"The benchmark for success is if we make it happen and people enjoy it," Pulcrano said. "We want to be able to stand up and say, 'Hey, Silicon Valley is a fun place. We just don't sit around and design products all day. It's a place where we go out and listen to music and get together to talk about what we do.' "
Contact Dan Nakaso at 408-271-3648. Follow him at Twitter.com/dannakaso.
There are various price and ticket options available to attend the technology and music portions of the first Creative Convergence Silicon Valley -- or C2SV -- conference. For details, go to http://c2sv.com/tickets.