McDonald’s to Host 3 Pitch Events at SXSW

Last Friday, an unexpected bit of news came through the SXSW blog. In an uncharacteristic move, McDonald’s will have a major presence as SXSW this year. The world’s largest hamburger fast food chain is hosting three pitch sessions, aimed at discovering new and innovative approaches to: packaging and delivery, content development models, and mobile and transportation.1

The finalists within each session will be awarded, ” $1,000 to support their next business trip, along with a mention on McDonald’s social channels.”2 The winner of each session will be invited to “have a brainstorming meeting with the McDonald’s Digital Team at the corporate headquarters.”3 The grand prize winner will be given the opportunity to pitch directly to the McDonald’s C-suite team at the company headquarters.

The three sessions will take place at the Startup Village – inside the Hilton Downtown Austin – on March 13th. Each session will focus on a completely different area.

The first McDonald’s pitch session is entitled Restaurant Experience. The goal of this session is to find startups focusing on personalization, proximity tech, and smart packaging among other niches.

McDonald’s is aiming to turn the restaurant experience on its head. This is not about tweeting, ordering online or Wi-Fi connectivity. This is about truly reinventing the traditional dining experience. We are talking about multiple screens, proximity technology, personalization and even smart packaging.4

The second session is entitled Content Creation. When you boil down the jargon filled description, it looks like McDonald’s is looking for a new way to gather and develop outside content. This makes a lot of sense, as the burger chain has been having a hard time selling to the younger generations. Just take 365 Black for example.

The last session is entitled Transportation and Delivery. In this session, McDonald’s is looking for startups that are focusing on things like drones, logistics, transportation, and connected technologies.

It is hard to say what the real goal of this pitch event is. While, certainly, McDonald’s will be receptive to new ideas, it seems like a stretch to say that finding the next big thing is the whole goal. It is more likely that, given their recent struggles, McDonald’s SXSW presence is primarily a practice in marketing.

Anyhow, if you are interested in pitching, you have to submit your pitch to by 8pm est, March 9th. You can find more details and the full terms and conditions on McDonald’s Tumblr page.

  1. Atif Rafiq, Chief Digital Officer of McDonald’s, SXSW News, “McDonald’s Invites Startups to Pitch Event at SXSW 2015,” 27 February 2015  
  2. McDonald’s SXSW Start-up Competition “Terms and Conditions”  
  3. Ibid  
  4. SXSW Schedule, “McDonald’s Pitch Session: Restaurant Experience”