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Austin leaders, artists, entrepreneurs invited to White House's SXSL

Workers put the finishing touches on a giant sign at the White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, before guests arrive for South by South Lawn (SXSL). The festival is inspired by Austin's South by Southwest, with art, film and music performances and hosted by Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Monday, the White House hosted its first festival -- South by South Lawn. The event was inspired by Austin's own South by Southwest. More than 20,000 people were nominated to attend, but it's no surprise some Austin musicians, film makers and businesses leaders made the cut. After all it was the president's visit to South By in March that motivated him to host SXSL in the first place.

In March, President Obama called on innovators to help solve the nation's challenges. Monday, he took that spirit of innovation a step further with a festival on the White House South Lawn.

"He's a real big fan of Austin, of innovation, of tech and wanted to bring a little bit of that spirit here," said Austin Mayor Steve Adler via Facetime. Adler opened the program welcoming guests to the White House.

"There is something special about the very soul of our city and people like being a part of it," he said.

Also invited to be part of the action was DivInc. -- a three-week-old non-profit focused on increasing diversity in Austin's tech scene by empowering entrepreneurs.

"We were really, really blessed to be chosen to go," says one of DivInc.'s co-founders, Ashley Jennings. DivInc. launched their first cohort in September consisting of six women and four men -- nine of the ten are underrepresented ethnicities in the tech industry.

"We get them the resources and mentors and investors necessary -- no matter what part of the journey they're on with their business -- to be successful," Jennings said.

While DivInc. was representing Austin in Washington, D.C., Jennings moderated a panel on diversity in tech here at home.

"Statistics prove that companies, corporations that have a woman in their c-suite are more successful, more innovative more collaborative," Jennings said.

It's that same focus on innovation that brought Austin leaders, artists and innovators to the nation's capital Monday.

"Austin is becoming ever increasingly an innovation capital not only of Texas but of the world. It's events like this that remind us what it is that's special about back home," Adler said.

Adler adds, it wasn't all play Monday in D.C. He says he also met with representatives from intergovernmental affairs to discuss mobility, housing and affordability challenges in Austin.

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