ConferencesSwapFest

Reflections on Epik DevCon 2010

By September 19, 2010 February 27th, 2017 17 Comments

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to get a lot of feedback from attendees of the 1st Annual Epik Developer Conference.  It was an action-packed 3 days and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.  I want to thank everyone who made this event possible. This post also catalogs some collected impressions of what worked, and also where we intend to improve for next year.


What worked
When we first conceived the idea of DevCon back in May, we made a leap of faith that people would come.  Some 150 days later, the event had 88 registered attendees.  For a 1st  conference, that in and of itself is an achievement.  Here is what else worked:

  • People: Perhaps the single biggest feedback item I received was that attendees were surprised by the depth and breadth of the Epik team.  I am a strong believer that an organization is only as strong as its weakest team member. The culture of professionalism, diligence and responsiveness was on full display and the attendees noticed.
  • Venue and Catering:  The Edgewater Hotel and BellHarbor Conference Center were two great venues.  If anything, the events were over-catered — it was over the top. Both venues should be able to scale for at least another year in terms of accommodating DevCon’s likely growth.
  • Program and Printed Materials:  The 3-day program was a good format, starting with registration and reception on Wednesday, a  full content program on Thursday, and half-day program on Friday. The printed materials were done at a level more typical of a contract at least 5 times the size.
  • Community and Networking: It is safe to say that a lot of new friendships were made in addition to professional acquaintances.  The social calendar continued through the weekend as reported via emails, text messages and photos from the folks who stayed over.
  • The Pioneer Award:  This was a large undertaking. Owen Frager, Danny Pryor, Mike and Judi Berkens, and I had lot of fun putting this Award together. The Tribute Video was a hit.  Honoree, Rick Schwartz, graciously accepted via recorded video and also on Rick’s blog.
  • SwapFest:  This was perhaps the single biggest surprise for me.  The Dutch Auction model worked great and was a lot of fun. The SwapFest on Friday yielded more than $100,000 in sales across more than 200 auction lots. The SwapBook was prepared in advance and was available in both booklet and electronic form.
  • EpikBucks: In the weeks leading up to DevCon, Epik was buying in domains for EpikBucks.  This gave some of the bidders the means with which to participate in SwapFest.  In addition, EpikBucks were being sold for cash for those who preferred to cash out, typically at 85 to 90 cents on the dollar.  The future is bright for both EpikBucks and SwapFest.
  • Hospitality:  The Thursday night cruise on Elliot Bay was a big hit.  We could have done without the evening mist but thankfully the mist lifted for most of the cruise. The Wednesday night meetup at Pike Brewing was also a fun add-on event — thanks to Jay Lohman for putting that together.
  • Sponsors, and Swag:  Last but not least, the lead sponsors Godaddy and Moniker were great.   We really appreciate their support of DevCon. The attendees also appreciated the fact-time and the swag.  We do have some bags, pens, sweatshirts and t-shirts left over for Developers who missed the event.  Contact Kristin@epik.com for details.

What can be improved
Like all things, DevCon can be improved.  I have noted a few improvement points:

  • Timing: We tried to schedule the event to not interfere with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — the event was in between the two and ended at noon on Friday for folks who needed to fly back East for the Saturday holiday.  Next year, the Jewish holidays start on September 29.  Tentative dates for DevCon 2011 are September 14-16, 2011.  Mark your calendars!
  • Hotel bookings: The Edgewater Hotel booked up quickly. We had guaranteed a block of rooms until August 1, but most people registered after August 1. The block of rooms that we had allocated were largely gone.  As a result, many attendees stayed elsewhere which meant more commute time for attendees.   Next year, we’ll make sure to reserve a larger block of rooms, anticipating more like 150-200 attendees versus this year’s 88.
  • Live Auction:  Although there was some active bidding, the results to date from the Live auction fell short of my expectations.  Ironically, more deals were done during SwapFest than the Live Auction.  The extended auction runs through September 23 and has some very good deals.  The partnership with Moniker is solid and the foundation is laid.  Many  thanks to Jeff Kupietzky, Monte Cahn, Don Lyons, Craig Snyder and Michele van Tilborg, and Dwayne Walker for their support for DevCon.
  • SwapFest tie-breaks:  During the Dutch auction, we had some simultaneous bids.  Rather than process all bids from one bidder selected at random before processing bids from the subsequent bidders, Kenny Hartog suggested using a round robin approach.  I agree that this would be a fairer approach and will incorporate this in the next SwapFest which is already in planning.
  • Seattle participation:  From the roster of attendees, you would never have guessed that this event was hosted in Seattle.  One attendee from Enom, none from DomainTools, and none from Marchex.  Tim Chen of DomainTools did make an appearance at the Wednesday night meet up which was great.  I would have liked to see Seattle step up more to make this Seattle-based event something that is a shared success for Seattle.  Next year.
  • International participation: It would have been great to have more international attendance.  I was  surprised not to see anyone from China in attendance, and was also hoping to see a larger European contingent.  The short notice and long trip no doubt was a factor.  A special thanks to Vishal Ithlani for making the trip from London, and Gerardo Aristizábal for making the trip from Bogota.

Overall, I could not be happier with the outcome. Thanks to everyone for making it a success and establishing a tradition that we look forward to building on for many years to come.

Join the discussion 17 Comments

  • Craig says:

    I just wanted to thank you again for the personal invite to DevCon 2010. Although I wasn’t able to make this inaugural show, I have marked my calendar for your 2011 show!

    Also, having read that there were more than $100K in domain sales at SwapFest, I just wanted to congratulate you on the success of this innovative format!

  • To the entire Epik Team: You did a great job! I am so pleased I decided to attend your DevCon Conference.

    The speakers, the venue, and the agenda were first class. Rob, and all of the speakers were true professionals. Each one offered beneficial information and interesting personal stories.

    A great start. I look forward to future programs.
    Thanks for a great conference.

  • Neal Voron says:

    This was a great event, the full value of which will unfold in the weeks, months, and years ahead as initial conversations and new friendships plus greater insights lead to domain transactions and development transactions that simply would never have occurred otherwise.

    It should be very interesting to note the progress of attendees – and what I anticipate will be the dramatic growth of Epik – over the next year!

    On a personal note, I am glad to have made the personal acquaintance of others in the domain industry and on the Epik team. Keep in touch!

  • Steve Ahn says:

    Thank you Rob and the Epik Team for a marvelously productive time. I particularly valued my many conversations where I picked up details and insights that simply cannot come by any other means but face to face. Swapfest was fun, and hopefully, profitable, even if a bit discombobulated (I note the mad scribbling and flying bid sheets). I look forward to next year, knowing it is bound to be much much larger, but hopefully will not lose the sense of close community that made this one so special.

    Best to All, and may your domaining (and mine) be profitable!

  • Bill Fish says:

    I really do think this could have been a defining moment in domains, where they start to move from the shadows to the mainstream. Looks like it all went off the first time without a hitch. Congrats.

  • morgan says:

    The SwapFest was brilliant and great fun. I don’t think anyone could quite picture how it would work until the event began. In striking comparison to the 3 large video projectors and live Internet feed of the previous day’s auction, this event was refreshingly low-tech and incredibly efficient (picture an easel with one large pad of paper). An amazing amount of domains changed hands in a very short amount of time.

    The best value was getting to meet the Epik team and the other attendees in person. Many friendships and business relationships were born.

    And kudos to Vishal and Gerardo for sitting through an entire baseball game – about 10 of us made it to a Mariners game Friday night.

  • Attila says:

    “I was surprised not to see anyone from China in attendance”

    Sorry Rob, I was just in the US last month (mid august) and it has already taken the toll on me and my new office here in Manila being delayed from launch date, longer then it should be. Though congrats on your turnout and successful event!

    • Rob Monster says:

      @Attila – We missed you this year. We’ll see you at Devcon II in September 2011. And a free heads-up to others — in addition to being a power-domainer, Attila is a bit of a party animal. If he invites you for a drink, be warned that you are out with a globetrotting Hungarian, and you may be out for a while. Out cold that is. 🙂

  • I am sorry I missed a “Unique Opportunity in time” and am thankful for the special Pioneers Award that really has been humbling.

    Rick Schwartz

    • Rob Monster says:

      @Rick — Thanks for the comment.

      We know you were there in spirit. The videos absolutely conveyed that. Your Trophy is on the way. Thanks for being a Pioneer! The recognition could not have been more deserved.

      And see you @ TRAFFIC South Beach.

  • Jeff Edelman says:

    Rob, I just wanted to thank you and your team for a job well done. I was very impressed with the professionalism of the show and I enjoyed meeting so many new people. It was definitely worthwhile. You guys are doing creative, innovative things and really should be supported for working so hard to bring the entire industry forward.

  • Rob and Team,

    I have received a multitude of emails, phone calls, social pings and seen blog posts this AM and everyone, from first-time attendees to Platinum sponsors agree the Epik Developers Conference was an extremely educational event with incredible networking opportunities and high-level conversations going on for 4 days. Especially with the latest news that a few traditional domain conferences are being canceled or moving back to 2011, I am very proud to have been a part of an event that focused so intently on the next level of domain monetization.

    Thanks to everyone who attended for being part of it and hope to see everyone again soon, if not next year.

    Jay Lohmann
    TagTeamCreative.com

  • Colin Pape says:

    Rob,

    It was a pleasure to attend the Epik Developer Conference, to meet your team and the diverse and accomplished group of attendees.

    You are to be congratulated for orchestrating such a well-organized, professional and enjoyable event.

    From the moment we arrived at the Pike Pub & Brewery, I knew this group was different than the crowd at other events. Many forward-thinking, risk taking entrepreneurs, rather than just speculators. It’s incredible how different the two mindsets are.

    Never have I been in one place with so many people who are on the same wavelength – it was both motivating and educational to be surrounded by big thinkers who are all on a quest to realize the potential of a domain name.

    I’m certain that next year’s attendance figures will be much, much higher, making this inaugural event all the more special. 2010 was definitely a triumph of quality over quantity and you guys are really going to have to pull out all the stops to raise the bar even higher.

    Agree with the comment about the hotel and a bit of extra travel – that was the only minor inconvenience I experienced, but the room at Hotel 1000 more than made up for it as did the ride in your Maserati… 🙂

    Thanks again for the invitation and opportunity to speak, and congratulations on a job well done!

    All the best,

    Colin

    P.S. Your intro presentation was absolutely brilliant Rob – any chance you might make your slides public so the rest of the world can benefit from your succinctly stated vision for the domain industry? Talk about a game changer!

    • Rob Monster says:

      @Colin – Thanks for the kind words.

      We were very happy with the outcome on really all levels. These conferences will go on for years and while they are a ton of work to put on, I already look forward to the next one. We have assembled a community of folks who not only get it but are willing to share what they got.

      Also, John Lawler posted the links to the various presentations. They are listed here: https://network.epik.com/discussions/15215

  • Colin Pape says:

    Thanks for the link to the presentations Rob – some great info there!

    Looking forward to attending next year as well – Seattle is a beautiful city and I’d love to have more time to explore.

  • Attila says:

    @ Rob, hahaha globetrotting Hungarian. You couldn’t of said it better…although the heads up you put in motion, more people will steer clear of drinking with me :sobs:

  • Konstantin says:

    Everyone at Epik was great, thank you for putting this together. I doubt I would have been able to learn so much, so quickly anywhere else. I especially enjoyed meeting so many great people and making friends.

    Thank you all, looking forward to seeing you next year!

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