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.
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.
- Content: The Thursday speaking schedule was really good and the content flowed well around some central themes, notably the Domain Development Lifecycle. Many thanks to our guest speakers — Colin Pape (keynote), Andrew Allemann, David Fairley, Chad Fisher, Jay Lohman and Chris Pirillo for their excellent contributions.
- 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.