A Short (But Useful) Note To WebSummit’s SurgeConf : Be A Farmer. Not A Hunter.

So WebSummit’s much hyped Surgeconf has turned out to be a serious flop show – not just from operations and logistics point of view, but also from content and overall engagement pov.

First of all a quick history

Websummit has been a hugely successful conference and brings in amazing speakers and audience (including Elon Musk).

Those big numbers matter, even though Websummit is called scam by many (including Jason Calcanis).

The SurgeConf

Web summit’s India conference, SurgeConf has attempted to bring in everybody from the ecosystem – all the usual suspects from the startup and VC space (basically, spent no effort in curating. That is, get all famous names and you will have the audience).

But then..the conference is priced ..at what I’d call as  Kidney pricing strategy!  You spend $1,000 for tickets which includes lunch; and for tickets priced below that, you need to buy your own lunch + coffee!

And compare this with UnPluggd (our flagship conf), which IS considered one of the finest startup conference in the country. The next edition scheduled for May 6th & 7th will bring in ONLY 1,500+ audience and ticket price? JUST Rs. 3000 (max), which is 1/20th of Surge !

For us, 1,500+ amazing audience is much more valuable than 5,000+ window-shoppers (data : ~80% of the surge tickets were given for free, while we give zero free tickets for UnPluggd).

For sure, conferences like surge up the bar for pricing, but I wish it was the bar for content and audience quality/ engagement.

Hunters Vs Farmers

Being a hunter is easy. You hunt for your prey, kill and eat them.

The prey here being founders desperate for *brand attachment”, the ones who easily buy into ‘hey I will meet so many angels here that I’ll finish off my fund raising task in 2 days!’.

And let me tell you this.

It’s extremely difficult being a farmer.

You grow the community grounds up. You don’t care much about RoI on day 1 (or even day 10), but you keep doing it because you care. You just care for the community around, irrespective of whether they give back or not.

“I’ve always said I want a farmer, not a hunter. Hunters go for the kill and they move on. A farmer nurtures; he watches things grow.” – Eva Longoria

The unfortunate truth is that conferences like Surge give no jack shit to community and purely follow a hunter approach – they just exploit founder’s desperation to network with angels/investors.

But then, what’s wrong with that?

Nothing. It’s all fair if people are willing to pay for that!

But as a farmer, I do care for this community and feel sad that they get fooled (so easily) by such conferences.

Sorry Paddy, your big data approach to bringing ‘audience’ doesn’t bring anything of value. I have even tweeted about this earlier (and got an apology call from your Ireland team), but let me tell you this :

You can fool India once. But not twice. Surge needs to purge this thinking that you can copy/paste any shit to India and sell it.

If KFC starts building vegetarian outlets in India, you are better off buying lunch for those who bought tickets, even if it’s a known fact that 80% of tickets went for free and more than 50% of the audience aren’t really into startups.

In good faith,
Ashish
NextBigWhat Founder.

PS : I have huge respect for what Websummit has achieved (esp @Ireland). #TotalRespect.

2 comments

  • I feel ppl. will pay for a conference if they think they will get value. It is the duty of conference organizers to ensure people get more than what they paid for. The amount doesn’t matter. Even a 10 rupee ticket is not worth it if that’s going to waste my time.

  • Bang on! It’s about RoI, but importantly, don’t want a situation where founders will have to raise an angel round to attend events !

    that’s what surge did 🙂

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