Introducing XOXO

On Tuesday morning, Andy McMillan and I launched XOXO, an epic festival and conference about disruptive creativity — bringing together artists and makers bypassing traditional middlemen to do what they love for a living, with the technologists building the platforms to make it possible.

If you haven’t already seen it, take a look at the video we made, which pretty much explains everything:

We’d confirmed most of the entire lineup by Monday, including the founders and CEOs of Etsy, Kickstarter, Metafilter, 4chan, Canvas, Simple, and The Atavist, and the creators of World of Goo, MakerBot, Indie Game: The Movie, Star Wars Uncut, Diesel Sweeties and Black Apple. And Julia Nunes! (This is as close to WaxyCon as you’re ever going to get.)

Andy and I debated back and forth about whether the project was ready to announce, and both of us were nervous. It’s a unique project for Kickstarter, and we didn’t know if we’d provided enough detail to convince people that we’re working on something really exciting. We’d run all the numbers, and to do everything we wanted without cutting corners or selling out, the tickets would cost around $400. Was that price too high? What if only business and marketing types sign up? Is the festival too long, too short, too far to travel?

So many doubts, so many fears. We were betting it all — pre-selling every single ticket with a $125,000 goal. And we were serious: if it came up short, we’d walk away. Months of planning would be wasted, but at least we wouldn’t have lost our shirts.

Until the last minute, we were debating whether to push it yet another week out to polish things up. Finally, we bit the bullet, cleaned up some final issues, and launched at 11:20am on Tuesday.

The reaction was explosive and immediate. In fact, I’d fully intended to write about the launch on Tuesday morning, but within 30 seconds of posting the Kickstarter project, my inbox exploded. I knew that Kickstarter’s new social features were powerful, but this was intense. Before I’d even tweeted it myself, 20 people backed the project.

Less than two days later, it’s passed $110k raised with over 60% of the tickets sold. (Update: It sold out completely in 50 hours!)

The list of speakers we’ve put together is great, but the list of attendees is amazing. We could easily do five more conferences just from the current attendee list. Some of the smartest and most creative people in the world are coming to XOXO, and almost every time I search a name I don’t recognize, I’m impressed. Putting all these people in one room is going to be something special.

As far as I know, XOXO is also the biggest event ever funded on Kickstarter. When I first started working with Kickstarter in 2008, the idea of funding events came up regularly. Kickstarter was originally inspired by a concert that Perry wanted to throw in New Orleans back in 2001, but didn’t want to deal with the up-front risk. I’ve always thought it was a perfect use for the site, but up until this point, barely anybody’s tried to fund their entire ticket sales on it. I think this really validates Kickstarter as a tool for funding events.

There are a million things to do and we’re just getting started. But, for now, I’m just grateful that everyone got it. We’re at the very start of a Cambrian explosion of creativity, made possible by technology. Everything is awesome.

Tonight, I watched Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech to this year’s graduating class of the University of the Arts. All of it’s worth watching, but this part of the speech (at the 17:20 mark) resonated with me.

We’re in a transitional world right now, if you’re in any kind of artistic field, because the nature of distribution is changing, the models by which creators got their work out into the world, and got to keep a roof over their heads and buy sandwiches while they did that, are all changing. I’ve talked to people at the top of the food chain in publishing, in bookselling, in all those areas, and nobody knows what the landscape will look like two years from now, let alone a decade away. The distribution channels that people had built over the last century or so are in flux for print, for visual artists, for musicians, for creative people of all kinds.

Which is, on the one hand, intimidating, and on the other, immensely liberating. The rules, the assumptions, the now-we’re supposed to’s of how you get your work seen, and what you do then, are breaking down. The gatekeepers are leaving their gates. You can be as creative as you need to be to get your work seen. YouTube and the web (and whatever comes after YouTube and the web) can give you more people watching than television ever did. The old rules are crumbling and nobody knows what the new rules are.

So make up your own rules.

I couldn’t have said it better.

So, go check out the project, watch the video, and check out the speaker lineup. If you want to, back it. And I hope to see you in September!


    So excited for you and Andy, and now for me, because I’ll be one of the lucky attendees! Proud and thrilled to support your project. Thanks for putting in the work to make it happen.

    Thank you for bringing this to Portland. Having been involved in several great conferences over the years, this one seems to resonate perfectly with the time, place and people.

    I recently confessed to Turoczy that I wanted to meet you, but would likely end up peeing my pants or humping your leg or both. Now with XOXO I had a GOLDEN (intentional) opportunity to do both, but I heard about it too late.

    Congrats and here’s to many more.

    Portland native, circa 1950. Just moved into St Anthony Village, multi-generational planned housing, erected in late 90’s and early 00’s. At 62, I am the youngest here, usually by at least a decade. There are a lot of elders here, with amazing stories and insights.

    Found you out at Boing-Boing, but tickets are gone and so…

    Looking for elder-linkage.

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