My Week at One Spark

SiderealI thought I would take a moment to share my experience last week as a juror for One Spark, the world’s crowdfunding festival. I would certainly encourage you to check it out at:

To make a long story short, this is a 5-day festival with more than 600 “Creators” looking for funding for their business ideas. More than 260,000 people attended the event, which covered about 20 acres of downtown Jacksonville. Five categories were featured: Art, Science, Technology, Innovation and Music. I was a juror for the music category, which included 62 bands or individual artists performing at a variety of venues over 4 days. I had the privilege of handing a jumbo check for $10,000 to the winning band, Sidereal Takeover, a great Jacksonville-based reggae band. The other judges included a former Grooveshark exec and an up-and-coming rap artist – interesting jury, huh?

So why would you care?

First, I encountered several of our graduates during the festival, some working the event behind a camera (it will be part of an A&E special), some just stopping by when they heard I was representing Full Sail University, and one drop-out, who was busy pitching his business idea to anyone who would stop and listen. Again, this was a HUGE event, exposing the 600+ Creators to more than a quarter of a million attendees.

Each creator was required to make a brief pitch from one of several stages, making the case for why their project was worthy of a vote. This is very similar to what we ask students to master in our various degree programs at the university. Obviously the music pitches were performances, and the top three performed again at the closing ceremony Sunday afternoon. There was a series of guest speakers, including my good friend Brian Meece from RocketHub.

The format for the Creator contests is simple: the crowd votes on the projects they deem worthy of funding. Voters don’t need to contribute directly to a project (although some do), and the total vote count determines which Creators receive a share of a pool of more than $200,000. Then the jurors vote and award $10,000 to the winner in each of the 5 categories. The top vote getter overall receives an additional $10,000 bonus. More than 120,000 votes were cast.

So the event is sort of the live event equivalent of bringing Kickstarter, IndieGoGo or RocketHub projects out into the streets, then add a food village with food trucks everywhere, a huge beer garden, street performers, bars, restaurants and shops loving it all – a helluva party!

The event has grown to be so huge after just 2 years, so it is a phenomenal startup story, and in September the founders are taking the brand global with One Spark Berlin. The winners for each of the 5 categories get a free ticket and guaranteed entry to the Berlin event. You should have seen the looks on the faces of the winning band members, when they heard they would be headed to Berlin! I’m sure they will be well received.

So please share the concept and event with anyone you know who may be looking to pitch their business ideas to a broad audience. I look forward to attending again next year!

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