Four years ago when Elton Rivas took me and a crew from Launch Tennessee out to dinner and told us about “OneSpark: The World’s Crowdfunding Festival” there were a lot of big words, big numbers, and what sounded like big dreams being presented. We went to one of the more upscale restaurants in downtown Memphis. There must have been 8-10 folks in the group and in one fell swoop Rivas paid for us all. All the while he was challenging us to head to downtown Jacksonville for OneSpark the following spring.
Here at Nibletz we were getting ready for an Everywhereelse conference, the first of it’s kind to exclusively cater to startups outside the valley, and not just regionally but nationally. We were accustomed to folks using big words to describe events that barely lived up to the hype.
We were wrong about OneSpark.
It seems that everything Rivas told us at that dinner was true. OneSpark took hundreds of Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Qikfunder style projects and put them on the ground in the vacant office spaces in downtown Jacksonville. The festival was hailed a big win for everyone involved from the organizers, to the city to economic development and even the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Year after year, for the next two years after the inaugural conference attendance continued to double. The festival got better and better. More and more people came. And then, 2015 happened.
The festival was still even bigger than the year before.
The local Porsche dealer sponsored the night time parties and displayed the latest in German automobiles.
Hundreds of startups, products, and creators lined the streets of Jacksonville and filled vacant spaces. Something had changed though. Perhaps the festival had grown too big. Perhaps it was becoming unmanageable.
The OneSpark team moved offices. They also started a day early with their conference style talks so more creators could participate. They also cut ties with Shahid Khan’s investment firm. Nothing was wrong. Things were just a little off, and for the record, the attendance wasn’t off.
Now, there’s been a restructuring of sorts, a refocus of sorts and jacksonville.com reports that things will be a little more intimate, by choice.
“As we go into our fourth year, one of the key changes that we made as an enhancement, really for the creators that showcase and the attendees alike, is having a juried selection process for creators. That’s new for 2016,” Rivas told the Florida Times Union.
The area where the festival will take place will be drawn in a little bit to make it so all of the creators feel like they are involved. In previous years some of the creators in different venues on the outskirts of the downtown footprint, felt slighted. OneSpark will also vet more quality projects, startups, and creatives then previous years.
“I really think it’s the way to go. It fits the original vision of One Spark,” Jeff Charette the founder of Menuat a startup that launched at Onespark said. “I was there when it was being pitched to me. I participated because I was boot-strapping my own tech startup and I wanted to put it in front of people.
The organizers have also shortened the festival. Nibletz has been a media partner since the first OneSpark festival and noticed that creators and attendees got fatigued with the longer form version.
All in all we are expecting OneSpark to run a lot smoother and with the new size, focus on quality and shorter form more people will be able to experience the entire event, that is, OneSpark.