Held at the lovely Ace Hotel in the 43 degree heat of Palm Springs, it was like no other event I have attended, and the wonderful organisers (Ann Larie Valentine, Hillary Hartley, Amy Muller, Willo O’Brien, Deb Schultz) deserve huge credit for pulling it off.
The majority of attendees were from the San Francisco tech scene, which created a core of connected individuals and gave the event a sort of SF Spring Break vibe, but there were others from the East Coast and other areas and, of course, a solid European contingent, many of whom had been mobilised by Thomas.
The event centred around the pools, with informal get-togethers and general chit-chat, but there was also a rather good Ignite Talks session run by Brady Forrest and some interesting art happenings. There was also a Prom – my first ever! – and there were some elaborate costumes on show.
I mostly hung out with the European startup group, but it was also great to catch up with people like Ben Metcalfe of WPEngine, Lane Becker, who is working on some interesting things, and some remarkable and lovely new friends I had not met before.
Was there a theme or a message? Not really. It was like SXSW without the sessions. But I did notice something about both the West Coast and European contingents, which was that the conveyor belt of random startups, fuelled by VC greed and hype, seems to be giving way to more playful and purposeful activities. Playful, in the sense that some creative people are putting in a lot of time and effort into delightful things that are unlikely to flip and be bought out, and purposeful, with real-world meaning and relevance not just a play for user growth are both better uses of our time and energy than being encouraged to build *anything* that can show hockey stick growth and get financiers excited about its re-sale value. In the latter category, it was great to hang out with the teams from European startups Clue, Somewhere and OpBeat, , in Thomas’ well-stocked “European lounge” and around the pools, who are all tackling interesting real-world challenges.
That’s surely a good sign.
Drone video of the pool courtesy of: Nate Bolt