We’ve known since March that there was something unique about our PandoMonthly event series.
When we started, most of our high-profile guests agreed to appear as a favor to help our fledgling site. Soon, though, people were coming to us.
Both Mark Pincus and Chris Sacca stayed for hours to talk to every entrepreneur and developer who attended their events. I think I left before they did. Naval Ravikant told me it was easily the best conversation he’d had on stage. Several of Dennis Crowley’s investors told me after watching his, “You actually got the real Dennis to come out.” And after our PandoMonthly with Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, he looked at me and said, “You have to find a way to keep doing these. It’s the only place capturing what is really happening now.” Guests bring their girlfriends, wives, and kids to hear them talk. Ben Horowitz even brought his mom.
Month after month, I’ve heard our guests love doing PandoMonthly for two reasons.
The first is we don’t try to pry short-term news out of them. It’s the only place where they get to come and open up and tell their story as entrepreneurs with no clock ticking, no next guest waiting back-stage. Imagine if we had two-hour interviews like this captured of a young Pierre Omidyar or a mid-career Jim Clark. It’s a living history of the Web and the people building it.
The second reason is that they get to talk to the exact audience they want to talk to. We don’t gear the series towards people with expense accounts. It’s largely made of up of developers, students, and young entrepreneurs. Why? Because unlike any other event series with this caliber of guests, we only charge $20, and we feed you pizza and beer.
A sign we were on the right track came when Zaarly founder Bo Fishback told me the younger members of his team all flash mob our EventBrite page the day the tickets go live to make sure they can get seats. “For them it really is like a nearly free post-college education that is all grounded in experience and immediately applicable to work the next day,” he said.
This is why we refuse to jack up the prices or make this an exclusive invite-only series — although dozens of well meaning people have advised me to do both of those things. Yes, we know we could charge more. A lot more. We don’t want to.
I recently ran into an executive at a conference who told me he makes his whole staff watch the video of the event after the fact. And then he said something that I hear a surprising amount of late: “Can I pay you somehow? I feel badly that we’ve taken so much value out of these and you’ve made no money. I don’t want this to go away.”
Well, yes you can. Today, our new batch of memberships go on sale, retooled with new price points and new benefits. Like everyone else on the Web, we even have a Cyber Monday special. If you buy now, you’ll get 20 percent off.
Our memberships are for two kinds of people. The first are the ones who want to make sure they can attend every monthly event but don’t have time to sit and wait and pounce on EventBrite as soon as they go on sale. Many of our events sold out in under an hour. The second are people who just want to support the kind of journalism we do and make sure we can keep doing it. At $20 a ticket, we lose money on our regular ticket sales. Memberships are a way for those who’ve had success in the Valley to help buy pizza and beer for the next generation.
One of my favorite member stories was from a woman who quit her job to break into technology, inspired in part by reading sites like ours. She didn’t know anyone. So she started attending our monthly events, because $20 was about all she could afford. At one event, she met someone from Twitter. The relationship grew, and she wound up getting an interview with them. She wrote to tell me about her experience and to say her first purchase would be a membership if she got the job. I was so touched by her story, that I offered instead to gift her a membership through the end of 2012. “You can buy one next year, if you are still getting value,” I wrote. She actually refused my gift. And when she got the job, she bought a membership for her and her husband, as promised.
This fear that PandoDaily will somehow go away, change our approach, or start whoring out for cheap page views is palpable among people I talk to. And having lived in the Valley since the late 1990s, I can understand the paranoia.
Mainstream media is great at a lot of things, but in depth, informed coverage of a startup’s universe isn’t one of them. And over the 15 years I’ve been in Silicon Valley, no single publication has stayed the “must read” newsletter, trade magazine, or Website of startup life. Either financial issues, a fatigued founder, or a sale has left most of my former must-reads a shadow of their once vibrant, independent selves.
The day I launched PandoDaily I set out a humble but ambitious goal: to be that publication of record for more than one cycle. We’re still a long way from what we want to be, like any startup that’s less than a year old. But we have hundreds of thousands of hard core readers, and the survey we recently conducted was loud and clear on what they like best about us: well-written, well-reported journalism that isn’t afraid to take on powerful names in the Valley.
So, let me assuage any immediate concerns: We are in great financial position. But part of the reason why is that the startup community has rallied around us since the start. Groups like WhiteTruffle, New Relic, BrainTree, Andreessen Horowitz, and Accel Partners have been key sponsors and advertisers on the site, and more than 70 people became PandoDaily members last year — many of them signing up in just our second month of existence, before the first event even happened.
I’ve given a lot of thought to what worked about our memberships this past year and what could work better. I’m excited to announce some exciting changes. If you’re one of our alpha readers, I hope you’ll consider joining and supporting us.
Today, we’re launching four tiers of membership, and each are less than cost of most three-day industry conferences. We’ve added in a lot of new perks: For instance, because the demand for our Tony Hsieh Charity:Water dinner in Vegas was so great, we’re adding exclusive events with special guests and the PandoDaily team into the packages.
In the past, our memberships were tied to a calendar year, which was ill-thought out on my part. I’ve actually told people not to subscribe over the last month, because I felt badly that they’d only get a few months of value. Going forward they’ll roll on a twelve-month basis, so you can join at any time. Like, say, now.
Here’s what you get:
The San Francisco Pass: You get VIP access to a year of our San Francisco events, plus at least two member-only parties with the Pando staff and special guests. Given our home in Silicon Valley, San Francisco is our marquee series.
Past guests have included Reid Hoffman, Peter Thiel, Kevin Systrom, Dustin Moskovitz, Mark Pincus, and more. Next year’s line up includes Airbnb’s Brian Chesky, Evernote’s Phil Libin, Dropbox’s Drew Houston, Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo, and two of the most iconic Valley investors Marc Andreessen and John Doerr. Given the size of the Silicon Valley ecosystem, these consistently sell out the fastest. Cost: $800
The New York Pass: You get VIP access to a year of our New York events, plus at least two member-only parties with the Pando staff and special guests.
The New York series has captured a fascinating snapshot of the emerging New York ecosystem with guests as varied as FourSquare’s Dennis Crowley, BuzzFeed’s Jonah Peretti, and Spotify’s Daniel Ek. We are opening the series in January with a rare sit down with Etsy’s Chad Dickerson and future guests include First Round Capital’s Josh Kopelman, Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson, and Andreessen Horowitz’s newest and youngest general partner, Chris Dixon. Cost: $800
The Los Angeles Pass: You get VIP access to a year of our LA events, plus at least two member-only parties with the PandoDaily staff and special guests.
This is our youngest series, and it’s cheaper because we do half the events in LA than we do in New York and San Francisco. But, Jesus, there’s been no dip in quality. Our two LA events last year with Elon Musk and Chris Sacca were two of our most popular, two of the quickest sell outs, and two of the most watched after the fact.
I’m fully expecting we won’t sell as many LA memberships, since it’s a more nascent market. So warning: you should really like us, because the LA member-only events may be pretty much be a special guest, the PandoDaily staff, and you. But, don’t worry, that just means we’ll spend more on food and drinks. Cost: $400
The All Cities, All Access Corporate Pass: This is the badass, premium, platinum pass for companies with portfolio companies and offices in all three cities.
You get VIP access to all 20 of our monthly fireside chats across San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, plus an invite to all exclusive member parties in all three cities. That’s 26 events total spread over the course of a year.
This pass is completely transferable to any partners, portfolio companies or friends in San Francisco, New York or LA. Buy it now and get a year of little bonuses to dole out throughout your organization. And you get into all 26 events for a fraction of the cost of any other tech conference. It’s the priciest way to enjoy PandoMonthly, but still, we think it’s quite a bargain. Cost: $2,000.
In addition to access, premium seating and supporting journalism, you’ll get some fun thank yous with all four packages:
- A complimentary subscription to Paul Carr’s NSFWCORP.
- A set of member-only entrepreneurial note cards featuring the amazing illustrations of Hallie Bateman. Tailored for the unique rigors of startup life, they are the best way to thank an mentor, send an acqui-hired friend congrats (or condolences), or tell a fellow entrepreneur to hang in there.
- And my favorite piece of swag ever: A custom-made pillow for your startup’s couch with a badass quote from a previous PandoMonthly guest. This year’s quote is from Ben Horowitz, and it’s one I find myself muttering whenever I have a hard day: “Being a founder CEO is the one job you can’t quit…unless you’re a punk.”
If you buy your pass today for yourself or a loved one, we’ll even give you a special 20 percent off Cyber Monday discount. Just type in the code “PANDOMONDAY” when you check out.
Not only do we use your membership dollars to subsidize the event series, it helps us identify who our alpha users are. I think our general manager, Oni, knows every existing member by name and works hard to make sure they’re happy at our events throughout the year. As our alpha readers, we take your feedback seriously, and it gives us a way to have a meaningful relationship with a subset of readers, not just answer to a vocal minority.
These packages aren’t for everyone. But if you appreciate the uniqueness of what we do and want to help support it, we’d love to have you as part of the family. If you have any questions about the packages, feel free to reach out to me directly at Sarah(at)PandoDaily.com.
And huge thanks to those 70-plus members who supported our inaugural year. We couldn’t have built this series without you.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]