By flipping the conference model inside out, OpenCo hopes to make it scale

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on October 4, 2013

From The News Desk

There's nothing like a good conference. The stale bagels, the fluorescent lighting, the awkward name tags dangling over button down shirts. Why would you change a thing? It's pure heaven -- if heaven were a large exposition space where well-behaved professionals go to die.

Leave it to Silicon Valley to try to fix something that isn't broken. John Battelle, event planner extraordinaire, is hoping to disrupt the conference industry with a brand new, inside-out model called OpenCo.

OpenCo is a flipped conference. Instead of everyone congregating in one big center for the dance party, jello shots, and strippers -- oops, I mean panels, coffee, and moderators -- participants travel to a variety of locations in the city. You pick your schedule ahead of time, hopping from one office to the next for different presentations.

Next week, it arrives on San Francisco's doorstep from October 9th to 11th. Startups around town will open their doors for chunks of time, and the founders will speak to visitors about what powers their company.

There's no rhyme or reason to the presentation, and no particular theme around which the conference is organized. It's just a chance to go check out the office spaces of various startups and see what they're all about. Creator of OpenCo John Battelle likens it to a music festival, sans the rock stars.

OpenCo may be called a conference and described as a music festival, but to me it seems more like Restaurant Week. You know, that one special time of year where chefs offer discounted meals and themed dinners in different places around town? Except sub out culinary treats and foodies for startups and the technorati.

Battelle envisions OpenCo to be the first scalable conference. "We can take on as many companies as we need and not add more human beings to Openo," Battelle says. "We can add OpenCo Palo Alto, and an affiliate model in Oakland, Santa Monica, or Pasadena. There's no reason why there shouldn't be OpenCos for every possible cluster." Since there aren't physical constraints on the conference, the more people who want to attend the merrier, assuming enough companies willing to open their doors for visitors.

Over the course of the last year, Battelle ran an OpenCo event in Detroit and London, where participants loved it. He also ran one in New York City, where it was less warmly received. "It's going to take awhile for New York to embrace anything," Battelle says.

If you want to sign up for OpenCo San Francisco, you can do so here. There's a bunch of companies lined up to come - 135 of them, to be exact. They range from 99designs to Wired to Soundcloud to Jawbone to Hotel Tonight.

[Image courtesy: Thinkstock]