Pando

Be my guest to Pandoland 2015

By Paul Bradley Carr , written on May 19, 2015

From The News Desk

Pandoland 2015  is now less than a month away. Between June 15th - 17th 2015 at the historic Marathon Music Works space in Nashville Tennessee, we'll play host to dozens of on-stage speakers plus hundreds of entrepreneurs, investors and fans of technology, entrepreneurship, and barbecue food.

You'll find a current speaker list right here, and we'll be adding more between now and June 15th. The event also features our $100k startup contest which will see the grand prize winner walking away with actual investments from ten top VCs and angels. And, of course, there's all the barbecue and whiskey you can responsibly consume and an entire nighttime program of live music (last year's bands included St Paul & the Broken Bones and Moon Taxi.)

If you've never been to Nashville before, you're in for a treat even before the conference starts. It's one of the hottest cities in America right now, especially in June when it hosts the CMA Music Festival and, just down the road in Manchester, the Bonnaroo music festival.

I realize, however, that (as with most tech conferences) the price of admission -- "just" $699 for Pandoland, compared with $1700+ for Disrupt or $5k+ for (Re/)Code -- is money that many startup founders can't afford to spend, especially on top of traveling to Nashville. Given how hard we're working to have a diverse range of speakers this year, it'd be sad if the audience is limited to those who can afford a ticket.

I know that pain too well: Years ago when I still was a struggling author and freelance columnist for the Guardian, I was turned down for a press pass for TechCrunch 40 and had to scrape together the money for a general admission ticket, on top of my flight from London. The trip nearly bankrupted me.

As an added irony, tech conference organizers always have a batch of tickets to give away to their friends and industry colleagues, further reinforcing the "not what you know, but who you know" nature of events.  The people most likely to pay full price are the ones who can least afford it.

So here's the idea: This year, instead of handing them to industry pals, Sarah and I are giving away our friends and colleagues passes to Pando readers who want to come to the event but can't justify spending $699 for a ticket. We each have 20 passes to give away.

For a chance to get a free all-access pass for the entire three day conference -- including all the break out sessions, parties and evening entertainment -- just email me, [email protected] explaining why you'd love to come to Pandoland.

You don't have to plead total poverty -- perhaps you're bootstrapping your company and have a better use for the cash, or maybe you have a product that you think attendees would get a kick out of if I let you in for free. Or maybe you just really, really want to attend.

Really there are no fixed criteria -- if I like your reason, that might be enough. That said, entrepreneurs from groups traditionally underrepresented at tech conferences (interpret that however you like) will also get bonus points. The photo above is an actual shot of the audience from last year -- as you can see, Pandoland is not like other tech events except in so far as the crowd looks pretty... uh.. similar. It'd be great to mix things up this year.

Also, having written about the importance of immigrants to the tech industry, I'll definitely look particularly favorably on anyone who was born outside the US and came here to start a company.

I'll notify the lucky winners next Monday, 25th May. You'll still have to get yourself to Nashville on June 15th-17th and find somewhere to stay (if you're successful we can help you with travel info and special discounted hotel codes) but your attendance at the event itself will be totally free.

Don't worry if you're not successful in getting one of my guest passes -- Sarah has ten of her own to give away later this week. I'll let her explain her own criteria for those. For everyone else, there are still a few regular tickets on sale right here. It's an absolute bargain even at full price.

See you in Nashville!