Pandoland 2016: Announcing even more speakers, and a low low ticket price!

By Sarah Lacy and Paul Bradley Carr , written on March 15, 2016

From The Pandoland 2016 Desk

“Noyce managed to create an ethical universe within an inherently amoral setting: the American business corporation in the second half of the twentieth century. At Intel there was good and there was evil, and there was freedom and there was discipline, and to an extraordinary degree employees internalized these matters, as if members of Cromwell's army.“

An iconic 1983 Esquire article by Tom Wolfe profiled Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel co-founder Robert Noyce. A son of a midwestern preacher who moved to Silicon Valley and became one of the great forebearers of everything we see around us today. A way of building companies that has caught on and spread the world over. And a way of doing business that is inherently midwestern.

In the profile, Wolfe describes a rebel and independent thinker in the world in which he was raised. And yet, one which took its deepest values as if they were accidentally “sewn into his coat” and carried them with him the rest of his life and career.

He eschewed the ostentation of Fairchild’s east coast managers. Everyone was an equal. Everyone worked punishing hours. Everyone got equity. No one got a special parking place.

It’s no wonder generation after generation of midwestern founders have found such a connection with the Valley’s history. Evan Williams and Netsuite’s Zach Nelson [a Pando investor] -- from Nebraska. Marc Andreessen [also a Pando investor] and Max Levchin-- both graduates from University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. Jack Dorsey-- from St. Louis. Dick Costolo honed his business and comedy chops there. Even Chicago itself-- arguably the capital of Midwest as its largest city-- has developed a formidable startup culture buoyed by these same values with Braintree, GrubHub, and a raft of less-sexy enterprise players.

These are some of the reasons we chose to hold Pandoland in Chicago this year. To honor the connection between Silicon Valley and the Midwest-- in particular all that’s come out of Chicago-- but also to hope we return more to those values in this era of mega-rounds, flashy valuations and “bro” cultures.

A funny thing happened in between announcing the event and today: The much anticipated Techpocalypse. Suddenly we were hearing from potential attendees that they couldn’t quite as easily justify spending $400 or more on a conference ticket -- and from sponsors that it much was harder than before to justify writing six figure checks to help us cover the cost of the events.

We’re not immune to the effects of the Techpocalypse either. As regular readers know, Pando hasn’t raised capital in several years so we worried that, if ticket sales and sponsorship commitments were down,  we might have to put Pandoland on hiatus. That would be a shame just at the time in the market, when a message of bootstrapping and austerity and employee empowerment and all the thing that transplanted Midwestern culture melded with Silicon Valley risk taking was most needed.

But no. We dodged a bullet. Despite the downturn, early ticket sales were strong and Braintree and Health Network came on board as significant sponsors. Braintree, in particular, wanted to make sure the entrepreneurship of Chicago and the legacy of its talent in the Valley was a story that was told on our stage.

Still, we want to do everything we could to keep ticket prices low without compromising the quality of the event. We understand that for many entrepreneurs, four hundred dollars is a lot to spend on an event ticket, particularly if they want to bring their team along with them.

So here’s what we came up with:

Attendees of last year’s Pandoland will know we usually schedule all of our speakers in the morning, leaving the afternoon free for break out sessions. This year, we’ve decided to combine everything into one crazy-packed day, reducing venue and catering costs and allowing us to reduce the ticket price from $399 to just $199. By tweaking the format slightly, we’re able to do that without in any way reducing the number of speakers.

(If you’ve already paid the old, higher price in advance, look out for an email about a refund of the difference!)

In fact, we’ve added to our already stellar line up of Max Levchin, Dick Costolo, Soul Cycle CEO Melanie Whelan, Margaret Atwood, and Grubhub’s Matt Maloney. Anand Sanwal of CB Insights will present a data rich keynote on the state of venture capital. Brian Spaly of TrunkClub will talk about building (and selling!) an ecommerce merchant in Chicago. We’re putting together a stellar panel of VCs from all over the country because we know entrepreneurs are always hungry to hear what they are thinking. And we’ll have the tactical afternoon workshops and breakout sessions that have become the un-mic’d highlight of Pandoland in the past.

And there’s more to come. Tune in tomorrow for a speaker announcement that we’re particularly excited about.

We’re thrilled to confirm our venue for the event is Chicago’s amazing 1871, one of the most reknowned hubs of startup activity in the US.

We expect the event to sell out, especially with the insanely low $199 ticket price. If early ticket sales (and previous years) are anything to go by, we expect to see attendees from Chicago to Moscow and all points between.  We hope you’ll join us on June 14!