(Photo by Jeffrey A. Camarati)

Two weeks ago today we were wrapping up Day 3 of the Paradoxos Festival in downtown Durham.  This was year 2 for this event and I am both happy that it is over (too much work) and pleased in what we delivered.

The genesis for Paradoxos started over 2 years ago over beer.  Beer discussions and showers are where all the best ideas originate I think.  We had one simple thought – can we cobble together a couple of our individual/separate events that are operated on their own and pull them into an umbrella event that would create a larger awareness for our region.  Awareness for our region.  Can people outside of the Triangle come visit to see what we got going on.

Dave & I brought the TSF Pitch Day.  Casey Steinbacher from the Durham Chamber brought her annual meeting that focused on the Durham story which she morphed from a story “about Durham” into a story “in Durham” .  The format was similar to a TEDx event.  She called in THE NEXT.  Last year we added a party for a 3 event umbrella.  And it rained but about 500 showed up for the TSF Pitch Day, about 250 for the party in the rain and over 400 for The Next.

This year we made some changes and hopefully improvements:

  • We moved the date up into April to give students an event they could engage in
  • Since we moved the event to April, the TSF Pitch Day no longer could function as one of the anchors, so
  • I offered up my Big Top reverse job fair as a new anchor
  • We added some organized music/food/beer parties for 2 nights, and
  • We added a Talent Show and Investor Dunk Tank to bring a little fun mojo.

In total, we had 20 separate events under the Paradoxos banner.  I am very proud of the 100% volunteer team that pulled this off and want to single out Anjana, Sam, Molly, and Michael for their efforts.  Remember – we all have day jobs!

So, how did it go or what did you miss?  I say this as I thought the attendance was light.  I expected a better turnout from my network of startup enthusiasts.

  • The Next had a stellar speaker lineup that included a Nobel prize winner.  But he was surrounded with equally compelling speakers.  I love to be inspired to think differently and I was very moved by this group.  It was definitely something to see/hear.
  • The Talent Show dressed up to be more Gong Show (look it up youngsters) was a perfect release from the serious parts of our day.  A true celebration and if you did not see “bearded large man in white tux interpreting Britney Spears through Dance”, well . . . you missed something special.  Someone will post it on YouTube soon.
  • Thanks to Rik Vandevenne, John Cambier and Adam Klein for taking the role of Dunk Tank victim.  It was fun to see them laugh at themselves as we laughed along side them.  The sun was bright and the water . . . cold.
  • Friday night included a great DJ under the tent and a few food trucks.  Of course there was free beer.  And great conversation.  For the young at heart the Pinhook club across the street hosted a few musical acts and a Dance Party hosted by Shoeboxed that went well into the night.

These festivals are all the rage for communities now as each one tries to create the new SXSW.  Remember, SXSW has been around for  27 years and it certainly represents the vibe we are after, but to in any way compare ourselves or benchmark ourselves to that event is a fools errand.

So where do we go from here?  The core team committed to operating this for 5 years to give it a good shot of becoming something.  We will all be back with 2 years under our belt.  Next year will be different again.  I don’t know how but like a good startup we are working to find the perfect intersection.  I also know that we will need to drive more volunteers and attendees.  See you all there!