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Pando Shows Why I Don’t Trust Startups

Opinion 1 Comment on Pando Shows Why I Don’t Trust Startups 644

I have written a number of posts pertaining to Pando recently because I was looking at attending Pandoland until I decided that there was something about it that seemed odd enough that I didn’t want to waste the time or money to go to an event that might turn out to be pointless.  One of the items I noticed missing from any mention of Pandoland was the expected number of attendees. With almost any event even if the attendee count isn’t on the home page, you can generally dig down and find the sponsor packet that will break down expected attendees, demographics and the like.  The sponsor packet should be taken with a grain of salt, but at least it gives you a good baseline of what the event should look like.  When I couldn’t even find a sponsor packet listed I shrugged my shoulders and decided I would just stay away.

After I had already made this decision the feud between Pando and another event came to a head at which point Pando claimed the other event was horribly sexist and therefor they would giveaway tickets to women to attend Pandoland.  Not only were they giving away new tickets sold, but they would refund previous tickets sold, and women could bring a guest or either gender for free.  This was a bit of a head scratcher for me because tickets to Pandoland were $699.  I know that sponsors are the ones that really foot the bill for events, but giving away that many tickets for free would still seem to be financially painful.  Ten tickets would come to around $7000 lost, and 100 would be $70K.

With immediate effect, we’re dropping the ticket price for women to attend Pandoland… to zero. If you’re a female entrepreneur from Tennessee or any of the surrounding states and you can make it to Nashville next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (15th-17th June), your ticket is on us. You’ll have full access to all the speakers, panels, breakout sessions, food, drink and parties. Just go to this page and use the discount code “nobro” — without the quotes. That code also allows you to bring one guest — of any gender.

(If you’re a woman who lives in the South  and have already paid for your ticket, email me and I’ll issue you a full refund.)

This was when I realized I was glad I had decided to not attend.  The reason being is that as said before the real money for events comes from sponsors, and not ticket sales.  The sponsors want to put their logos in front of as many people as possible so they really care about the attendance rate.  What many attendees of events don’t know is that many events pad the hell out of their attendance numbers by comping tickets. They say the ticket price is one number, but then when the tickets don’t sell they simply giveaway the rest to fill seats.  I have found the quality of the event as the attendee ends up being directly correlated to the percentage of the people paying.  If you pay $699 for an event you know why you paid that amount, and you have an ROI you expect. If you didn’t pay anything you’re not worried about the ROI.

By giving away a tremendous amount of tickets from one vantage point looks like a socially conscious decision, but from a more pragmatic stance looks more as if it was a way to save a failing event.  This is sadly standard practice and par for the course.  What I found humerous today though was when I was reading a Pando post where the mentioned the success of the event and they stated:

Our event lineups have never been stronger, as witnessed at last week’s sold-out Pandoland conference in Nashville.

Can you really state you “sold out” an event when you giveaway who knows how many tickets?  “Sold out” has a very specific implication.  It leads one to believe a whole bunch of people were willing to shell out the ticket price to attend. It you say you “sold out” of $699 tickets that’s a far cry from the idea of giving away all of your tickets to anyone with a pulse.

The point that I’m trying to make here is that in the startup world the spin cycle in on all the time.  You really do have to listen to the words that are actually said, and not dare imply meaning that seems to be stated, but is not actually articulated. You’ll notice when you deal with these folks it can be a painful endeavor to drag out even basic facts from them.  Even now I have yet to see ANYWHERE an actual attendee count for Pandoland.  Did 1000, or 100 people show up to this thing?  Being that the free tickets were supposed to counter institutional sexism in Nashville how many women showed up to Pandoland?  The question that is burrowing through my brain right now is whether Pandoland being run by a woman as it’s CEO had a better female turnout than the other event?  It’s easy, and frankly a bit to spot on, to lash out at white male sexism, but does that mean a woman CEO really gets better results?

When a startup who’s motto is, “Speaking Truth to the New Power” seems so adverse to publishing basic stats that even a fringe event such as Vloggerfair readily publishes it shows why  I have basically given up on trusting anything a startup ever says.

Learn More:

Vloggerfair Sponsorship Packet Linked to From Their Website:


Eli Etherton

I am Eli "the Computer Guy" and have been in the tech industry for approx. 20 years doing all kinds of odd projects. I started as an electronics tech in the US Army, worked in corporate IT during the IT Boom, was an individual consultant and grew my tech shop to have numerous full time employees and supported small business clients with computer repair/ server maintenance/ web development/ surveillance systems/ telephone systems until the great recession. After that I started creating video training on all the topics I know and now have a YouTube Channel with over 500K subscribers. I am the founder of and my plan is to create a tech "news" site that I would actually find useful if I was still in the server room.

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1 Comment

  1. Anubis June 23, 2015 at 10:01 am

    Eli, I find it kind of funny that you once remarked in one of your old youtube vlogs that you essentially failed english class in highschool. After having passed two lower division college english classes with a pretty difficult teacher (4.0 grades) in my opinion you are a pretty effective writer. You are summarizing issues well and stating your opinion about them at the right time.

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