Chris Schultz announces 2011 will be his last year producing TribeCon

Chris Schultz has formally announced 2011 will be his last year as the organizer of TribeCon (Photos courtesy of Taylor Davidson)

Today, Chris Schultz sent out a personal newsletter announcing the 2011 TribeCon will be his last at the helm. TribeCon kicked off in 2009 as the official conference alongside the Voodoo Music Experience. Now in its third year of existence, TribeCon continues to bring together a passionate group interested in the fuzzy border between the internet and the “real world.”

Chris Schultz and Tiffany Starnes were the original organizers behind the conference, although Chris gives a much larger group credit for getting it off the ground. According to this blog post by Chris leading up to the 2009 event, “The idea for TribeCon was inspired on the Y@ Pack trip to SXSW organized by the Net2NO community.  We had such an amazing experience together, and it was truly amazing what a motivated community can accomplish.  On the bus ride back from SXSW in March, we hatched the idea for TribeCon.”

[Note: Scroll to the bottom for an exclusive TribeCon 2011 discount code for Silicon Bayou readers!]

TribeCon is an annual interactive conference associated with the VooDoo Music Experience

The newsletter sent out by Chris today includes a heartfelt look back at the growth of the conference and a big spotlight on the celebration next week will surely become after his announcement. Here is an excerpt of the newsletter sent today:

This year’s TribeCon theme is “unplugged” and its particularly relevant for me, I’m unplugging as I announce that this year will be my last as the producer of TribeCon.

TribeCon has been a passion project for me for the last 3 years.  I’ve built many friendships and learned many things from the incredible speakers we’ve had each year. TribeCon grew out of a nascent local tech scene during a time when we were galvanizing, organizing and building our identity.  We set out to create a community conference, and we’ve built a community, putting New Orleans on the map with a national caliber conference that has connected us to so many amazing people across the country.

My friend Taylor Davidson encouraged me to “celebrate endings the way we celebrate beginnings” and with that I can assure you that this year will to be the best TribeCon yet.  It will truly be a celebration and you don’t want to miss it.

Q&A with Chris Schultz

Chris graciously sat down with me yesterday to answer some of the questions he thinks loyal TribeCon attendees and curious bystanders might have after hearing the news.

What does the future of TribeCon look like?

  • The short answer is: I don’t know. There are a couple of different options. I’m certainly open to TribeCon living on and I think that’s going to be determined by the community. If new leadership wants to step up and produce the event next year, I’m supportive of that. I’m also open to staying involved and doing an element of it but I don’t have the bandwidth for the whole thing.
  • If somebody wants to do something that’s different from TribeCon, something that is more their own event and maybe has a different focus I think that’s great, too. There’s a real opportunity for that. TribeCon has been sort of anchored in the concept of community, which is core to the work that I do. [A new concept] might be something more in line with other areas that New Orleans is emerging in such as video games, or the crossover of music and technology which would align well with Voodoo. I think there’s a lot of possibility to create an event that would be a natural evolution of what we’ve done so far.

How do the other organizations involved feel about this big change?

  • I’ve discussed this with Voodoo and they are very enthusiastic about keeping a signature tech event as part of Voodoo. They really want someone to [keep it going] as does a lot of leadership in the city: GNO Inc., Downtown Development District, Louisiana Economic Development, City Hall, they all really want us to have an event so I’m hopeful something will emerge and we’ll see new leadership jump at the opportunity to do something exciting and new.

What about TribeCon are you most proud of?

  • I think [TribeCon] over the last three years has been a really galvanizing event for the New Orleans tech community. We’ve built the presence of the community and ties to the national tech community, and in a sense, it’s given us a signature event [to go along with] the grassroots community at Launch Pad, Net2NO, gnocode, RubyBayou and all of those groups.

What prompted the decision to separate yourself from TribeCon?

  • This has been a difficult decision and a very personal decision. I love the work that we’ve done, the team behind it, and the event that we’ve produced every year. What’s driving [this decision] for me is the need to be more focused. With TribeCon, Launch Pad, and Launch Pad Ignition I have been doing a bunch of work around nurturing the community and I’ve seen all of the start-ups coming out of this community and frankly I want to do that now.
  • So I need to start to create space for that, for me personally. I don’t know what it’s going to be yet or how it’s going to unfold, but I need to free up bandwidth to focus on new projects.
  • A certain part of me wants to serve the community and support the community, and a certain part of me that wants to build a great company. I’ve got to focus on that and we need to continue to have leaders emerge who are willing to take on big challenges like this and do important things for the city.

Why did you decide to make this announcement this week?

  • I’ve had these thoughts leading up to TribeCon this year and as I mentioned in the newsletter was encouraged by various people, including Taylor Davidson, regarding how we tend to celebrate the launches of things and the beginnings of things, and there are a lot of things that come to an end and we don’t acknowledge it or celebrate that. I think he felt that personally when they wrapped up Nolalicious, and I reached out to him because of that for advice.
  • I wanted to announce it in advance so we don’t get to next summer and have there be a question mark for next year. I wanted to acknowledge it when we’re out there in City Park next Thursday and make it a really special day and a celebration of the last three years and what everyone has worked really hard to produce with this event.

During LaunchFest earlier this year several people commented on whether you could maintain both conferences/events. What does the future look like for LaunchFest and Launch Pad Ignition?

  • Launchfest will continue. LaunchFest and Launch Pad Ignition have become a little more core to my focus, which is oriented a little more around start-ups at this point. That was part of what drove the decision… the theme of TribeCon was not quite as aligned as Launch Fest is [with my future]. I don’t know if they’ll be competitive. I hope something emerges [for TribeCon] and I hope that it will be a big draw and I’m certainly okay with that. From a timing perspective they’re on opposite sides of the calendar. Our strategy has always been to leverage these signature New Orleans events, Jazz Fest and Voodoo.

Just to clarify this for anyone who may be concerned – are you staying in New Orleans?

  • Yes. I am staying in New Orleans.

Chris surrounded by volunteers and supporters during TribeCon 2010. (Photos courtesy of Taylor Davidson)

How important is community support to TribeCon, now and in the future?

  • It’s always been something that has been a passion project more than a business so it takes a tremendous amount of volunteer support. Tiffany Starnes and Adele Tiblier were major leaders.  Megan Hargroder, Melissa Bennett, Matt Tritico, Katy Tackett, and my business partners Peter Bodenheimer and Barre Tanguis have all been instrumental. I feel the need to acknowledge everybody that has worked very hard on it, and I guess from a personal standpoint I don’t want to let people down. People have worked very hard to see this succeed so I want to help foster what’s next. Maybe one of the people who have worked hard on it will take a leadership role and make it their own. I would absolutely support that and help kind of pass the baton if somebody’s interested in doing that.

How important is TribeCon for New Orleans?

  • It is important to the city. I think that it also shows how important it is for this city to support those things that we think are great things happening in the city. By and large, people aren’t doing it for the money. People are doing it because it’s important to them, and the best way to show people that important things are going on in New Orleans is to show up and come out [in support of them]. DDD, LED, and GNO Inc. have always been very supportive and they’ve always felt like this is an important event for the tech community. It represents something about the direction the city is headed in.

So what’s TribeCon going to be like this year?

  • The best yet.
  • My favorite thing about Tribecon is how it has the vibe of ‘fests’ like New Orleans fests that we’re so good at down here. As an audience member you can kind of dip in and dip out, sit on the side and have a conversation, or continuously engage. It’s not a boring conference where you sit in a chair all day.
  • We make it a fast-paced conference with TED-style very short talks to keep the energy high. We also mix it up with a variety of topics from very entertaining to very serious.
  • This year, Chris Trew is doing, “How to be more badass” improv comedy talk.
  • Perry Chen from Kickstarter and Mike Karnjanaprakorn from Skillshare are both presenting and both have strong ties to the city. I’m sort of anxious and excited to hear from both of them.
  • We have a little bit of a design focus this year, including presentations from Keith Robinson and Ron Domingue.  I think that’s going to be a new and interesting element. And of course Andrew Larimer’s bringing us The Drink Show live on stage. With Kevin Rose winding down Diggnation, [The Drink Show is] going to be the hot new [web series] coming straight out of New Orleans.

TribeCon 2011: Special Deal for Silicon Bayou Readers

As a mark of solidarity and community strength – TribeCon is offering a special discount for Silicon Bayou News readers! Click here to get your tickets and enter code “SBN” at checkout. All tickets come with a free t-shirt (a very fancy t-shirt, I can attest), and depending on the package selected may include tickets to Voodoo Music Experience. I’ll see you there!

If you want to go one step further and become a VOLUNTEER for TribeCon 2011, click here and fill out this form with your availability. Volunteers also get t-shirts, Voodoo tickets, and a lot of high fives.

A large crowd of TribeCon attendees enjoying the 2010 after party (Photos courtesy of Taylor Davidson)