Will Critchlow: Founder of Distilled, fan of whisky, basketball and food (in almost any order), husband, father. These are my personal thoughts and not necessarily the views of Distilled (or anyone else).
You can find me on Twitter @willcritchlow or my company blog.
I have recently been reminded of how hard it is when you’re starting out at something. When we started Distilled, it took us a long time to get any kind of momentum going (see the presentation I gave at my old high school over the summer). Recently, we have been the lucky benefactors of the flywheel effect - that once you have been pushing hard in a consistent direction for a length of time, it seems to get easier and easier to build momentum.
When you don’t yet have that flywheel, it is hard to sell, hard to convince and hard to reach people.
You may know that we are building out conferences in the US. You may not know that we are not going to sell out our upcoming conference in NYC. There. I said it. We have poured blood, sweat and tears into the content and the promotion, but we are simply not yet as well known on the east coast as we are in London or Seattle. The conference will still be amazing, but it’s painful to feel that we could have done more to reach more people, to pack out the room.
And it’s a big but.
Some of us have been here before. It’s only 4 or 5 years ago that Duncan and I were excited to be “selling out” our little shared office hallway to give presentations to 20 or 30 people at £20 / head. We have come a long way. And we’ve done it by turning that damn flywheel. Every damn day.
I’m writing this publicly, even though it should probably be an internal email. I’m doing that because I want our whole team to see that I mean it. Many of our team joined recently. Very few of them (2?) ever worked in our tiny underground office. To you guys: this is real. This is what it’s like. And this is winning. It just doesn’t always feel like it.
There is no shame here. We will continue to work to get the best speakers, to push them to deliver their best content, and to give our delegates the best conference experience we possibly can. We will carry on:
And it will pay off. Maybe not this year. Maybe not even next year. But if I’ve learnt one thing, it’s that pushing the flywheel is something close to magical, and by the time it’s going so fast that you couldn’t stop it if you tried, you will feel like the king of the world and we will sell out events that will make this one look puny.
Finally, I want you all to remember the bigger picture. To put things in perspective, up to 2008, maybe 100 people total had attended a Distilled event. In 2009 I think it was about 200. In 2010, 320. In 2011, by my count, we’ll sell about 950 tickets across all events (and that’s not counting the hundreds of people who have bought videos).
The flywheel is spinning, we just need to keep pushing. Welcome aboard. It’s going to be a helluva ride.
Oh, and I should mention, you can still buy tickets, and don’t worry - we have enough people coming that it’s going to rock, we’re just kinda ambitious around here…