You may not know what you’re after, but I promise that if you come to StartFEST, you will find something.
When I was 19, I attended Bonnaroo music festival for the first time. At the time, my reasons for going weren’t super clear. It wasn’t the drugs, though if that’s your thing, I highly recommend heading to Tennessee in mid-June and spending three straight days wandering ghostlike in a molly-induced haze. It wasn’t necessarily the music, even though seeing the full artist lineup still gives me goosebumps and takes me back to a time when I watched The Dead perform during a full-fledged monsoon. It was partially because my friends were attending, and anytime you can drive through Atlanta listening to Hoobastank’s “One Reason” on repeat, why wouldn’t you jump at the opportunity? Regardless of why I attended Bonnaroo, by the end of the week I had more memories than I could reasonably fit inside my brain — Damien Rice wailing and stomping on-stage, Bob Dylan death-croaking through “Blind Willie McTell”, a surprising lack of clothing for multiple 70-year-olds, people painted blue, hippie slip’n’slides, e-pills, “I have a dilemma, Primus or Ween?”, a random dude with a Mortal Kombat brand on his belly, tons of dreadlocks, watching the Pistons put an end to the Shaq/Kobe Lakers era, and a permanent cloud of marijuana smoke hanging over us for three days.
In retrospect, I know exactly why I attended Bonnaroo. Festivals, whether based on music or art or sports or startups, offer the chance to experience life through an alternate prism — you may go for one reason, but the stuff that embeds in memory can be something completely different.
At the beginning of this year, I attended StartSLC (by attended I mean I work for Beehive Startups, so technically, it was required attendance). I didn’t know what to expect going in, but after a groundswell of support and attendance the largest grassroots startup festival in Utah was finally over. The list of memories, like Bonnaroo before it, is long and lengthy, each trip into the recollection wormhole triggering something else — “badassery”, beanie fever, eating $100 of Curry Fried Chicken at midnight with my friends and saying incredibly inappropriate things about each other, no sleep, Church & State after-parties (free alcohol!), dancers swinging and swaying suspended by ribbons, a pitch competition in front of a packed house on Saturday night, trending on Twitter, Stephen Walter bouncing mid-speech to attend the delivery of his child, sweaters and collared shirts, Parker Conrad speaking in the middle of the Zenefits/Utah controversy, the Utah Startup Awards, unlimited Red Bull, sword dancers, Clint Betts nearly turning into a zombie from lack of sleep and mind-blowingly unhealthy eating habits, and the weekend culminating in a beautiful Sunday round of golf followed by the Pats-Seahawks Super Bowl.
In less than one month, StartFEST, the spiritual successor to StartSLC, will be held in Downtown Provo. It encompasses five days and it promises one thing: the opportunity to celebrate and experience Utah’s startup culture.
I can’t sit here and tell you these are the exact reasons you should be attending StartFEST. What draws one person (listening to voices of reason within the startup community, people like Aaron Skonnard, Jill Layfield, and Ryan Smith — see full schedule) might not hold sway for another. There will be an epic pitch competition, plenty of workshops covering every topic imaginable, the governor of Utah, and four straight nights of legitimate live bands (The Str!ke, Joshua James, Ryan Innes, a ballin’ headliner to be announced). You don’t have to experience everything, but you should experience something.
StartFEST isn’t intended to be boring or stiff. It’s not intended to be an event where you sit in a chair and get lectured about your terrible ideas and life. It’s a festival, and the point of a festival is to experience. It’s intended to be a place you can go and learn, but also a place where you can create memories that you look back on in 10 years and say, “Holy sh*t, that was a good time.” Ryan Adams sings, “I was trying to find me something but I wasn’t sure just what,” and I think that’s a perfect summation of a festival experience. You may not know what you’re after, but I promise that if you come to StartFEST, you will find something.