Pause Fest 2022 is cancelled, indefinitely.

A message from Pause Fest’s Founder

To our community and followers from George Hedon, Founder and CEO of Pause Fest (aka Enabler of Awesome).

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To the Pause Fest family.

On behalf of Pause Fest, I hope that all of you and your loved ones are keeping safe and sane during these extended lockdowns.

For some, it’s never been a better time to innovate - we have never had more venture capital in Australia. Yet it has never been the worst time to organise a tech festival in Victoria.

Pause Fest was always a moment in time when we got together, a place where we shared our ideas, projects and expertise. People, passion and purpose was our constant.

Eleven years ago I started Pause Fest with an abundance of energy, enthusiasm and ambition to do something excitingly new in Australia, after my five year stint in London and Belgrade ad agency worlds.

The first five years were formative, as I concurrently held a full-time job in an advertising agency to keep things going. At one point I had a few people working in my house on Pause Fest while I was in the office working my ‘day job’. Around this time, we were integrating the corporate programming into creative and tech streams, to finally claim ‘Creative, Tech and Business’ as our new brand DNA. Very few events in the world have this depth of programming, and certainly none in Australia.

The following six years were incredibly challenging and intense, but also hugely rewarding. We scaled the event from a two day single-track programme to three days multi-tracks, focusing on bringing more international speakers and building up the expo showroom. Our speaker roster included world's most innovative companies from the likes of Canva, Netflix, Google, Amazon, Afterpay, Airbnb, NASA, Adidas, Tesla, Pixar, Atlassian, Mastercard, IDEO, Adobe, TikTok, BBC, Patagonia to name a few (1,200 over time) and more than 80,000 visited the festival.

Pause Fest’s mission was to catalyse the tech industry and bring diverse intelligence together to fuel the next generation forward. Pause Fest has held a mirror to the industry and global trends by curating the highest quality of ‘content you can’t Google’ in the country and profiling only the best in business. The festival has been described as the ‘Octoberfest for business’, amongst many other titles.

We were attendee, speaker and sponsor-obsessed. Our goal was to always deliver the best value, and we often went out of our way to achieve this by offering extra expo space and marketing support. I’ve always prefered to have various industry people as MC’s at our events, so that it gives them a chance to shine. Functionality was always more important to me than the show and theatre of it all, whilst building festival MVP.

My imperative was to have representation from various ends of the industry, gender and age. I believe we created one big family of supporters over the years and have gained a strong international recognition too.

I’m grateful to have had an awesome volunteer programming team, some of whom have been with me for over seven years. They are the local legends, execs, founders and go-getters, but above all, generous humans that represent the beating heart of the festival. 

 

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Some of my most memorable Pause Fest moments were when we:

  • Inspired three global festivals to start in Vancouver, KL and Melbourne

  • Moved the event to Fed Square venue in 2012 to bring startup and innovation to forefront and make it a cultural significance in Melbourne

  • Had Melanie Perkins speak while Canva was still in Beta

  • Were the first festival in Australia to showcase VR content and give away Google VR Cardboard goggles

  • Discovered Zero Latency and help them launch into the world - they’re now operating in over 30 cities

  • Implanted microchip tickets into the hands of ten selected business leaders and influencers which provided them a VIP all-access to the festival, in partnership with Taboo agency

  • Introduced Chairman of Hyperloop to VicGov in hope to create Mel-Syd route 

  • Discovered RMIT’s VicHyper (Aus first Hyperloop) and helped students gain sponsors for a pitch to Elon Musk

  • Brought Girls in Tech Founder Adriana Gascoigne from San Francisco to help her set up an Australian chapter and introduce her to the community

  • Introduced VicGov to SxSW to initialise Australia House at the event

  • Premier the first Tesla Model S in Australia 

  • Gabriel E Rodrigues Carmona came from Puerto Rico to attend and tattooed our logo on his chest for which he scored a lifetime ticket

  • Hosted many product launches from Vimeo, Dropbox, Airwallex, Adobe and IBM to name a few

  • Published Pause Magazines in partnerships with HM Group and Desktop 

    • HM’s won prestigious RedDot Award for AR cover with live speakers

  • Launched dozens of new businesses including the AusPost Innovation Lab, For the People, AKQA Aus when they bought DT Digital, Tractor and B-School 

  • Helped other early stage startups launch themselves successfully into the Victorian market, including Bindi Maps, who went on to find great traction and easy access to accelerators

  • Won a bunch of international awards for Pause Originals - Motion Response global initiative for experimental concepts from the future stories

  • Secured Google US sending executive speakers over as part of their employee development, labelled us as a ‘prestigious innovation conference’ for which they needed to apply, and whereby Google would only pick few of the best

  • Partnered with Emmy Award winning studio Radium Audio from London to develop ten original scores for Pause Originals, which turned into remixes, an hour long mix, epic artist collaboration that lead to employment and being Finalist at London International Awards

  • Hosted two NASA senior scientists, who explained the downunder star constellation with laser pointers at Pause Retreat, who got emotional from seeing other galaxies from Earth for the first time with their naked eyes

  • Hosted one of our all time great speakers from NYC/Lisbon, Sarah Owen, to open SoonFutures agency in partnership with local Taboo agency

  • Helped the City of Ballarat develop their creative strategy by bringing in US speakers to regional Victoria

  • Trusted many emerging startups to use Pause Fest as the testbed platform for their MVP technology to deliver sometimes serious event services

There are a lot more great memories of course as we have partnered with many companies over the years to internationally deliver collaborative services and solutions. The best feeling for me was knowing that I could send a random email to any top tech company in the world, and be certain they would respond and be open to speak at the festival.

That’s the power of the Pause Fest brand that has been created for over a decade, which proudly represents Australia. Pause Fest is one of very few tech festivals that pioneers 50/50 gender split in speakers and our attendees similarly reflect that ratio, that is something that I’m extremely proud of.

Over the time, I have personally invested around $10m from the event profits by rolling them back into the event production. All of you who have attended and sponsored the event have contributed an additional $10m. The social impact that we produced together for the Victorian economy could be modestly calculated at $170 millions, supported by a global media reach of 250 million of media linking back to stories from the event, year on year.

My friends, together we’ve made tectonic shifts! Being at the helm of the ecosystem formation in the state was an honour that can only happen once in the lifetime. It’s been exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. Serving the Australian tech community has been a deep passion of mine and I couldn't see myself doing anything else in the world.

I gave my 300% to it, but in the last couple of years, since we have been pushed out of Fed Square, I’ve taken a huge leap of faith by thinking it will get better. We worked only to make the festival programme better and bigger each year - not our team or the bottom line. In 2020 for our 10th Anniversary, we moved to Shed14 which was consequently announced not safe for access. We had to move last minute to deliver Pause Fest at the MCEC, which is a good venue, but greatly impacted our profits.

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I compare the festival to a dragon and say that we are all working in service to it, because I had no more control over the beast I created than anyone else. Delivering a major national festival for 3,000 attendees with just a team of three plus supporting suppliers was rough at times. I explain it as being pure magic!

When COVID hit, I knew we had to adapt and we gave online a go, by delivering the ‘MTV for innovation’ style of programming experience. I invented an entirely new programming style, based on our research to fulfill the big issues with virtual events in value creation for sponsors and attendee experience.

Pause Fest 2020 delivered a world-class event over two weeks, but to break even, we had to sell thousands of reduced price tickets to Zoom fatigued worldwide audiences.

I’ve been sitting on this for a very long time now and there isn’t an easy way around it. For the last six months, I’ve been navigating through many things, including my personal health, burnout and lockdowns.

After 11 years, I have made a decision to cancel Pause Fest 2022... indefinitely. 

Once you scale a festival to a certain size, you need to have strategic partnerships with the government and corporate worlds to go on, who are committed to the same vision and willing to provide long-term support. This is something I have not been able to obtain in this state, no matter how hard I try.

To me, running Pause Fest has felt like launching a startup each year from scratch and exiting at the end. The bigger the festival got, the harder it has been to grow and move forward. I have travelled each year to all of the major tech festivals from WebSummit, TNW and SxSW to connect, explore, learn, and find new speakers. If done right, tech events in the US or EU can grow to 20,000 attendees in three to five years, but it has taken me eleven years to reach 3,000 in this marketplace.

“Pause Fest is an excellent pre-accelerator,” said Amanda Price, Head of High Growth Ventures, KPMG Enterprise, KPMG Australia. Pause is more than just an event. It’s a movement that set the inclusive mindset on how to creatively innovate, build a better future and has delivered a support network to anyone starting up, looking for a job, looking for clients, partners, investment and new opportunities.

I have sent open letters to the Prime Minister and the Victorian Premier earlier this year, and have yet to hear back. I’ve shared the support letters from Sydney to New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Berlin and Chicago representing some of the best in business companies such as: Asana, WGSN, Canva, Atlassian, Squarepeg Capital, AWS ANZ, Airwallex, Puma HQ, Startup Sesame, Culture Amp, Blackmagic Design, Mercer, KPMG, Microsoft and Deloitte Digital, which you can read below. Still nothing.

I’m open to moving the ‘Innovation Capital’ to another state, or even to a different country. But there needs to be a long-term strategic commitment with proper funding in place for the entire ecosystem to win. Life flourishes when we are able to meet in person and business events represent the beginning of someone’s journey.

I know that passion and creativity can change the world, and I believe I’ve proven my point.

In the interim, the Pause Awards and Originals are going to continue the legacy of the festival. Furthermore, I hope to connect with partners who can support Pause Fest in achieving its full potential.

Thank you so much for your love and support.

Until we meet again!



George Hedon

Enabler of Awesome (Founder & CEO)

 

 

INDUSTRY TESTIMONIALS

Events like Pause Fest have played a formative role in my development over the years — helping to inspire and connect me with other passionate technologists and entrepreneurs in a way that no other forum could. Before I’d even thought of starting a business, it’s community gatherings like these that allowed me to explore new ideas, build up my confidence, and find a tribe of people who collectively shape each others’ experience and innovative ideas. I’m fortunate enough to have presented at Pause Fest on a number of occasions and have always been impressed by the creativity and ingenuity on display every year.

  • Cameron Adams, Co-founder and Chief Product Officer, Canva (Sydney)

Pause Fest is an essential and integral part of the Australian business, start up, and innovation scene. A non-conference that brings together non-like minded people to share, discuss, debate, challenge, and be curious. The sparks that get created at Pause Fest, often in the middle of unlikely conversations, go on to create long term business value for Australia, and stimulate a grass roots industry that is essential to our future shared success. We can choose to look based on past profits, or instead invest in future proofing Australia, for our people, planet, and our profits. Atlassian has been a part of Pause Fest for over 3 years, and is a proud supporter of its mission and purpose.

  • Dom Price, Work Futurist, Atlassian (Sydney)

Pause has really filled a critical knowledge whitespace for the Australian market. I can't think of any other annual events that gather such brilliant minds and distill actionable insights that can help lift up businesses and place Melbourne on the map for being a hub of innovative thinking.

  • Sarah Owen, Senior Strategist, Insight, WGSN (New York)

It's very difficult to put a dollar figure on the value of the connections and relationships deepened among past participants at Pause Fest. I'd hazard a guess that it creates tens of millions of dollars each year for the Victorian state economy, and for Australia as a whole. For me the value is in the event's ability to mix education with inspiration from so many different but related fields and disciplines. Locked up for most of the year in the hermetically-sealed tech startup industry, I so rarely have the opportunity to learn from other fields about new ways of innovating, designing, commercialising and creating new markets.

Pause Fest is where I feel supported and challenged, accessible to others and promoted to new connections that I will come to value highly. Without Pause Fest I won't go out of business, but neither will I thrive, because the tech startups I invest in won't be able to grow at quite the same speed without access to the talent pool, ideas and connections that Pause Fest provides for them.

  • Alan Jones, Angel Investor, M8 Ventures (Sydney)

ANZ is a bit of a smaller fish globally (and even within APAC) when it comes to innovation and tech leadership, but we have seen the occasional breakaway success stories (Canva, Atlassian, Xero etc) so we know what we are capable of in the right conditions. We need to cultivate these conditions; encourage collaboration and sharing of great ideas.

Pause Fest in my mind is one of the key events where technologists of all kinds come together, from startups to industry leaders, from individuals to large corporations - everyone to share ideas and immerse ourselves in the 'art of the possible'. It is critical that we continue to leverage events like Pause in the region to bring us together and 'level up' our collective impact on the world stage.

  • Daniel Iversen, Solutions Engineer, Asana APAC (Sydney)

Pause Fest is a rare example of excellence in both event management and execution, and in providing a space for the innovation community to gather, get inspired and share knowledge. Our portfolio of startups have regularly featured as part of the program and the feedback we’ve received is superb. At a time when Innovation is becoming more important, it is important to maintain the high quality events that exist, of which Pause Fest is certainly one.

  • Imogen Baxter, Founder Community, Squarepeg Capital (Melbourne)

Pause has been the constant thread that connects Australian innovation and entrepreneurship with the global technology scene. Built from the ground up with Australia's innovation leaders at its centre, Pause Fest has remained and grown where other events and communities have come and gone. A sign of its depth and strength is that I only can imagine still after more than a decade what it can become.

This tight innovation community joined together by the Pause Fest brand will likely splinter and fragment, never to be formed again in such creativity and inspiration built over so long. We need this platform to be retained for the development of Australian talent, ideas and innovation. There is still untapped talent and formats that Pause Fest can lead.

  • Rob Findlay, Digital Innovation Lead, AWS ANZ (Melbourne)

Pause Fest provides a critical forum for tech entrepreneurs to connect, collaborate and drive innovation in Australia, ultimately contributing to the global economy. 

In 2020 for example, the festival supported and launched our Borderless Card in partnership with Visa - a key milestone as we work towards our vision to be the global financial cloud.”

A thriving tech ecosystem is built on a strong community foundation. Festivals like Pause Fest help strengthen these relationships, providing a platform to launch new tech solutions, build partnerships and share ideas. 

Losing these events will reduce opportunities for industry collaboration and in turn, create more hurdles for startups to overcome.

  • Neil Luo, VP, Global Head of SME, Airwallex (Melbourne)

I was invited to attend and present at Pause Fest and was exposed to great thinkers and doers from a range of industries and expertise. As a result Pause Fest expanded my ecosystem and community in ways that would be unachievable otherwise.

Exposure to different disciplines, industries and thinkers fuels innovation. That is what Pause Fest offers. If the ecosystem that has emerged from Pause Fest ceases to exist, the innovation community will lose an infrastructure that has proven to be so helpful to changemakers that fuel Australian tech innovation.

  • Charles Johnson, Head of Innovation Design, Puma HQ (Germany)

As a French entrepreneur and leader of the European Tech ecosystem, I’ve been aware of Pause Fest since 2013. It stands out as the most international and influential Tech event in the APAC region, and one of the Top 10 globally for creative technologists, next to SXSW in the US.

Pause Fest got me interested in what is going on in the Australian tech ecosystem, before I would even learn about other smaller local events. I was lucky to participate in the 2020 edition and got to meet with several local founders that I’m still engaging with for their expansion plans in Europe. If I’m asked about a Tech event in Australia, I say Pause Fest.

It’s hard to understand how Tech events impact the local ecosystem beyond big numbers. Most cities & hubs would die to have an event like Pause Fest to showcase their achievements, attract international investors and promote their success stories. It is also very easy to lose it because Tech events aren’t as profitable as trade shows and fairs. Founders don’t have budget and you need to find clever ways to monetize your audience, something that became even harder during lockdown.

It takes years to build such a brand and network. Losing Pause Fest will impact the local ecosystem in several aspects that would cost millions to recover. Web Summit got 100M€ from the city of Lisbon to stay 10 more years. I could easily evaluate the business value of Pause Fest in the city of Melbourne to be around 10M€ for a 10 year contract. Beyond those numbers, I’d keep in mind the stories of founders and business leaders who will lose a much needed platform to showcase their work and achievement every year in February. The timeliness of live events is something that can’t be replicated online.

  • Benjamin Consatini, CEO/ Founder, Startup Sesame (France)

Pause Fest is a critically important coming together of grassroots, ideas and innovation. It manages to straddle fields that don't come together except when it is on. George manifests this as a person. Both George and Pause Fest are impossible to overstate in being the glue that an industry requires and true innovation flows from.

  • Didier Elzinga, CEO/ Founder, Culture Amp (Melbourne)

Pause Fest is so much more than a gathering of Australia’s next generation of tech founders. It is a place where creativity and innovation erupts into a thousand conversations, that are reshaping the Australian economy right now. Blackmagic Design has been involved in Pause Fest, because we understand that through the chaos of a thousand ideas, the future is found.

Pause Fest is the only place in Australia, where dreamers of a better future can empower each other. Tech startups are critical to growing the Australian economy through creatively driven business ideas; and Pause Fest is the place where all that potential comes together. Since 2011, George Headon has been empowering the next generation of entrepreneurs to start their journey. Nobody has done more to foster a self belief in tech founders in Australia, than George’s Pause Fest.

Our own existence, as one of Australia’s most advanced technology companies was born out of these types of conversation about a better future. As CEO and founder of Blackmagic Design, I believe Pause Fest is important if Australia is to fully develop a tech industry.

Pause Fest is the place where great ideas happen. If our tech start ups are to flourish in Australia, then Pause Fest is critical to their surviving in the future.

  • Grant Petty, CEO/ Founder, Blackmagic Design (Melbourne)

From humble beginnings in 2010, launching as a small creative event, Pausefest has transformed into one of the world’s leading festivals for business and creativity. Pause Fest has provided a unique platform for startups, investors, industry leaders, and the Government to exchange ideas, make connections and define the future. Through its support and showcase of the finest local and global creators, thought leaders and future builders – it has connected Australia’s innovators and startups to the world, and attracted innovative companies to our shores.

Without Pause Fest, there would be an immeasurable loss on the business creativity and innovation opportunities it has been creating in the last decade; for deal makers, future founders, entrepreneurs and the community of innovative thinkers and creators that help to put Australia on the world stage.

  • Natalie Truong, CMO AMEA & Partner, Mercer (Hong Kong)

Pause Fest is an excellent pre-accelerator, pre-funding and pre-startup space where the most diverse attendees come to soak up all the knowledge from world's best innovators. Many great startups have been born out of Pause Fest, launched a product and gone on to raise capital, such as Bindi Maps, Choovie, Travis and Canva.

Australia needs flagship events like Pause Fest to shine on our ecosystem from an international perspective, not just local. If we want to compete with Singapore, Boston and Tel Aviv we need to back our own champions to grow our global footstep and use it as a platform to attract future investors, startups and capital back to Australia. Pause Fest has done this over a decade but it requires deep commitment in funding from the state for it to continue. I hope we can think of it as an investment in our bright future.

  • Amanda Price, Head of High Growth Ventures, KPMG Enterprise, KPMG Australia (Sydney)

You are an amazing, visionary achiever, after all… and you have impacted thousands and thousands of lives in positive ways.

  • Roger Darnell, Director, The Darnell Works Agency (Chicago)

I’m such a big fan of Pause Fest. What inspires me most about Pause is that it is always thinking about the future world we want. I see my role in helping people to understand how we use tech to get there. But Pause loops together so many different parts of the community – artists and creative, business leaders, tech gurus and many more. Collaboration at scale is how we will achieve great things.

My first interaction with Pause Fest was in 2016. I attended the festival when it was hosted in Fed Square. A friend who worked in the banking sector invited me. She’d bought passes for her customers, to invite them to an experience that would challenge them and open their minds. I piggybacked along and had a fantastic time. It was the time I ever saw Google Cardboard, and every year I’ve gone since, there’s always been the latest in tech on display. I’ve seen something new each and every time.

I became obsessed with landing a speaking spot at Pause Fest. I wanted to share my vision with the audience on how we open up technology to everyone and make our lives more human. I studied engineering at university the first time around, and went back again many years later to study marketing. Merging these two disciplines – one very technical, and one all about accessibility and reach – has made me a better technologist, designer and engineer. That is why there is nothing like Pause Fest in Australia.

  • Rita Arrigo, Industry Digital Strategist, Microsoft (Melbourne)

I’m writing to you to express my gratitude for the impact that Pause Fest has on the digital industry, local community, and the broader Australian economy as a whole.

For over 10 years Pause Fest has been a beacon for Australian digital and technology businesses, and a catalyst for growth in the sector. It has supported Deloitte network and recruited a number of highly skilled employees, and encouraged business development conversations both with new and existing clients who we have hosted several times at your event over the years.

I consider Pause Fest to be a unique and critical part of our industry, and given the pedigree of conversations that is stimulated during the event, I have personally witnessed the impact it has had on jobs, new ventures, technology start-ups, and the technological evolution in many large businesses.

There is no other festival in the southern hemisphere that is so established and respected enough to garner such support from the world leading technology companies (Pixar, NASA, Hyperloop etc). It is also one of only a small number of Australian events that Deloitte is willing to support both with speakers and advisory support.

It would not only be hugely disappointing if Pause Fest were not to continue, but it would be a devastating blow to the momentum of innovation and the conversation of technological advancement in Australia.

As mentioned many times over the years, I offer my full support in the hope of continued life and success for the festival, as I see how vital the role that Pause Fest plays in our industry and community. I hope and trust that you get the same understanding, support and appreciation from the broader governing community also.

  • Daniel Cheong-See, Principal, National Creative Director, Deloitte Digital (Melbourne)