SearchLove San Francisco - We are sorry but we have failed

“What is your biggest failure?”

I ask that question at every interview I’m involved in. The answer tells me so much about the person sat in front of me. How do they cope under pressure? How comfortable are they taking responsibility? What constitutes a failure in their eyes? Do they shrink into themselves or do their eyes light up as they recount how they turned things around?

If you never put yourself in a position where you can fail then I’d argue you aren’t pushing hard enough. I say exactly that when interviewees tell me they can’t think of a time they have failed.

It’s easy to be flippant about failure. It’s incredibly easy to say you are pushing hard and risking failure. It’s much harder to actually do it, and the hardest thing is stopping and admitting when you have failed.

Unfortunately I have to announce that we have failed and that we are cancelling our SearchLove conference in San Francisco due to lower than expected ticket sales.

We have a phenomenal line up of speakers. I’d argue that it is the strongest line-up we have ever had. I know from experience that putting together a 45 minute presentation is hard work and takes a massive amount of time. I’m simply not happy asking the speakers to spend days writing a presentation and then take time off work to present it without having a full and buzzing auditorium.

We knew running SearchLove in San Francisco was a risk. There are a number of things that we believe contributed to its failure:

  • We have amazing competition - MozCon is scheduled a few weeks after us in Seattle, SMX is a few weeks earlier also in Seattle and SES is running in August in San Francisco. This list is by no means exhaustive.
  • It is the first time we have run a conference on the West Coast. Running a conference in a new location is hard. Will talked about exactly this less than a year ago: pushing flywheels hurts.
  • We thought we’d found an amazing venue, but we’ve been told by a couple of people that hosting the conference in Berkeley will be costing us ticket sales.

I’m sure there are other contributing factors, and I suspect we will never know the true cause. I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the combination of the above.

Whatever the cause, I know that the worse failure would be not cancelling the event and running a conference we weren’t incredibly proud of.

The next steps:

We have spoken to everyone involved to explain the situation and have started the process of refunding everyone.
We are looking into running a free meetup in San Francisco in place of the cancelled conference.
We will continue with our #askdistilled series where you can ask questions to our consultants.

As you can imagine this was not an easy decision to make. There are a lot of amazingly talented people who have put a lot of time and effort into making this the best conference possible. Knowing that all their hard work was for nothing is heartbreaking. Distilled thrives on having an endless enthusiasm and energy underpinning everything we do. If we can push that energy into something else I know we will be stronger as a result.

I’m certain we will fail again someday, but I’m determined to ensure that neither this nor any other failure will stop us pushing hard or trying new things. The biggest failure would be to allow this to define what we do or don’t do in the future.

I’ll let Michael Jordan sum things up, I think he does it pretty well:

About the author
Duncan Morris

Duncan Morris

Duncan founded Distilled with Will in 2005. Duncan was CEO of Distilled for just over 5 years before he handed the reins to Will in 2014. Duncan is now Chairman, a non-executive role that, amongst...   read more