Experience Portland: Some of the thinking behind MusicFestNW’s new tech conference, PDX

[Full disclosure: This is yet another one of my side projects. So please forgive any gushing. That said, hope to see you there. It’s going to be awesome.]

A few months back, I mentioned some folks had been discussing the potential for a tech event to be held in conjunction with MusicFestNW, the annual independent music festival that takes over the Portland club scene in early September.

And then things got quiet. And I’m sure folks thought, “Oh well. Just another cockamamie scheme from Rick that will never see the light of day.” And had it just been me, that might have been true.

But, honestly, there have been a horde of folks quietly working behind the scenes to put together an amazing event called the Portland Digital eXperience (#PDXconf) that will, in fact, be happening September 6-8, here in Portland.

And I think you’re going to be happy with what we’ve managed to put together.

Problems we were trying to solve… err, I mean, Opportunities

When we started planning this event, we talked to a lot of people. A LOT of people. But interestingly enough, the feedback was fairly consistent. Two things rang clear: 1) Folks didn’t want another purely tech event. 2) Folks didn’t want another purely startup event.

Based on that feedback, we stepped back and proposed a new direction for the conference. And what we came up with was something that celebrates Portland and the culture we’re building here. What’s more, we hope we’ve created something that explores the variety on creative things happening in town.

With that in mind, we hope PDX does at least four things:

First and foremost, we wanted to showcase Portland and folks that champion Portlandy ideals. I’m lucky that, for the most part, I get to sit back and watch all of the amazing stuff that happens in Portland. And I consistently revel in the awesomeness that people here are building. With PDX, we wanted to showcase that almost frenetic variety of creativity in our town. But we also wanted to bring in folks who subscribed to common ideals. That’s why, in addition to some amazing Portland people, you’ll find folks like Tumblr and Flipboard on the docket.

Second, we wanted this to be a true creative festival atmosphere. One of things we wanted most was to make this a festival of creativity, with some of that being creative applications of technology and some of that being the creative spirit of the music industry. That’s why MFNW and PDX are inextricably linked. And it’s also why we’ve got speakers with a foot in music and a foot in tech, like Spotify, Shazam, CASH Music, and Tender Loving Empire.

Third, we wanted to create something intimate, inspiring, and invigorating. Many of us remember the serendipitous experiences of conferences like SXSW, boco, and Big Omaha. We wanted to capture that same kind of experience, bring interesting speakers, and get interesting folks in town for the event. Our goal is to have you sitting next to someone you never imagined having the opportunity to meet. Or getting the chance to chat with an amazing panelist at one of the concerts. Or simply running into someone on the street at the food carts. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll get to spend a little more time chatting with awesome Portland people whom you never get to see.

Last but not least, we wanted PDX to provide a good excuse for people to visit Portland. Especially for those folks who are actively considering Portland for the next phase of their business or career. You see, sometimes we forget how lucky we are to live where we do. And to work here. But rest assured, there are any number of people and companies outside looking in. And this is a great opportunity to showcase what we’ve got here.


So the bulk of the planning is done. Now, one of the most common questions has been logistics. When and where are you supposed to be?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

The bulk of the event will be hosted at the beautiful Leftbank Annex close in on the east side near the Rose Quarter, a venue designed particularly for events like this. The kind folks at Instrument and Ziba will also be helping host portions of the event. As will any number of startups and galleries in town, who will be joining in on the fun.

So the rough schedule is:

  • Wednesday, September 5 (7:00PM): Badge pickup / Opening party (Instrument) — Why does badge pickup always have to be long cattle call lines? It doesn’t. That’s why we’re combining our opening party and badge pickup. So you can grab your credentials and grab a beverage with some of the folks who will be experiencing PDX and MFNW with you.
  • Wednesday, September 5 (Night): MFNW music (Various) — Artists include Passion Pit, Red Fang, and Hot Snakes.
  • Thursday, September 6 (10:00AM – 5:30PM): Portland Digital eXperience (Leftbank Annex) — The first day of speakers includes a variety of insights, from a keynote by the guy who created the iconic Field Notes notebooks to insights from LAIKA on the soon-to-be-released film ParaNorman.
  • Thursday, September 6 (Evening): Startup Crawl and First Thursday (Various) — Take the opportunity to wander around the Pearl District and Old Town meeting the startups that are putting Portland on the map. (Interested in having people swing by? Sign up as a Startup Crawl startup.) It’s also First Thursday and the Time Based Arts Festival, so take some time to visit a few galleries, too.
  • Thursday, September 6 (Night): MFNW music (Various) — Artists include Reignwolf, Stay Calm, and Trampled by Turtles.
  • Friday, September 7 (10:00AM – 5:30PM): Portland Digital eXperience (Leftbank Annex, Ziba) — Our second day will include conversations with everyone from Tumblr and Flipboard to the musicians who have creatively embraced technology.
  • Friday, September 7 (Night): MFNW music (Various) — Artists include Menomena, Arrington De Dionyso, and Sandpeople.
  • Saturday, September 8 (1:00PM – whenever): Music hack day with Spotify and Rumblefish (Puppet Labs, open to the public) — Spotfiy and local music powerhouse Rumblefish are opening the doors to the public—and their APIs. Whether you attended PDX or not, feel free to join us for some music hacking. Build visualizations, munge data, or simply build something interesting.

Who else is speaking? GigaOm has a post with a who’s who of the speaker list. And the bios and photos on the PDX site will continue to grow as we finalize the list.

For the comprehensive schedule on the Web or on your phone, check out PDXconf on Lanyrd.

Be part of an amazing September in Portland

Obviously, we’d love to have you join us for PDX, but we’d be lying if we said this was the only awesome thing going on in September. Don’t forget these other amazing Portland events:

Don’t miss the opportunity to be part of PDX

There are any number of ways to be part of PDX. You could attend. You could sponsor. You could throw a party during the startup crawl. You could propose a tangential event you’d like to hold while folks are in town. You could follow the social accounts like @PDXconf, PDX on Google+, or PDX on Facebook. You could host a breakfast or a meet up. You could volunteer.

Whoever you are and whatever you do, we encourage and welcome your involvement. Because honestly? It’s not really Portland without you Portlanders. And those of you outside of Portland? We’d love to introduce you to our amazing city.

See you in September!

  1. […] So last year, Willamette Week was willing to take a risk. To extend it’s overwhelmingly popular music festival—MusicFestNW—by adding tech programming. And I was lucky enough to get the chance to work with them on it. We called it the Portland Digital eXperience (PDX). […]

  2. I constantly emailed this weblog post page to all my contacts, because if like to read it then my contacts will too.|

  3. […] ‘tech’ or ‘start-up’ event, as Rick Turoczy points out on his excellent Silicon Florist blog, “First and foremost, we wanted to showcase Portland and folks that champion Portlandy […]

  4. I just wanted to say, its a shame its PDX. Portland Digital Experience. Hold on. PDE? How is that PDX? Any copywriter, intern or hell college freshman would have been fired on the spot.

    So Portland can’t spell? Oh I suppose, Keep It Weird. KIW. Or KIE.

  5. Not this year. Maybe next year. This year, we’ve basically thrown in the music for free.

  6. Will there be tickets available just for the Portland Digital Exp events, like the various speakers? Not really interested in the music side of things.

  7. well done rick. i’m super excited. and you did a great job putting together an amazing speaker list for an inaugural event. bravo

  8. It’s especially beautiful in Portland this time of year 😉

  9. Looks like a great event, there are definitely some speakers I would be interested in hearing. I might have to come out.

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