What’s next for One Spark? Organizers assess crowdfunding festival’s future
Organizers of the five-day One Spark festival that ended Sunday are assessing what happened and are trying to determine where next to take the event that drew 260,000 people downtown this year.
One Spark Founder Elton Rivas, board member Michael Munz and financial supporter Peter Rummell met with the Times-Union editorial board Tuesday while ruminating over what happened with this year’s event. The festival that showcased over 600 entrepreneurs, artists and scientists in a 20-square block area of downtown drew double the amount of the inaugural 2013 event that pulled in 130,000 people.
Rummell acknowledged the turnout was more than anyone expected. But when discussion turned to the demands on the event, such as long lines at the food village and beer booths, all agreed One Spark will remain a crowdfunding event first, and festival elements will only serve to augment the primary purpose of developing a flourishing creative community.
“It’s a party with a purpose,” Rummell said.
There were about 120,000 “votes” on creator projects during the event. Those votes helped determine which creators got cash prizes to fund their concepts. About 40,000 people registered to vote at kiosks, by computer or on the One Spark smart phone app. That means the majority of the visitors were not engaged in actually determining who would win prizes.
Rivas said that’s fine. They welcome all audience members. But the majority of modifications to the event were made after the first year and even with possible additional alterations, the primary focus will remain on helping startup concepts and organizers are hope to hold onto the balance of the venture capital concept with a festival setting.
“The ethos and the mission of One Spark is to connect great ideas with capital, either human or financial,” Rivas said. “If we go more of the festival route, we lose that. If we go more creator route, we may lose some of the festival atmosphere. The blend of those two things together is what makes One Spark so unique.”
Another announced winner of award cash from One Spark was made Tuesday that strikes the balance Rivas advocates. Void Media, which runs a magazine and website, and Adjective & Co. advertising, announced its “Golden Ticket” award for a $100,000 prize in media, branding and marketing services. Gastrofest, a Jacksonville-based organization that exposes growth and diversity in the culinary scene in the area as a One Spark creator, was selected as the winner of that prize.
Eddie Berrang said Gastrofest’s ability “to educate and engage the community 365 days a year on the importance of local and sustainable food practices allowed it to stand out.”
The award money for Gastrofest will be used for branding and marketing services and six months of advertising and promotion through Void Media.
Munz said One Spark is dedicated ultimately to that kind of transformative action for the creators involved in the event.
“We are not just a festival,” Munz said. “We are a shifting of a lifestyle.”
Munz added that same organizational paradigm used in Jacksonville will be used when One Spark organizers travel to Berlin, Germany, in September for a new One Spark there. All three One Spark officials say the event in Europe will have its own flavor and there will be variables that will differ from the Jacksonville event. Still, the point will be to hook up creators with capital supporters.
“It has morphed more into helping ideas meet money,” Rummell said. “Berlin has that same issue, which is why we’re going there.”
All three acknowledged other cities, including several in the United States, have approached One Spark organizers about establishing similar festivals in other locations.
Beyond Berlin, Rummell said the future of other locations for One Spark remains uncertain.
“There clearly is an opportunity to take this and do some other things with it. The question is whether that makes financial sense or not. We’re in the process of studying that,” Rummell said.