The Baltic HoneyBadger Conference claims to differ from other crypto conferences. We spoke with Maxim Keidun about this Latvian wonder and its ins and outs.
Future Times: Is this your second conference?
HoneyBadger Conference: Yes.
FT: Last time, despite the fact that it was your first event, you got a good feedback. How did you come up with the idea and the format?
HBC: Speaking of ideas… in 2017 there were a lot of conferences that functioned like “pay us $500-600, and we will promote ICO and other things for two days” – anything for your money. Also, since the unpleasant subject of ICO has been in the limelight, everyone wanted to make a quick buck.
Unfortunately, we realized that a lot of people didn’t understand this industry, its specifics or technology at all. They didn’t know any opinion leaders and followed false prophets. We decided to create an educational non-profit event with a purpose of gathering very smart and talented representatives of our domain, rather than make money. To explain to people what is happening right now, what trends are in, how to approach crypto, blockchain & everything related to it and our partners from SDV Ventures helped us to do it.
Why were there so many speakers? It is actually due to the community and partially because of our contacts and reputation. Your notes were correct, it wasn’t a public project, but there already was a version of our exchange by that time. People knew about us. Opinion leaders saw our potential, and we did not fail them.
It’s due to our reputation and connections that we were able to attract the first speaker who understood the concept. One of the things that attracted him was the fact that it wasn’t a marketing event, ICO sale or for some other hype. It drew people in quite a lot actually and then the word of mouth helped: some told their friends, then friends of friends, etc. That got us in touch with very, very-very serious guys, who later participated. Half of the last year speakers still communicate with us on a regular: and they are our friends, relatives, acquaintances. Some of them advise us, some help with our business projects, some introduce us to other people who can be useful. That’s how it works.
Perhaps, it was the reputation and the way we portray ourselves that helped, rather than marketing events. Oh, and the fact that our acquaintances spread the word.
FT: How many speakers are planned for this year, and what will be the main focus and topics of your conference, considering that this year it’s a 2 day event?
HBC: Actually, last year it was a two-day event as well. Though the format was different: first day was dedicated to speeches, second to panels. This year presentations and panels will alternate diluted by a lot of one-on-one cross-site chats. We try to cover everything here.
FT: It is not only about technology, right?
HBC: Yes, it’s not just tech oriented. This year, we want to go beyond the limits touching on the topic of venture capitalism. Specialized funds investing in crypto projects already exist: they are venture investors who invest exclusively in cryptocurrency.
This year we want to expand, broaden the spectrum to cover the whole industry and show all aspects: mining, stock exchanges, wallets, venture investors, social and economic issues, security issues.
The format has not changed, really, but as it became clear that a whole day of presentations can be quite tiresome, we made it more interactive. When there is live communication, for instance, interaction with public, it acts as a good shake up, so we want to bring this element to this years event.
FT: How many speakers are planned to come?
HBC: There are 35-40 speakers at the moment listed on our website, so that’s the plan.
FT: How many would you want to see attending?
HBC: Realistically, we understand that it will most likely be around 500-600 people.
FT: It is a serious number.
HBC: You know what pleases and upsets us at the same time? The fact that 90-95% of people who attend our conferences are not locals. This year already confirmed two people flying in from Australia. And not just from Australia, from the city of Perth – the most remote municipality in the country. There will be people from Asia, a man from Brazil is flying here, a lot of people from Canada, USA, a huge number of Europeans, a whole delegation from the post-Soviet space, Ukraine and Russia.
Of course, it pleases us that Latvia and Riga are promoted as a spot for the conference. The fact that they come to see the capital, meet people, discover the culture and fall in love with everything is amazing. However, it is disappointing that locals don’t take interest in this movement. Many say that the price is supposedly the reason, but guys, let’s be real, our price is probably one of the lowest on the market, given the number of truly worthy speakers that we have. I mean, going to any other conference somewhere in the neighbor country will cost twice as much including plane tickets and other necessary expenses. But here you have a global event under your nose, that people fly to attend. We have one volunteer who flies all the way from America to work here, we told him – you’ll get a free ticket, just fly in, you’ll be an official volunteer. He said: “I want to, cause I heard a lot about you last year.”
We here are blessed with speakers like Elizabeth Stark, Adam Back, alongside with other famous people. And people complain about price? It is the expense of the event.
FT: What is the pricing policy now? Or is it public on the website?
HBC: At the moment, there are 20 tickets left at a price of 255 euros.
FT: Everything else is sold out?
HBC: Everything else is sold out. And we will now raise the price, but there are very few left.
Last year people still managed to buy tickets [last minute], and I am afraid this year they won’t, because there is a certain internal limit that we have already set, and when this limit is reached, sales are closed.
FT: What do you expect, and what is your main goal of the conference? Is this an exchange of experience, community gathering or the union of people from different fields? What is the main value of this event?
HBC: This is our gift to the community. We are doing something fundamentally useful: collecting specialists and very interesting people in a chill atmosphere, where they communicate and share their experience. For us it is an opportunity to organize an annual gathering for people who, let’s say, understand the ins and outs of the topic (while not being strained by the environment).
Of course, it’s amazing to hear post conference reflections like: “I learned so much, it was so useful”.
This is pure networking, exchange of information, along with our extremely practical lectures. Perhaps, this year even we may even have some project launches – open-source projects, that help the ecosystem develop in the right direction, not commercial ones.
FT: Do you plan to scale further? It is clear that the event is well organised and requires a lot of resources. Are there any plans to do this more often?
HBC: At the moment, the focus is on Latvia, and the annual BalticHoneybadger will be held in Riga. There are a couple of ideas along with a couple of potential partners who want to use our experience, our contacts and our brand. In particular, there were talks on Asian locations and Africa. We know about a large number of conferences held in America and Japan, but we aren’t sure about Australia. The European niche is filed. Latin America too can boast about blockchain related everything. Thus, we are now looking at Africa and Asia, so maybe next year we will be able to surprise you.