EthCC : Balancing the Budget of a Community Conference

Couple of months ago I saw key members of the Ethereum community starting to complain on social media about some conferences being too expensive or capitalizing on speakers to promote their business:

At Asseth we believe that:

  • Ethereum conferences should be as focused as possible on technology and education
  • Conference’s price should never deter students to come
  • Organizers should be transparent on their revenue and personal ties with businesses.

Those are the values we have tried to endorse with the Ethereum Community Conference (EthCC) last March where we had the chance to host the first Council of the Ethereum Magicians. This article will go into how much money we raised, what we have paid and what we are going to do with the rest of it.

What is Asseth?

Asseth is French regulated non-profit that organises weekly free ethereum meetups and workshops since late 2015. It has more than 400 active members. Asseth also contributes actively to www.ethereum-france.com, Various educational projects and open-source projects, translates technical papers in French (white/yellow/mauve-paper, Sharding faq).

Being regulated means that we have to publish our books every year and the details of our revenue sources and bills are accessible on request to our members.

EthCC Key Figures and Preliminary Statement:

The conference:

The earnings

  • Sponsors: 82k€ after deduction of VAT
  • Ticketing: 94k€ after deduction of VAT

Total: 176k€

The expenses

  • Renting the venue: 26k€
  • Catering: 66k€ (60k after deduction of VAT)
  • Housing and transportation support 11k+4k=15k€ (13k€ after deduction of VAT)
  • Security: 3k€
  • Livrestream and video editing: 27k€
  • Closing party 24k€ (20k€ after deduction of VAT)
  • Insurance 2k€
  • Marketing 6k€

Total : 157k€

Our approach on the pricing of the tickets:

We did our best to forecast the budget and price the tickets properly to cover for the minimum services which were Venue + Catering + Security + various hidden or unexpected expenses (100k€). We took the somewhat safe hypothesis of 500 attendees (e.g selling 83% of the tickets) and decided to for a price 220€ VAT included. It was difficult to tell in advance if we were going to have sponsors so perks like the live-stream were therefore optional.

In depth of the budget lines:

The Venue:

The Conservatoire Nationale des Arts et Métiers (CNAM) is a top engineering school located in the center of Paris. Alexis Collomb, the professor in charge of the Finance & Innovation department has a been interested in blockchain application for quite some time and he currently has students doing blockchain related phds. Asseth has been organizing workshops with the CNAM since 2016 and a couple trainings on Ethereum for researchers.

Thanks to this long lasting relation the CNAM accepted to be directly associated with the event and partnered with us. The French Minister of Education accepted to support officially the event and participated to the introduction talk. We are extremely thankful to the CNAM and its staff for facilitating everything.

Things we would like to do better next time:

We were 40 minutes late on the schedule the 1st day as we didn’t properly handle the ticketing at the entrance, consequently lots of attendees missed the introduction talk and/or Rick Dudley’s “What I don’t Like about Ethereum” (NB: I think this one should become a opening tradition). Hudson Jameson had to cancel his introduction to Ethereum last minute which was very unfortunate but gave us some buffer.

The CNAM was undergoing renovation works so going around in the place was messy and the indications were too scarce. Notably the workshop room was too hard to reach whereas a direct entrance was supposed to be available.

For next year we plan on printing a booklet with map and information in a Welcome Pack as well as concentrating different rooms. Maybe we should capitalize more on the museum of technology and innovation located in the school too.

Displayed in the Museum of the Arts et Metiers, Clément Ader’s aircraft call Avion III, 1897

The Catering:

We heard a lot of compliments about the catering and we were very happy on how things turned out with Chicken Bacon Lettuce (CBL). This catering was introduced to us by a member of Asseth and we were impressed right away by their haste to deliver and to organise the service. CBL prepared a breakfast with juice coffee and french croissants, a morning coffee break with homemade snacks, a lunch with vegetarian options and an afternoon coffee break with snacks for 800 attendees. We paid about 27.5€ per person per day which could have been cut down by say, no breakfast, no coffee, no options and full cold buffet. We decided to keep those option so as incentivise everyone to stay in the venue and arrive early plus the CBL partnered with a charity that came to pick up the leftovers to distribute it at Soupe Populaire (the French Soup kitchen).

Note that we decided to go 800 instead of the 1,000 theoric attendance which was kind of a bet but had a good outcome, our back up plan was to setup last minutes meals for the speakers.

Things we would like to do better next time:

Make sure things go as smoothly as last time.

Housing and transportation support:

We didn’t initially plan on helping speakers and students to find housing and cover their travel fees. Students from abroad were directed to a community support channel on our slack. As we found more support sponsorwise we helped cover for travel fees for some of the speakers working in non-profit organisation and academics. We also booked a hotel in Paris for last minute arrivals.

Things we would like to do better next time:

Keep EthCC as diverse as possible in terms of speakers and students. We want to stay adamant on the principle not to pay for talks. We had the help of the community of Amsterdam, London and Berlin to make large batch of students come for free and two dozens from other countries shootout to Makato Inoue, Thibault Schaeffer and Pascal Van Hecke for this. For next year we hope to better connect with communities from Asia. For French students we had a volunteer program and had 40 signing up. All in all we had 120 students that came for free, so let’s at least check the 200 students threshold next time.

Security

The security guards that checked the bag at the entrance was a requirement from the venue and we were imposed the choice of the provider. During the day it was clearly loose, they kept on checking the bags but did not check the tickets, hence the pirates (mostly students from the CNAM) that crashed the conference. We definitely want to improve on this next year.

Live-stream and video editing:

We think that Kabuki media did an outstanding job, three days of (almost non-stop) live streaming on 4 rooms was quite a performance. The stream had only one interruption of 40 minutes before the lunch on day 2 and the missing videos were uploaded straight away. Videos were edited in the 2 weeks following the end of EthCC.

Things we would like to do better next time:

Make sure things go as smoothly as last time. Most of the mess in naming the videos and announcing the next one were due to imprecisions from us, we need to improve the way we handled the program.

Closing party

Roughly 600 people have shown up to the party which lasted till the early morning with some food in the beginning and open beer and wine.

Initially we wanted to book bars for after conference drinks each days but our budget constraint didn’t allow for leaving a deposit. A budget resources were available thanks to our sponsors in last minute and we chose to concentrate on a last day gig.

That didn’t prevent the community to gather and enjoy Paris outside of the event:

Things we would like to do better next time:

Book bars and announce them in advance.This will be possible thanks to our budget margin from last year.

Marketing

The marketing includes around 4k€ for 600 t-shirts that we gave away (thank you so much Josef Jelačič for setting this up). We paid around 1.5k of printed materials (the photocall, banners, stickers…).

Josef heroically bringing along with his flight Prague printed t-shirts

The ticket sale took long to take off, we were 40% booked 4 weeks before the conference and started to freak out so we decided to invest around 1k€ for a twitter and facebook campaign. The event was sold out in the following 2 weeks but we can not say that the social media campaign had anything to do with it.

Things we would like to do better next time:

Focus on community marketing and save bucks on paid social media campaign.

Conclusion

After taxes we have around 19k€ of extra. According to our status, this money can only be used to the promotion of Ethereum so we used some of the money to sponsor the Blockchain for Social Impact incubator, the Swarm Orange Summit and Devcon4. We hosted a dinner with the volunteers that benevolently helped us on this event with their passion and dedication to the Ethereum Community. Finally the remaining funds will enable us to book places around next EthCC edition maybe hire someone to work fulltime on the conference.

The 2018 edition would not have been possible without the help of our sponsors ConsenSys, iexec, Aragon, ChronoLogic, Gnosis, Changelly, DAOstack, Datafund, Infura, NapoleonX, Axionable, Fabric Ventures and the support of the CNAM and the Ethereum Foundation. Special thanks to Aron Fischer, George Hallam and Ashley Tyson for putting us in touch will a lot of great speakers. Also, shout out to the github user named blockchainunchained for his help on our open source website.

Next steps? EthCC 2019!

The rumor has been going around and… Yes we will do it again next year and will even ramp up the event! Our target for next year is 2000 attendees (with at least 15% of them being speakers), with a dedicated day for the Ethereum Magicians and maybe keep the weekend for an hackathon (did anybody say ETHParis?). Stay tuned!!

Here’s a trailer from last year:

See you soon in Paris ❤