CloudFest returns on an all-digital platform amid a global pandemic as we take stock of the strengths, weaknesses, risks, and opportunities that are revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The internet has delivered when it was needed most, just as its architects predicted. CloudFest is now taking it to the next level. The event is going to be all-digital this year. We’ve talked with Christian Jäger, CEO of CloudFest about this year’s online event.
How and when the story of CloudFest started? What differs CloudFest from other events?
CloudFest today is not a normal event, it is a B2B Festival with Trade Shows, Keynotes, and Concerts. We started the event as a ‘round-table for other hosting providers in our hometown, Cologne. Shortly after, we invited suppliers and software providers to attend our meetings as well so we could benefit from a consolidated product update and exchange our views and learnings.
Even in these old days, the focus has already been laid on networking and great content. As the event grew, we decided that we need to add some secret sauce to stick out as an event and our solution was simple: Don’t use typical congress hotels or trade fair areas – use something special – and that’s how the idea to run the show in a theme park came along! But we did not only grow, but we also attracted a more diverse audience.
And on top of that, our attendees altered their product offerings from plain (web)hosting towards sophisticated cloud solutions. The name change to CloudFest should symbolize the journey we went with our partners: The event became a festival of friends and our products shifted towards the cloud. The name CloudFest was born.
You canceled CloudFest 2020 due to public health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. How did this outbreak affect your way of business?
CloudFest always lived from personal connections and ad-hoc meetings when crossing the show flor or hanging around at the bar until midnight. However, this is of course not possible when having a 100% digital event, so of course, we had to pivot how we design the event and offer business networking. Also, we have really pushed our content quality one step further since this has become one of our main differentiators. Luckily, our partners support us going online and we are working together closely to design a superb event.
Normally, CloudFest takes place every year in spring at Europa-Park in Rust, Germany, Because of the global pandemic, CloudFest switched to an all-digital platform. What are the advantages and disadvantages of organizing CloudFest online?
The biggest disadvantage is of course not being able to ride rollercoasters and drink a beer together at Colosseo Bar. In general, Covid boosted the digitalization of the event sector and this included us as well. We can already see that we are able to reach a wider audience, welcoming people we did not yet welcome at other events – simply because it’s not always easy to travel into “nowhere-land” in southern Germany. So digital also enables a lot of chances for us being an event organizer and I am pretty sure we will have certain hybrid modules when returning to Europe-Park, hopefully in 2022.
CloudFest 2021 has three themes for three days. Could you please give us more details about these themes?
CloudFest will cover three main topics. Day 1 will talk about the intelligent cloud. We will learn how infrastructure evolves over time becoming smarter, applying the latest AI and IoT technologies. Day 2 is actually my personal favorite as we talk about web pros. It is a super diverse topic that really drives our industry. Wix.com, GoDaddy Pro, or DigitalOcean are changing the way how customers use cloud services. We have invited Aaron Draplin to speak, the name may not directly ring but he designed logos for Obama, Nike, or Ford.
So, the day will not only talk about technology but have the actual user, the actual web pro in mind. The last day covers security topics and what’s really cool: We can all meet the former boss of James Bond. Sir Alex Younger was responsible for cyber protection at the British intelligence service MI6 – if there is one person that knows about cyber threats, it’s him. Attendee figures are difficult to estimate but we expect them to be in line with what we know from offline events. We can already see how diverse our audience got and from where our attendees login.
What are your expectations about the participation of CloudFest? How many attendees do you expect for CloudFest 2021?
It is our first time going online so our firm forecast is difficult for us. We can see that we reach our “traditional audience” nicely and can convince a lot of new faces at the moment since the entrance barrier for an online event is very low. So we are positive to have a good result for our industry and partners.
CloudFest 2021 is operating on a Pay What You Want model. Could you please give more information about this model? What stands behind this idea?
Since the situation is new to us, we are often acting more like a start-up than an established business, meaning that we have to alter our business models on the fly. Initially, we followed the idea to enable a pay what you want to model as we were unsure how the pandemic will result in partners we can onboard and also attendees we can attract. After a few weeks have passed, we have decided to pivot once more and changed the ticketing logic: The ticketing price is 399€ but exhibitors and our great media partners like you receive discount codes that waive the ticket fee.
After the registration and during the event attendees can donate an amount if they want and that does not go into our pocket, but we will give it to our charity partner Entrepreneurs for Knowledge (www.efk.org). The pandemic shows us how important it is to give and not only to take.
The COVID-19 global pandemic pushed the enterprises for shifting to the cloud. So, what are the trends for cloud computing in 2021?
Honestly, we do not really see one single new trend emerging but we see more people and customers “moving into the cloud” in general. This effect is especially true for the many shop owners, SMBs and SOHOs. Imagine you were a small handicraft retailer in the city center and COVID forced you to close the doors of your shop for months. The only chance to generate sales revenue is to offer your products and services online. And this is also one of the reasons we decided that these “small shop owners” going digital, the web pros as we call them, will be in the focus of Day 2 of CloudFest.
After the COVID-19 pandemic, what is going to be changed on CloudFest? Do you intend to keep the event online as a secondary option?
We are all hoping that CloudFest will return physical 2022. We really do. And it is not only us but also many of our attendees, partners, and speakers that want to engage with the crowd live. I even have the feeling exhibitors are happy to see their competitors again personally. But yet again, CloudFest has become a very international festival. We do not know whether all regions where our attendees come from will allow international travel. So I can foresee there will be a hybrid component at future events as well.