Greetings from the XOXO Festival

Today and tomorrow I’m in Portland, Oregon, for the innaugural XOXO Festival. According to the website, “XOXO is an arts and technology festival celebrating disruptive creativity….We’re bringing independent artists who use the internet to make a living doing what they love together with the technologists building the tools that make it possible.”

While those words are inspiring, I doubt I’d be here if that’s all I knew about the four-day event (although I’m here for just two days).

So why am I here?

That has an easy answer: Andy Baio.

Andy conceived the event and organized it with Andy McMillan, creator of Build Conference, an annual event in Belfast, Northern Ireland, that is similar (but different) to XOXO.

I know Andy primarily through his link blog, a steady stream of links to things I initially think may be “cute” or “clever.” And then, months later, it hits me they were precursors of something disruptive or mind-blowing.

Andy lives in the future (and helps create it) — but it’s a future where creating new technology and starting a business or expressing ones creativity don’t begin with trying to learn how to raise angel financing or appeal to venture capitalists or get on TechCrunch or is obsessed with trying to package the “top ten ways to do anything.”

It’s a future where creative talent and personal expression connect, unfiltered, with those who are moved by the talent and expression. It’s a future where do-it-yourself is called “making” — and is worthy of celebration even if there will never be an IPO. (Although there may be some acqhiring.)

XOXO is a celebration of idea entrepreneurs who, only later, discover they are business entrepreneurs.

So, I’m here because on the day Andy announced via Kickstarter (which is on a platform he helped build) he was putting on a conference, and that it would be limited to the first 400 or so people who paid $400 to register (and others who volunteered to help), I didn’t hesitate. (I also am lucky that I have enough frequent flyer points, I’m good to go anywhere Southwest can take me.)

So I’m here because of Andy, and he’s put together the kind of event I hoped it would be:

Today (Saturday), the topic of the conference is: “Creative people of all kinds — musicians, filmmakers, illustrators, game designers — who creatively used the Internet to find their audience, build a community, and make a living doing what they love.”

And tomorrow, it’s “creative technologists who’re creating the platforms being used to rewrite entire industries, from filmmaking and music to publishing and fine art.”

And in a few months or years, who knows?