Where did the idea for MoSo come from? How has it evolved in the last three years?
I could be creative and try to make something up here, but the story is very simple. I've been fortunate to attend conferences throughout North America over the past 15 or so years. Every time I went to one, I always thought that the Saskatoon community could do just as good a job or better at bringing in some of the world's thought leaders and up-and-coming bands. Over a drink a few years ago, I mentioned the idea to Krystal Kolodziejak and she was thinking the same thing. We talked to Mike Klein, Daren McLean and Depesh Parmar and they all wanted to be a part of the organizing committee, so we decided to go ahead with it. Now we have a volunteer executive and several sub-committees totaling about 20 people that meet all year round to plan. It's really a lot of fun and the best part is that we all get to work with some great people that we wouldn't normally be able to in our real jobs.
Putting on a conference like MoSo takes hundreds of hours of volunteer time and effort. Why do you do it? Why is this important to the industry in Saskatchewan?
For me, I learned early on that a strong community makes a for stronger companies. It is a lot of work to organize MoSo and it takes a lot of time. As I type this it is a Saturday night at 9:40 and I've been working on MoSo stuff since around noon today. I do it because there were a lot of people who helped me out early on in my career and want to return the favour and learn more myself. One of the best ways to help others out is to expose the city and the industry to some of the top ideas on the planet, right here in Saskatchewan. Local companies are having a great deal of success on the international stage right now. Most of that is because of their hard work, but some of it can be traced to connections that they have made at conferences or festivals like MoSo. I really believe that MoSo helps people in the interactive industry as well as small and large business, governments, educators, and more.
There is a perception that MoSo is a 'for profit' event. Is this the case?
MoSo is now registered as a non-profit organization and has a legal Board of Directors, an exec committee and several subcommittees. Our objective is to bring in the best interactive people we can and the best indie bands that we can to the people of Saskatchewan. MoSo is entirely volunteer-driven. This year, we have hired three people to work for a few months as we are moving to Broadway and have more logistics to work through. There are also a handful of people who receive a small stipend on the festival side to run the venues. Through the prudent direction of the Board, MoSo has a cash float from previous years which allows us to book venues, bands, purchase insurance, speakers flights and the like before MoSo takes place. I can assure everyone that MoSo is not a 'for profit' event. Every penny is accounted for (and reviewed by professional accountants) and any funds that are in excess are moved into the float for the next year. No one on the executive or the sub-committees get paid; we are all volunteers. Our revenues come from ticket sales, sponsorship and grants. While MoSo is becoming a large event, we are still operating on a shoestring to make sure all of the attendees get the best value they can.
Where would you like to see MoSo and MoSoFEST in five years?
That's a bit of a loaded question, in that it is a moving target which the entire Executive will have to be involved with. I do think that there is general agreement that we would like to add a film festival next year (we almost did this year, but we wanted to make the move to Broadway our priority). We've talked about doing something with fashion and comedy as well, but those seem to be a longer term target. Our goal right now is to do what we've done the past two years much better. We've listened to what conference and festival attendees have suggested and are taking it to heart. The quality of speakers this year is incredible. The band line-up is amazing. In the future, we want to ensure that those components get better and then expand our offerings.
Getting to that vision is going to require the support of the entire community. What message would you like to say to the community to get them rallied behind the vision?
MoSo is now one of the largest interactive conferences in Canada. People from big cities can't believe what we have going here in our own back yard. A lot of the speakers that we bring in do presentations at several conferences each year. They have told us that this is their favourite place to come because of the quality of speakers. The only way that MoSo will be successful is if people buy passes and go to the sessions. If you want to get better at what you do--whether that is marketing, programming, writing, strategy, advertsing, educating, using technology, playing guitar--then you can do that at MoSo. One thing that we can see this year is that about 20% of the tickets sold to date are from people from outside of the province. This helps prove to us that the level of talent appearing at MoSo is a national draw, not a local draw. In Saskatchewan, you often need to look to big centers for ideas. But for four days in June, Saskatoon will be the creative capital of Canada.
Give me three reasons why people should come to MoSo?
When SxSW started their interactive component in the early 2000s, they had about 500 people go, just like we have. Now, they have over 22,000 people there ten years later. One of the reasons to come to MoSo is to help build it into a world-class event. And you can do that by just showing up.
I'm really excited about the keynote speakers, some of the new sessions that we will be announcing soon and staying up past midnight to catch a few bands. We are hoping to get Saul Colt in a dunk tank, which could be a highlight!
The main reason that I tell people that they should go is that they will learn and be inspired. They will meet some great people and help Saskatoon build a strong community. If you are in a small business or a large business, if you are an educator or a student, if you are a marketing pro or a beginner, if you are a public servant or work in the private sector, there will be sessions for you. If you don't think that you received fair value for your passes, make a case for it. If it is valid, I will personally give you your money back. That's how much I believe in what we are doing here.
If the Seahawks and the Huskies faced off in a round robin tournament of Super Stickman Golf 2 who would eat the most pizza?
Although Earl Thomas is a wicked SSG2 player, I would have to take the Huskies because I have seen how many pieces of pizza that Coach Towriss can eat.