With a heavy heart I have to announce that Swift TO will be closing down. While I am proud of the executional success that our conference was, we lost money running it.
This was a tough year for fundraising, with us landing only 75% of our attendance goal and 33% of our sponsor goal. Despite our best efforts, we sold less than 1 ticket per day, on average, since we launched in January. Even that took several discount promotions to motivate people. Scotiabank, my current contract employer, was our only local sponsor.
Many months ago I faced a challenging personal decision. Whether to continue organizing the conference or abort. I recognized the risk was high that I would have to accept a hit to my business to subsidize this conference. Looking inward, I felt that making it happen was something too important to me to not see through. This idea started 4 years ago. Creating this was also an act of self-expression. An expression of passion for Swift that I want to share with other people by bringing great minds together.
A lot of forces seemed to work against us this year. This made organizing quite a difficult and emotional challenge at times. Unfortunately this included some mistreatment from Apple’s Developer Relations team. Apple dangled the idea of supporting this conference. They asked for us to send our plans/financials, then ghosted without any explanation. Despite many attempted follow ups I never heard from them again or got any closure. This was stress and uncertainty we did not need piled on. It is terrible treatment of community volunteers that needs to be talked about. If it’s happening to others in our community that's not okay. Apple is too big to ignore in our industry. They aren’t any random sponsor. Leaving us without closure felt like a kick when we were down by the most important company in our field.
Despite challenges, I have no regrets about the decision to follow this through to the end. I’m actually proud of what we accomplished despite many setbacks. Unfortunately, Swift TO is not sustainable without more buy-in.
A few weeks ago I tweeted about having to close down on my personal Twitter. I appreciate the outreach and emails people sent when they heard this news. People suggested crowdfunding to reduce losses, or selling video access. After a lot of thought and consideration I’ve decided I don’t want to do either of these things. First, I don’t want to paywall access to these videos. A paywall is antithetical to why I ran this conference; to share passion for Swift far and wide. Second, I don’t think crowdfunding for the past fixes our community challenges.
I’ve said a few times that it takes a village to raise a conference. As it tries to gain momentum, a conference needs community enthusiasm and buy-in. It needs people to talk about it at work and be ambassadors. People pushing for sponsorship and attendance from inside companies. I don’t want to be too scornful of my local iOS community, but I do think this is an important takeaway. We’re showing too much apathy to our community right now. Another local tech conference we chatted with also struggled with sales this year. I have some concern this is a bit of a localized issue.
I don’t think that the Toronto iOS Community is dead. It’s in a bit of a rough patch right now, though. It’s going to take new ideas and fresh faces taking the reins to shake things up. The community also needs to give these people a fair chance to succeed by showing up and spreading word. It's possible that crowdfunding the start of a future conference would be a better idea than mitigating past losses.
Before closing this out I want to express general gratitude for the privilege I have in this field of work. Despite setbacks I am lucky to be able to even do things like this. I don’t want anyone to concern themself with my losses. There’s more to life than money and that’s why seeing this through and creating this experience had to happen.
I also want to express gratitude to my co-organizers, especially Navati and Margaret. They were very involved throughout the organizing process despite having busy schedules of their own. Thank you also to the whole team for running the operations on Day 2 without me.
If you want to show support, the best thing you can do is connect with me on LinkedIn and consider hiring me in the future. Or shoot me a message somewhere and we can chat. I don’t want to completely close the door to the idea of assisting others or one day running events again. I do expect it will be after some time away to reflect and recover. We will keep our social media active to communicate things relevant to our community.
Peace, Love, Unity and Respect.
Director/Head Organizer, Swift TO Inc