In June 2014 we launched our event series The Tech Off! It was prompted by our PR agency saying “you should do an event to attract new business” and our desire to NOT do a standard ‘agency insights’ event.
And lo, an event was born. Subsequently described as “the lovechild of TED Talks & WWE Wrestling”, we attracted top tech speakers who’d each have 5 minutes to talk about anything tech-related. The audience would choose a winner, using our unique sound-activated Techometer App™. Though the format has remained the same it didn’t start theatrical. But the theatrics have indeed become a feature of the event.
Indeed the theatrics have now consumed the event…
Creating a monster
Our mix of tech insight, nightclub-volume-Rocky and man-thigh was born out of ‘play’, of seeing what we could get away with. The answer? Anything and everything. The irony was, the more outrageous we made it, the more people wanted to attend and to include it at their conferences (in order to spice things up a bit).
To be honest, it all got a bit out of hand.
In 2017 we did 11 events in 3 different countries (2 continents). Over the years we went to Helsinki, Cannes, Dublin, Austin & Brighton. We’ve also had over 600 people at our flagship Shoreditch events, 500 of whom bought a ticket.
While we did get new business from it, we became known as “the people behind The Tech Off”, and everyone knew The Tech Off (or claimed to). Once at a networking event a fashionable agency owner accosted me: “WOW I LOVE THE TECH OFF OMG YOU GUYS!!! I’ve never been but I LOVE IT!”.
It was bemusing, but our agency brand built alongside our crazy tech battle.
Part of the theory behind the theatrics was that the event was a parallel universe, like WWE wrestling it would be real but fake. I persuaded myself to MC it as an “asshole CEO” called MC Danimal AKA “The Beyonce of Tech” (mainly as a way of dissociating myself from the potential embarrassment). We also picked up a couple of wrestlers as security (aka The Fabulous Bakewell Boys), and our resident DJ – DJ Beefcake.
By late 2016 our motley crew had received an invitation to go to Austin, Texas for the South by South West (SXSW) festival. This was as part of a delegation hosted by the Department of Industry & Trade. Which meant we were to be the face of post-Brexit UK tech at the world’s biggest technology innovation festival. LOLs!
So I thought we should record the American proceedings on film.
Art / Life
Back in the early noughties I had a brand design firm, which helped an up & coming film maker called Dan Gordon. We designed the poster artwork for his documentary The Game Of Their Lives, a great film about the 1966 North Korean World Cup Football team. Subsequently in 2017 he won the BAFTA for Best Documentary for Hillsborough, and his doc on George Best enjoyed a UK wide cinema release.
I met Dan for coffee, picking his brains about how to shoot on the street, thinking we’d hire a local Austin film crew. As we talked around the subject Dan leaned forward and said: “this character you’ve created… I think I can do something with this.”
To which I said “what character?!”
Trump had just got into the white house, Fake News was ‘a thing’, and the world was being run by grandiose tech titans. The zeitgeist seemed to be calling for a film about an asshole tech CEO with a delusional mission based on a preposterous tech & wrestling themed event. Or so Dan assured me after speaking to some of his film contacts whilst in New York the following week.
So we agreed to take a film crew with us to Austin (via Dublin) to record the events and see what happened. And what a lot happened!
Filmed by Michael Timney (who captured Karl Pilkington on the road as An Idiot Abroad) along with “Andy the sound guy”, plus Mark Jarrett & his brother Mitchell – our location gurus on the ground in Austin (Mark had just been at the premiere of Terence Malick’s Song to Song – on which he worked – starring my wife’s crush Ryan Gosling). So we found ourselves dressed as wrestlers in Austin Texas with a legit film crew, 3 events lined up and time on our hands.
You can read more about that weekend & see the pictures here.
More filming took place at one of our Shoreditch events and also at Leeds International Festival (where a room-full of belligerent Yorkshire-Techies got a bit rowdy).
So Dan went off to the edit suite, and a pilot movie has been born.
The Tech Off: The Movie!
Based on a storyline improvised in Austin, our movie-pilot tells the story of a hapless tech startup CEO flaming his working capital in a ‘winner takes all’ trip to Texas. Hilarity ensues. It includes a chicken, gonzo stunts and Brompton Bikes.
The plan is to use the pilot to get the finance to shoot a feature comedy, and if that happens there will be a cinema release. No, really. A Producer is on board. So while this is happening we are taking a sabbatical from The Tech Off’s live events, to concentrate on our Oscar plans… oh and the business we run!
No you can’t see the pilot. #dealwithit
But you can see some stills below, keep your eyes peeled at your local multiplex:
Re-live ALL the magic
If you haven’t been to The Tech Off – what is wrong with you?! – but can at least check out previous events via the links below. Relive our classic moments!
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