Paysite Meetup: Catching Lightning in a Bottle

Paysite Meetup: Catching Lightning in a Bottle
Thierry Arrondo

We just completed the first XBIZ.net Paysite Meetup in Prague. We caught lightning in a bottle.

I first heard that expression from a friend who works in TV. He started in TV in the 1960s selling advertising, and he just retired last year. We were talking about the explosion of great, scripted TV programs that began with HBO and the “The Sopranos” back in the 1990s.

Lightning is wild, powerful, bright, incredible uncontained energy. No one fully understands it (we can’t predict where it strikes). It’s one of the few things that still mystifies us.

Today it seems that there are more higher-quality shows than ever. New players are adding new programming all the time. Amazon is winning Emmy Awards now. Amazon?

They all want to create the next “Sopranos.” But it’s not easy. According to my friend, who has seen every new show since the 1960s, to make a “Sopranos” is to catch lightning in a bottle.

Lightning is wild, powerful, bright, incredible uncontained energy. No one fully understands it (we can’t predict where it strikes). It’s one of the few things that still mystifies us.

Most things that happen in the world used to look like that to humans. We wanted to understand — we needed to understand — so we invented gods to explain things for us. Then we invented science. But the things that still have the power to enthrall us — like lightning — remain stubbornly outside our understanding.

Progress is about bringing these powerful phenomena into our lives in a way that helps us. It’s about trying to catch lightning in a bottle.

In 2005 two researchers from Northwestern and Stanford universities tried to figure out what made for a successful Broadway show. It is very expensive to mount a Broadway show and the failure rate is high. A sold-out show like “Hamilton” repays its investors ridiculously well. It is also rare. Most shows open and close without much fanfare.

The researchers wanted to see if they could de-risk the investment in creating a new Broadway show by finding the key factors that lead to creative success.

They looked at the composition of the team — actors, writers, makeup people, lighting experts, etc. Fortunately, they had records of the team members because every show publishes a playbill. What the researchers did was compare the thousands of shows launched between 1945 and 1989.

They found one thing that successful shows had in common. The hit shows had a team of people who had worked together on successful shows already and — this is the key part — also had new people who had not worked together before.

Shows launched by new teams of unfamiliar people failed. Experienced teams tried to replicate what had made them successful in the past and they failed, too. Only teams of people who knew each other really well and didn’t know each other at all that could catch lightning in a bottle. That was the only thing that led to predictable success.

We had no idea if the Paysite Meetup would be successful. What we did was create a format based on the Vendo Partner Conference (held each September in Barcelona for industry leaders to discuss leadership and analytics).

The format is small (fewer than 30 people), with intimate sharing (groups in circles) on topics that really matter to the people who attend. There is no selling. There is no recording. Everything shared is confidential.

But what really makes the Paysite Meetup work is the people who attend.

Like the successful Broadway plays, some attendees knew each other and others didn’t. They come to share and to learn. The format on its own would do nothing. It’s the willingness of people who have never previously met to be open about their businesses and to learn from others’ experience. That’s what makes it work.

We asked people at the end of the Paysite Meetup how they would describe it to someone who had not attended. Here’s what a few of them had to say:

“For me, the meetup was a total success. I flew in this morning and I am leaving this evening, this is maximum value for the short time spent here. The intimate setting and information sharing is just so much more productive in this format.” — Steve, Blacked

“This has been long overdue. I think the major benefit is connecting with like-minded individuals dealing with the same or similar issues and putting our heads together to find solutions to the problems that face us all today.” — Paul, DDF Networks

“I had high expectations for the meetup and most of those expectations were met. You certainly have something here. There is less noise and people talk more openly and freely.” — Mickey, LifeSelector

“I am positively impressed. It was interesting to see that many people have the same issues and coming together there is a way to solve the challenges. I would definitely come back. I would like to invite all people who work in paysites to come to the next one.” — Gian Carlo, PornDoe

“The conversations we had did not make anything feel like a competition. It felt like brainstorming and made me feel like my problems were not as big as I thought, everyone is going through it. We worked together to find tools for solutions for everyone.” — Harriet Sugarcookie

“My first reaction is that the industry was starving for an event like this. A huge amount of information was shared today. Attendees got hands on with topics that are vital to their business.” — Mitch, Vendo

That’s what lightning in a bottle sounds like. Thank you to all of the attendees that made it happen. See you at the next Paysite Meetup in Barcelona.

Thierry Arrondo is the managing director of Vendo, which develops artificial intelligence systems that allow merchants to dynamically set prices for each unique shopper.

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