Why We Sponsored the Coolest Unconference Ever

What happens when you put 100 like-minded creative technologists on a shuttle, transport them to an old summer camp in the middle of nowhere, and let them loose, into the wild, for one full weekend? You get the first annual Likeminds, a community-minded art and tech conference in Beacon, NY, presented by Human NYC x 1m1w1d— and sponsored by Reaction Commerce!

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We had always planned on eventually sponsoring a conference, but it wasn’t really on our radar for this year. That is, until we met Rachael Yaeger and learned more about what she had in mind for the intimate event. It was a match made in heaven.

In many ways, the vision for Likeminds matched the culture we envision for Reaction Commerce: creative, whimsical, and open, with a strong thread tied to technology and innovation. When thinking about sponsoring an event, and in particular thinking about being the lead sponsor for Likeminds, there were several things that made the partnership a no-brainer:

It Was All About the People

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We knew that the masterminds behind Likeminds, Rachael Yaeger (Human NYC) and Zach Pollakoff (1m1w1d), had the ability to pull off an organizational feat, one with an ambitious vision, under a very tight timeframe.

Beyond that, everyone who was on the list of invitees, speakers, and attendees were people we had admired from afar for a long time. It was as if our Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat feeds had come to life over one perfect, unplugged weekend IRL.

Content Matters

Signing up as a corporate sponsor, walking around a dark hotel with fluorescent lights, keeping track of an agenda full of endless panels? Not appealing to us.

The “unconference” schedule for Likeminds was a great mix of talks, food, music, and exercise, with plenty of room for meandering, meaningful conversations, and all-around serendipity. The talks were filled with inspiring content, and lasted mostly 30 minutes in length.

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As a sponsor, we were given a great opportunity to tell our story without it feeling like a sales pitch. We talked about the spirit of open source, collaboration, and community— all of which were dominant themes throughout the conference. People came up to us afterward and we had one-on-one conversations. It really felt like a movement.

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With so much talk about authenticity these days, Likeminds was a true example of speakers, sponsors, and participants being as real as it gets. Sougwen Chung, a visual artist based in New York, was a favorite. She gave a great presentation where she highlighted a thought-provoking performance piece on drawing alongside a robotic arm. Also dug Matt Daniels, who runs Polygraph, a site that publishes visual and data-driven essays around complex topics.

Location, Location, Location

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It would be a challenge to find a setting more beautiful and fitting for a weekend camp. The space came complete with a tire swing, pool, an old gymnasium where the basketball court served as the main location for talks, and tons of outdoor space. The barebones outdoorsy feel made the space itself easy to manage—sunscreen, solar charging stations, and bug spray were some minor amenities that were offered to guests on site. Oh, and refrigeration trucks for food and ice, tents, shuttle vans, tiki lighting, etc. The remote location certainly wasn’t easy from a logistics standpoint, but it was perfect for a weekend camp, as it forced everyone to unplug to some extent and focus on each other rather than screens. It was a good thing!

What We Learned

On Saturday, the projector died during one of the presentations, and we were in the middle of nowhere. That would have been a big deal at a major conference, but that day, everyone just calmly went out to the lawn instead and talked amongst each other until a new projector magically appeared. It didn’t feel like there was a huge fire that needed to be put out. Everyone sort of just figured it out.

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While we were planning for the event, the deadline felt pretty tight, especially with such lofty goals and a creatively-involving vision in mind. But if there’s one thing we took away from collaborating with Rachael and Zach, it’s this: in the end, it all works out somehow.

What’s Next

We hope there’s another Likeminds next year, whether it’s in NYC, LA, or heck— even globally! What do you think, Rachael and Zach? Let’s do it!

We don’t have any more upcoming event sponsorships planned, but we will be hosting our first ever Reaction Action meetup later this year, which will be both a physical meetup at our HQ and live-streamed for our global community. We plan to keep it pretty simple, without too many bells and whistles, but we’d still like to incorporate two of the things that made Likeminds such a huge success: the celebration of all creative fields, whether that be technology, art, design, food, or music, and of course, the good vibes, which made the whole experience so uniquely intimate, fun, and one-of-a-kind.

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All photos by Meredith Jenks for Likeminds.

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