Event Innovators 2014: Kara Swisher & Walt Mossberg

The founders of the new Code Conference are giving tech events a reboot.

By Alesandra Dubin June 17, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

Kara Swisher & Walt Mossberg, co-founders, Re/code & The Code Conference

Photos: Billy Cole/Orange Photography (Swisher), Vjeran Pavic/Orange Photography (Mosberg)

Walt Mossberg, 67, and Kara Swisher, 51, tech journalism and event pioneers and co-creators of D: All Things Digital, secured a winning formula with the high-profile conference, consistently selling out The Wall Street Journal event that launched in 2003. And now after a much-publicized split with the Journal this past fall, the two appear to be on their way to another slam dunk.

In January the duo launched the tech news and analysis website Re/code, owned by new independent media company Revere Digital L.L.C., and have already sold out the brand’s debut event, the Code Conference, which took place in late May at Southern California’s Terranea Resort. Additional conferences in California’s Half Moon Bay and in New York are also on tap this year.

Regarding the reboot of their previous success, Mossberg says, “The most exciting part has been to take a highly successful event—both journalistically and financially—and envision ways to make it feel fresh.”

“Some think the future is all online—I disagree. I am all for streaming if the model works, but we believe in human interaction and high quality.”

The biggest challenges have been to retain the conference’s audience and caliber of speakers “and to refresh the event without losing the core format and ambiance that made it successful,” he says. “I’m happy to say that we had so many great speakers for this first in the new series, we had to stop recruiting them.”

Mossberg says wrangling attendees and sponsors wasn’t a problem: the conference sold out in mere hours, despite a name change and a price increase. At press time, the event had a long waiting list and “exceeded [its] sponsorship target.”

As for the future of live events beyond the Code Conference, Mossberg says it’s all about face-to-face interaction and meaningful networking. “Some think the future is all online—I disagree. I am all for streaming if the model works, but we believe in human interaction and high quality,” he says. “That means no large panels, no endless tracks or breakout sessions. Instead, it’s major figures in unrehearsed interviews and audience Q&A, all in a plenary session—and attracting a high-quality audience that makes networking immensely valuable.”

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