Celebrated tech event Pause Fest has been cancelled indefinitely with founder George Hedon blaming a lack of support from both state and federal governments.
In a statement, Hedon said he had given it “300%” over the last 11 years, as the festival grew to attract 3,000 attendees with just a team of three staff alongside supporting suppliers and volunteers.
“I’ve been sitting on this for a very long time now and there isn’t an easy way around it,” he said.
“For the last six months, I’ve been navigating through many things, including my personal health, burnout and lockdowns.”
The festival was traditionally held at Fed Square before moving to the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre in the last in-person event in 2020, before it moved online this year.
Hedon said the social impact the festival produced for the Victorian economy was around $170 million over the last decade.
“Pause Fest 2020 delivered a world-class event over two weeks, but to break even, we had to sell thousands of reduced price tickets to Zoom fatigued worldwide audiences,” he said.
While the pandemic threw up challenges, Hedon said it was a lack of long term support on a state and federal level that was the biggest set back.
“Once you scale a festival to a certain size, you need to have strategic partnerships with the government and corporate worlds to go on, who are committed to the same vision and willing to provide long-term support,” he said.
“This is something I have not been able to obtain in this state, no matter how hard I try.
“I have sent open letters to the Prime Minister and the Victorian Premier earlier this year, and have yet to hear back.”
Hedon described running Pause Fest as “like launching a startup each year from scratch and exiting at the end”.
“The bigger the festival got, the harder it has been to grow and move forward,” he said.
“If done right, tech events in the US or EU can grow to 20,000 attendees in three to five years, but it has taken me eleven years to reach 3,000 in this marketplace.”
However, Hedon said he was open to moving the festival to another city or out of Australia altogether.
“But there needs to be a long-term strategic commitment with proper funding in place for the entire ecosystem to win,” he said.