Naked City

Port of No Return?

Naked City

Port Austin, the turbo-hyped "national broadband expo" where "suits, boots, and techies" were supposed to collectively "plug into the future of broadband content and technology," has been unplugged, at least for now.

It seems the founders of the high tech conference, scheduled for Nov. 9-11, spent plenty of time and energy gathering sponsors -- nearly 50 of them, including the Chamber of Commerce and Cox Enterprises, which owns major Port hyper the Austin American-Statesman -- but didn't manage to round up enough paying conferees to make it worth backers' "millions and millions" in cash and in-kind donations. That's according to FG Squared founder Jason Fellman, whose Web design and marketing company was a major financial backer and sponsor of the event. "The bottom line is, we didn't have enough paid attendees," says Fellman, who declined to elaborate on how many had signed up to attend. "We felt we had to make a judgment call. Was it the right thing to do? We'll see."

Port Austin was sunk, Fellman continues, by two factors: not enough money and way too little time. In retrospect, "We should have been given a full year to plan." Instead, conference backers started pounding the pavement last March, which gave them just eight months to secure funding, sponsors, speakers, and a vision for the inaugural version of what was to be a yearly event showcasing Austin's friendly business climate and "hip" high tech culture. (Other events scheduled in conjunction with Port Austin, including the Austin Software Council's Texas Software Symposium, Origin System's Ultima Online World Faire, and the University of Texas' Entertainment Law and Technology Conference, will go on.)

Did that other annual multimedia event have anything to do with Port Austin's millennial misfire? Fellman insists South by Southwest "absolutely was not" a factor; but the comparisons, he admits, started flying faster than you could say "obsolescence." Fellman says the only similarity between the two events is that "both have to do with multimedia. God forbid there should be two multimedia events in this town."

If Port Austin backers have anything to say about it, there still will be -- not this year, clearly, but maybe next. Right now, they're regrouping and weighing their options -- and their liabilities. If enough of this year's backers get back onboard for another go-round -- questionable in the case of the gun-shy city and Chamber but by no means implausible -- you might start seeing billboards for Port Austin 2001 about this time next year.

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    Daryl Slusher debates Max Nofziger on light rail; Garnet Coleman fights with Hugo Berlanga at the St. Louis presidential debate; Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins support a soft money campaign for Ralph Nader; the Statesman buries a Bush funeral scandal story.

    Naked City

    In response to East Austinites' outrage, Danny Thomas comes out against the light rail referendum.

    Naked City

    A pipeline explosion in North Austin raises questions about Longhorn Pipeline's plan to run gas through a 50-year-old pipeline across the Edwards Aquifer.

    Naked City

    Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs board member Florita Bell Griffin goes on trial for allegedly conspiring to benefit from housing projects she approved.
  • Naked City

    Austin Adopt-a-Minefield is struggling to raise enough money to clear Praca, a village in Bosnia, of land mines.

    Naked City

    Former TFSC head Dick McNeil testifies that he talked to Governor George W. Bush about the ongoing investigation into funeral giant SCI, a statement that contradicts Bush's sworn testimony on the matter.

    Naked City

    What's coming up at City Council.

    Naked City

    CAMPO undergoes the peer review study sought by anti-light rail activists, but the results turn out quite differently than the road warriors expected.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Erica C. Barnett
<i>Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery</i> – an Excerpt
Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery – an Excerpt
In this chapter from her book, Erica C. Barnett describes the point when her life became a shrinking circle

July 10, 2020

No Commitment Necessary
No Commitment Necessary
As the Economy Takes a Dive, Many High Tech Workers Find Themselves Stuck on the Temping Treadmill

March 9, 2001


Port Austin, Chamber of Commerce, Cox Enterprises, FG Squared, Jason Fellman, South By Southwest

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle