SaaStr, the venture firm that puts on the largest conference for SaaS companies, postponed its SaaStr Annual 2020 conference today amid concerns from local and national officials around large gatherings in light of the COVID-19 virus. The event was scheduled to take place next week.
On March 5th, Santa Clara County issued updated guidelines that included, "[Minimizing] the number of employees working within arm’s length of one another, including minimizing or canceling large in-person meetings and conferences."
Company founder Jason Lemkin said his team was prepared to go forward and had put stringent safeguards in place. "We put in place health and safety measures no one else in the industry equaled, but once the County made its statement, we needed to reschedule," he told TechCrunch.
They outlined the health guidelines for the event in an article on the company website earlier this week, including not allowing anyone from a hot zone to attend, passport checks to enforce that, temperature checks and more. As Lemkin tweeted:
A reminder: we've designed SaaStr Annual to have the more stringent health & safety events of any event:
- no handshakes
- wash before every session
- thermal scanning
- lower density, & comfortable spaces for calm discussions
— Jason ✨#SaaStrftw✨ Lemkin 🦄 (@jasonlk) March 2, 2020
The event will now be folded into the company's fall conference, which they say will be even bigger now, while replacing the company's annual Scale conference. "Following that [guidance from Santa Clara County] and guidance from the CDC, and the growing escalation of the Covid-19 outbreak around the world and in the United States, SaaStr Annual must now be rescheduled and merged with our existing fall event into a new, less formal 'SaaStr Bi-Annual' to take place in September 2020," the company wrote in a statement.
Lemkin expressed frustration with authorities today on Twitter about the lack of leadership on this:
Where was leadership from cities & convention centers?
Why did everyone ignore us weeks back and mock us when we asked for help?
There is a lot of noise today and I think it is very possible to put on an event far safer than Disneyland or the airport
But not without leadership
— Jason ✨#SaaStrftw✨ Lemkin 🦄 (@jasonlk) March 6, 2020
The event included some of the biggest names in SaaS, from Jennifer Tejada of PagerDuty and Aaron Levie of Box and many more. It's an event that's designed to help SaaS companies of all sizes discuss the issues facing them, in one place, with panels, interviews and sessions. Many other tech conferences are being cancelled as well, including SXSW.