UPDATE: Octane Postpones Tech Innovation Forum. Fighting Fear With Daily Monitoring and Taking It One Day at a Time…

How do you handle something fraught with uncertainty and ambiguity? Ask any entrepreneur and they’ll likely say you stay nimble, you monitor the data and you take precautionary measures as necessary.

So, what happens when a pandemic comes along that disrupts the way companies do business, especially in terms of public events?

You do the same thing an entrepreneur would do. And, ideally do this, way ahead of scheduled events.

That’s precisely what Octane decided to do this week, when it announced it’s postponing its annual, signature event, the Technology Innovation Forum, from May to September.

Octane gave two month’s notice, in contrast to how Roth Capital Partners handled its upcoming conference. Roth just announced on Tuesday that its annual signature conference, which starts Sunday, would shift to a virtual format instead of in-person.

Octane’s forum — formally known as TIF and rebranded as the Tech Innovation Forum —  will now take place September 10-11 at the original location — AV Irvine. All sponsorships and registrations will be transferred to this new date.

With the virus like a shape-shifting ninja with no one knowing what precisely to expect, Octane CEO Bill Carpou decided to “err on the side of caution.”

“We thought it was important to move it back a few months,” Carpou said. “This (coronavirus) may or may not pass by May.”

“You have to be fluid,” he added. “We’re trying to be thoughtful, basing decisions off of facts and keep the safety of our employees, members and sponsors at the forefront.”

Predictive Analytics
Facts, in this case are more like predictive analytics, since so little is known about exactly how and when the coronavirus will spread in the U.S. And, Octane, the organization, is now personifying the attributes of Octane’s accelerator, known as LaunchPad, which prides itself on the use of predictive analytics.

Carpou said he gets the most up-to-date guidelines and advisories on the coronavirus from JP Morgan and Bank of America. And, he monitors how other OC companies are handling large events.

Carpou said everyone involved in presenting TIF was on board with the rescheduling, and would work with a sense of continued “urgency” as if it were still happening in May.

What’s Critical Now
Communication is key right now, Carpou said, in light of how quickly everything is happening.

Since news and advisories about the coronavirus are disseminated either daily, or a few times a day, it can be challenging to keep up.

And, Octane’s decision is in line with state guidelines.

Yesterday, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued guidelines strongly discouraging large groups from gathering. He recommended the cancellation of gatherings of 250 or more people to prevent the spread of coronavirus, unless the event is small or deemed essential.

Carpou said he prefaces all predictions on the coronavirus by saying, “We don’t know. This could be (better) or worse in a matter of days. We need to deal with this on a day-by-day basis.”

And, startups, for one, should be more agile to deal with the vagaries of this pandemic, especially in terms of their own employees, Carpou said.

“If you’re a company and you’ve got 3,000 people in your office building and are taking up five floors in the Spectrum, for example, and your employees travel all over the place domestically and internationally, you have a whole other set of issues to deal with vs a five-to-eight person startup that’s basically working in Irvine,” he said.

And, VC investors haven’t panicked yet, he added.

“Startups are a little more immune. There’s surplus capital, a lot of cash available. We haven’t seen any evidence yet of any investors saying we won’t invest because of the coronavirus.”

In Contrast to Roth
Roth Capital Partners just announced it was changing the format of its annual conference next week (March 15-17), to a virtual conference format. Roth is a small privately-held investment banking firm with HQ in Newport Beach. It specializes in providing services to small cap, publicly-listed companies. See the release here.

Money At Stake
Carpou acknowledged that annual events like the tech forum are a big source of revenue for Octane. But, safety comes first, he said.

“This is our lifeblood,” he said. “But we have to be thoughtful and keep safety top of mind.”

He hopes pushing it out to September will yield equal or greater participation.

“And, that (potential attendees) will respect and understand the level of transparency.”

Keeping Employees Safe
Octane is also making a concerted effort to keep its employees safe. Its current landlord, TechSpace, in Aliso Viejo, is taking its own precautions to keep everyone in the building safe.

Octane is not letting non-employees into its own office space, opting instead to hold meetings with clients in the lobby or conference rooms. Octane is also giving employees the option to work remotely.

Smaller events are being postponed or canceled for the short-term.

And, Octane is ceasing all air travel for non-essential meetings and conferences.

About The Author

Deirdre Newman is a long-time journalist, who's covered OC startups for a few years.

You don't have permission to register