It is hard to describe what George Hedon does in just one word. He is a designer, a DJ, a creator, an entrepreneur – the list goes on.
Hedon has been promoting and organising design and DJ gigs since he was just 14 years old and he has played for urban Melbourne cafes to massive festivals like Exit in Europe. He has also worked for major brands like Puma, Sony PSP, Heineken and The Body Shop, to name just a few. Prior to founding Australia’s Pause Fest, Hedon was working at Leo Burnett in Belgrade, where he was in charge of the whole creative department for the entire region.
In that role, Hedon was in charge of conducting events for anywhere between 400 and 10,000 people across multiple cities.
“Under my lead, we developed conceptual event experiences that got the whole city on the edge each time,” says Hedon. “I created and worked on everything from the concept to the final event delivery, from the flyer invite to the interior design, consulted furniture building and designed true brand experience. In 2008, I did one of my most notable exhibits called ‘The White House Project’ as part of the Belgrade Design week, which attracted many local TV stations and comments from couple of great designers such as Stefan Sagmeister and Karim Rashim.”
It was just a short six years ago that Hedon left leading creative teams for others and decided to launch Pause Fest, an annual festival based in Melbourne that promotes and celebrates creativity, technology, and entrepreneurship.
Hedon saw an opportunity to bring together a new breed of thinkers and doers in the world’s most liveable city. The first event came at a time when the Australian startup scene was just beginning to really take off, and it has since attracted that particular niche of people that are driven by passion and purpose.
What drives Hedon to grow this event each year is the atmosphere and effect generated when you create a space where people from different industries can converge and share their skills and knowledge and have an opportunity to ‘pause’. This outlook has seen Pause Fest become the premier creative tech conference and festival in the Asia-Pacific region.
In fact, it is one of the many reasons that brands and startups choose to launch new products or new ventures at the conference. Companies like Canva, For The People, BSchool, and Tractor School are all examples of companies that have used the platform to declare themselves open to the masses.
“I wanted to collaborate with the like-minded and passionate people on the super awesome projects that have meaning and no clients,” says Hedon. “A pure creativity gave me the desire to start connecting with the people in the know that shared the same ethos.”
There were a number of challenges in the early years that Hedon faced, none more so than the general lack of belief in the concept he was trying to bring to the world.
“No one believes you until you prove them wrong,” says Hedon. “Since the conference/festival happens only once a year and it requires loads of different skills, resources, and budgets, it’s been an artform trying to get it all working together. I’m very stubborn and focused at the same time, so I didn’t want to quit after six months even though I lost loads of money on the first event. I stuck to my guns and kept exploring ‘the concept of the festival’ each year in a different way.”
Interestingly, Hedon never intended Pause Fest to become a festival. The original concept was meant to be an elaborate interactive exhibition with DJs vs VJs for a one night only show, but somehow things took a very different direction.
“I pivoted at the point when I realised that we couldn’t afford what we wanted to do, so we set ourselves a goal to organise 20 events spread around the city instead,” says Hedon. “The next thing I know is that I’m running a digital festival with the conference on the glass bridge of Melbourne’s Central Shopping Centre connecting what’s now known as the Emporium.”
This year at the festival there will be a startup-focused expo that will run across the Thursday and Friday. Over the years, startups have taken a more front and centre position at the festival, particularly as new technology companies have begun to place Melbourne on the map as a technology centre.
“I was doing a project about the street culture in 2004 and I noticed that the stencil art was going to become huge in Melbourne. I did a book about the early days of the Stencil Art and my girlfriend, at the time, did the video documentary,” says Hedon. “Stencil art really put Melbourne on the global map and similarly now I’m noticing startups doing the same thing. Five years ago no one was using the word ‘startup’ and there were no meetups. Nowadays the city is thriving with knowledge exchange and networking events every day of the week. I’m really loving the vibe in Melbourne.”
Pause Fest 2016 will take place at Federation Square on the 8th – 14th of February 2016. Tickets can be purchased here.