The Future of PASS

2020 has been a tough year for PASS. It’s primary fund raiser – the PASS Summit – was converted to a virtual event that attracted fewer attendees and far less revenue than the in-person version. Going into the event they were projecting a budget shortfall of $1.5 million for the fiscal year ending in June of 2021 and that’s after some cost cutting. My guess is that the net revenue from the Summit will be less than projected in the revised budget, so the shortfall will increase, only partially offset by $1m in reserves. I’m writing all of that based on information on the PASS site and one non-NDA conversation with some Board members during the 2020 PASS Summit. It’s not a happy picture. If things aren’t that dire, I’d be thrilled.

I’ll pause here to say this – it doesn’t matter how we got here. The Board has to work the problem they have.

When the Board meets in November or December with a final accounting from the Summit, they will have to adjust the budget again and start talking about a 2021 budget. Big questions:

  • How much is the shortfall for 2020 and can we reduce the spend rate enough to make up the difference and have money in the bank to carry through to a prospective 2021 Summit?
  • If we have to reduce staff, which ones? Can we keep the key people that would drive the next in-person event? Can it be a furlough, or is it worse? How much notice can we give them?
  • Does PASS have the option to exit from any contracts around the in-person 2021 Summit right now without penalty, or will that be conditional based on restrictions in place due to Covid?
  • Will event insurance claims cover any of the revenue gap in 2020?
  • Even if a vaccine is being distributed, does PASS bet-it-all on an in-person event in 2021? What’s the minimum attendee number needed to generate net revenue equivalent to the 2020 Virtual Summit and is that number possible?
  • Where could PASS find bridge funding? Government grants, credit line, advances on sponsor fees, cash infusion from Microsoft, selling seats on the Board to a very large company or two, selling off intellectual property (the mailing list, SQLSaturday & groups, maybe the store of recorded content). Note that I’m not saying I like any of those options and there may be others, but the question is one that needs to be asked.
  • What can be done to start marketing the 2021 Summit now? Can we make the decision to go virtual again right now and move on that?
  • What can be done to increase the perceived value of PASS Pro and/or the subscription rate? Should work on that project continue?
  • Is bankruptcy an option that needs to be explored? How much will it cost to retain counsel to get us through that?

I’m hoping we’ll get clear and candid messaging from the Board before the end of December on the financial state and go forward plans. As much as I’d like to see public discussion before that’s decided, I don’t think there is time – that’s why I’m writing this. If you’ve got an idea that addresses the core problems, now is the time to share it.