Whose Fault Was the Fyre Festival? (Hint: It Wasn’t Just Billy)

Updated: Jul 3, 2019


Photo by Michał Bielejewski on Unsplash

If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend taking some time to watch Netflix’s new documentary “Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened.” It’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the disastrous attempted music festival that was meant to be the next Coachella. You’ll get to hear interviews from staff members, attendees, and others involved in both the lead up to the festival and its aftermath (let’s just say things didn’t end well for its lead man, Billy McFarland).


There are a lot of things you can take away from this documentary, such as the incredible power of social media when wielded effectively, but the biggest thing that has stuck with me was this: how in the world was Billy allowed to take his concept so far? Why was it that the venture capital world and the entrepreneurship community believed in him so fully without any proof? Why did they miss all the red flags?


Honestly, I feel a little bit like the nerd in the back of the classroom who’s angry that the cool kid is able to pull so many stunts to the praise of everyone before finally getting called out, but I think it’s still a good question for us to ask in the entrepreneurship space: what are we funding? Who are we celebrating? And why?


Is it possible that Billy’s effective use of charisma and flash inspired everyone to call him brilliant and give him millions of dollars when he was building something so flimsy you couldn’t even really call it a house of cards?


I think it’s worth stepping back and thinking critically about which companies impress us, and what we prioritize when we’re building our own companies.


You’ve probably heard a variation of this phrase: “Revenue is vanity. Profit is sanity. Cash is king.” Vanity metrics like revenue and followers and clicks make us think a company is successful, but it takes a second look to see what a company’s really made of.


This movie inspired me to look for a different kind of hero - to appreciate the fearless, charismatic visionary, but also to actively look for and model my company after healthy, well-founded, well-run businesses that last for decades or even generations.


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