OZY Fest, the unique music and ideas festival often described as “TED meets Coachella,” went virtual this past weekend for the first time and smashed records. More than 1 million people watched from over 50 different countries. The lineup of guests included Mark Cuban, Malcolm Gladwell, H.E.R., Condoleezza Rice, Katty Kay, Sevyn Streeter, Tig Notaro and more.
During the festival, participants repeatedly broke news, including Cuban ruling out running for office, Dr. Anthony Fauci suggesting an HIV vaccine is close, H.E.R. revealing that she, Zendaya and Kehlani almost formed a supergroup, former Secretary of State Rice commending former President Trump’s policies, and more.
This year’s OZY Fest is the fifth one put on by the young media company whose focus has always been on the New + the Next. “I knew we had great content — from a live dating show hosted by Big Freedia, to stirring discussions on cryptocurrency featuring Jim Cramer and The Bachelor’s Matt James, to cooking demos from Tom Colicchio, but I didn’t realize it would resonate with the audience quite so much,” says Carlos Watson, CEO of OZY. “Seeing the international draw and hearing such great feedback from everyone from advertising executives to HBCU students really helped me see the impact virtual events can have. Along with going back to our live in-person events, I think there’s a lot of good things we can move forward with digitally.”
In addition to the reach, the festival raised money for historically black colleges and universities via partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). Dr. Michael Lomax, CEO of UNCF, was a featured panelist at the event.