SAN FRANCISCO – As the Bay Area-based Grateful Dead once sang, "What a long, strange trip it's been." Cybernet Expo is the "little show that could," celebrating 12 years with its upcoming 2009 event, set for June 25-27 at the Golden Gateway Hotel in San Francisco.
Coming fully under the aegis of industry resource site and community YNot.com last year, with partners Jay Kopita and Connor Young holding the reins, the show has grown, taking on a character of its very own that makes it stand out among other annual adult industry gatherings.
"Cybernet Expo is now in its 12th year and has only undergone one name change and one management change over the years," said Kopita, vice president of YNOT and director of operations for Cybernet Expo. "When Fay Sharp and Dave Gould launched it as Adult Dex back in the mid to late-‘90s, there were no other adult shows with a similar focus in existence. I really enjoyed the show back in 2002 when I attended it for the first time. It was in Montreal that year and I actually fell in love with that city as well. The following year I took over the production of the seminars and then the following year after that I took over as director of operations and the show was moved to San Diego."
"I like to consider Cybernet Expo as an 'outward extension’ of YNot and how we do business when explaining the show to people who might not be in the know," Kopita told AVN.com. "The bottom line is I attribute our longevity to a few years of solid branding, great ROI to sponsors and attendees year after year, a serious business clientele attendance, and really just for the fact that we really bust our ass to make the show the best we can for business year in and out."
Young, YNot Network president, told AVN.com that in producing Cybernet, they've always stayed focused on its unique appeal.
"We've never tried to be more than what it is, never tried to make it the biggest show in the industry, never tried to compete with InterNext," said Young. "We've always been smaller show, and we're not trying to pretend we're the biggest player in the trade show circuit -- we happily concede that to AVN and InterNext."
"We've always kept it as a nice alternative event and kept the size reasonable," Young added. "Because it costs less than a lot of other shows, people come away having a ton of business, having learned new things, met new people and have had a positive experience and haven't broken the bank in order to do it."
With a shifting economy and ever-changing adult industry, the YNot pair has taken several steps to keep Cybernet going.
"Keeping tabs on the direction of the industry, what the serious business people are looking for, as well as offering my own personal touch have always been at the forefront of my approach to the show,"
Kopita said. "We have innovated how exhibiting at smaller shows isn't as necessary as it used to be, as well as how seminar series should be handled. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then our competitors must really, really love us."
Maintaining a show in the current economic climate has definitely been a challenge.
"It's not easy," Kopita admits. "But then again, we are fighters and innovators here so we have years of experience dealing with one tough time or another to keep us on our toes."
Young speaks frankly when it comes to the subject of perhaps too many shows now on the adult industry's annual calendar.
"I start adding them all up: InterNext, Phoenix Forum, Atlanta, four Webmaster Access shows, not even touching on European shows and so on. I don't know if I can think of an industry that has that many shows. It's not big enough," Young said. "With get-togethers, parties, networking opportunities, one can do quite a bit. If the industry wants to continue quality, there are only so many sponsors, people who can make that happen and you divide it up, then it's hard to put in the kind of quality that people expect from a show."
Kopita's not sure there's show overload, but did observe, “It's when people get greedy and don't work with the other shows that it starts causing problems. There are TONS of mainstream tech shows out there and enough of the pie to go around."
"I would only say that there are too many shows in adult that are parties and not trade shows," he said. "If more people presented themselves for what they really are, then again, there would be enough to go around as it were."
One thing Cybernet's runners aren't thrilled with is industry trade XBiz backing up its show from July to June, which has long been the expo's spot on the adult biz calendar.
"To be honest with you, we weren't very pleased when XBiz announced they were moving their show onto our spot. I can't think of another example of a major show in recent years pulling a move like that," Kopita said.
"With the state of things in the industry right now it makes more sense for companies to help each other out as opposed to thinning out everyone's bottom line because no one wins in a situation like this."
Young agrees, calling it a "very aggressive move" on the part of the trade pub company.
"I can't think of another example of one major show doing that to another show. We've been around 12 years, full-entrenched in that spot, everybody knew," Young said. "The reason they gave for moving the show is the weather and there's really a difference of 3 degrees or so. I was surprised by it, disappointed by it at the same time."
"We take a different approach with our show: It's not about parties. We do have parties, but the focus really is business and networking, learning our craft and learning our trade," Young said. "That's the big difference between the two shows and it won't be a problem."
As recently reported by AVN.com, this year's Cybernet Expo will include special workshop classes of sorts with one speaker/instructor, in addition to the usual panel seminars and discussions.
Cybernet Expo continues to stand out as a small family-like operation, the way it began a dozen years back. Kopita said its part of what makes the event special.
"The fact that the show has always been produced by only a few people has always given it a family-ish feel. Fay and Dave did it all by themselves in the early days and really had the true 'mom and pop' feel about them," he said. "In an industry that was dominated by 20-somethings at the time and for the most part only mainstream-looking models, it was refreshing to have people that could have been your parents running a successful adult trade show. This image has endured all these years and hopefully will continue as such. If the younger generation of models and other business people wish to refer to Connor and myself as their 'two dads,' then so be it."