The First Affiliate Summit Was 20 Years Ago Today ⋆


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My life changed in a big way twenty years ago today. It was the first Affiliate Summit that I organized with Missy Ward and it took place at Baruch College in New York City on November 3, 2003.

Pulling the whole thing together happened pretty fast. We chatted on the phone about trying to start a conference and registered on May 19, 2003.

The original goal was to put on a conference on a cruise in 2004, but we decided to do a small event before that to get the name out there and build a list.

I heard about an opportunity at Baruch College, which was a few blocks from where I worked at the time, and I went over to speak with them. We were able to get a room for 200 with chairs, tables, A/V, etc. for free in exchange for giving some passes to their marketing students.

That was perfect since we didn’t have money. If it wasn’t for that free spot from Baruch, the rise of Affiliate Summit may never have happened.

Affiliate Summit 2003 bag

In the months we had to set up out first conference, we called in favors from friends to staff the event, and did everything very primitive. All sales went through my PayPal account and confirmation emails for people who registered were manually pasted from a Word doc and sent from our emails.

Industry friends volunteered to be speakers and we got a bunch of friends with companies to “sponsor” it (we didn’t charge them, so we would have a bunch of “sponsors” out of the gate).

We scheduled it on the first day of the ad:tech conference in New York, which was a huge event at the time, so we could capitalize on people coming into town, and we set a low price point ($75 for all day and lunch).

Our only expenses were lunch and printing for the day, and with ticket sales we broke even but became rich in industry reputation for Affiliate Summit.

Affiliate Summit 2003 was a sell-out a handful of days before. We had a dozen or so people show up hoping to attend, and we quietly loved that we couldn’t fit them, because it created a buzz and demand when we started promoting our next event.

Networking lunch at Affiliate Summit 2003

So many things worked out just right and propelled us into a dream that lasted nearly two decades.

Check out photos from Affiliate Summit 2003.

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