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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Aug. 5, 201412:00 PM EST

One Spark 2015 changes: More money, more categories, more time

by: Marilyn Young

More is the word of the day for One Spark 2015.

More days for the festival.

More categories for entries.

More money for creators.

More food (and beer) for visitors.

Executive Director Joe Sampson said those changes are ways to continue making creators the epicenter of the experience.

The changes were announced this morning at a news conference. Details can be found on the festival’s website,

For three months, One Spark analyzed online surveys from creators and information gathered during a forum in July. Sampson said there were 10 projects from each category represented at the forum.

One of the creators’ suggestions was their desire to see the annual Speaker Series, which occurred during the time they were manning their exhibits.

So, next year, the festival will begin Wednesday, April 7, with the Speaker Summit being held during the day at the Florida Theatre. After that is the opening ceremony at Hemming Plaza. Sampson described it as “the opening ceremony of years past meets a concert meets a really, really big party” that will include a yet-to-be-named big act.

The creators will showcase their projects April 8-12 in a footprint that will now include City Hall, the Duval County Courthouse and storefronts on Hogan Street.

The food village will increase from two blocks to four and there will be two beer stations on opposite ends of the footprint.

A big change includes an increase in prize money. Next year, the festival will guarantee $350,000 in crowdfunds and cash awards, Sampson said.

Several prizes will increase to $15,000 from the $10,000 offered this year: top vote-getters in each category, juried awards for each category and the project that receives the most individual contributions through the One Spark website or app.

Creators also will be able to offer rewards for different levels of contributions, much like on Kickstarter and RocketHub, Sampson said.

A $5,000 prize added this year will go to a project based in Jacksonville that an independent juror determines could have the biggest local impact. It’s a way, Sampson said, of reiterating that One Spark is a Jacksonville project.

“It was born here, Jacksonville is home of One Spark and always will be,” Sampson said.

One Spark will be adding education and “social good” categories, while eliminating the innovation category.

Sampson said One Spark received “major feedback” about the innovation category, which featured projects that ranged from new technology to nonprofits. It was a competition, he said, that could match an entrepreneur against a college.

Sampson is excited about the social good category. “We could see the next TOMS,” he said, referring to the shoe company that donates a pair of shoes for every pair purchased. Since 2006, the company has donated 10 million pairs of shoes, according to its website.

“There could be an enterprise that is going to make money but also do good and somehow give back and change the world,” he said.

The Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership will sponsor the prize money in the education category.

Sampson raved about the huge turnout for last year’s inaugural EdSpark, which featured education projects in the Wells Fargo Center. “Anytime I checked in on it, it was packed,” he said.

The changes, Sampson said, show One Spark’s dedication to growth and scale.

“We’re just a startup ourselves still trying to help some other startups,” he said. “We’re steadily improving but keeping our core values and the reason we were founded in mind.”

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