This afternoon, PASS announced that their operations will cease in January:
We are saddened to tell you that, due to the impact of COVID-19, PASS is ceasing all regular operations, effective January 15, 2021. We encourage you to take full advantage of any access that you have to PASS content between now and January 15, 2021. After that point, PASS servers will cease to function and members will no longer be able to access any PASS resources. So, in the meantime, you can watch sessions on our website, and download session recordings that you’ve purchased or that you have access to as a PASS Pro member. Please take full advantage of this exclusive content while you can.
For perspective on the financial numbers involved, read the final board meeting minutes (PDF):
Tim outlined the outstanding debt as 1.87M with a total potential deficit of $3.2M. There is also future hotel and convention center cancellation fees at around $6M over the next 5 years. Tim presented the PASS Executive’s recommendation outlining that with the magnitude of debt, no cash on hand, nor forecasted in person event for revenue generation, PASS has no choice but to move forward with insolvency.
There’s going to be a lot of discussion around this over the coming days: folks will be mourning what’s lost, working together to save the community’s resources like the videos and the chapter lists, and planning new communities.
It’s too soon for me to have any written thoughts together, but I let y’all post questions for me, and I answered them from vacation:
I will sorely miss this Industry Benefit
2020 just needs to … die!
So sorry to hear this. A great organization. Many fond memories. Hopefully, something new will rise from the ashes to continue the traditions and educate the old and the new.
I thought they were making a profit out of this, where did all the money go? I will still have the memory of attending, if you never did, you miss a lot of fun learning.
Completely agree with your marketing comment. Microsoft is systematically removing content which is relevant to supporting my on-premise real world, in the hope that we will be able to convince our employers (over whom we have no influence) to spend more money, reinventing our systems online. Will really miss the Archive videos from PASS. A wealth of knowledge that there is no incentive for anyone to replace.
Sadly, couldn’t agree more!
The PDF lists contractual encumbrances – AKA I.O.Us. I did not see security, insurance, cleaning, office space, catering and other expenditures. The litigations for not meeting promised obligations are real.
As for money “Not for profit” have IRS obligations limiting cash carry over.
The training / experiance need and benefit are real and still there. Post COVID a different body will have to start up. PASS must end or we all chip in to cover the $6M dollar bills. The hotels, cleaning crews, transportation, audio visual, lighting crews will suffer more than us. We lose a convention – thousands loose their gig or their job.
Stand by; stand ready so post COVID we restart. PC-PASS can work. It is needed and it is good.
I read the board of directors final minutes. It was discouraging. I’m disappointed that Microsoft did not step up and throw PASS a life preserver. I have to question Microsoft’s long-term commitment to SQL Server. Does anybody else feel that way?
No. Microsoft shareholders should not bail out an independent corporation that has millions of dollars in debt. Microsoft should focus on making SQL Server a great product. It’s up to the community to build something around that.
Bennett – Microsoft has thrown PASS millions of dollars of life preservers over the years.
I hope Microsoft pays to keep the PASS Servers online so the training is not lost. It’s in Microsoft’s interest to keep free training available.
Mike – I think it would probably make more sense for the videos to be moved to YouTube for free forever so that a company wouldn’t have to keep servers on. However, the videos are one of PASS’s few assets, so it’s likely that they’ll go up for sale during the bankruptcy proceedings.
It’s an odd situation, though, because the videos are kinda tainted. If a company tried to monetize them by selling them, the community would be up in arms, and that company would instantly get a terrible reputation. Plus, the videos have never really been organized well in terms of a learning path or keywords, and the script resources & slides have been haphazardly organized, and the videos start drifting out of date the moment they’re recorded.
The videos are in an odd value space: there are so many of ’em that someone’s going to THINK they’re worth money, but it’ll be so hard to extract money from them that they’re not really worth enough to bid for.
What about all the SQL Saturday Collateral downloads?
I’m not sure what your question is – can you rephrase it?
thats going away too?
George – yes, I don’t know how to make this any more clear: the entire organization is going away.
It really sad that PASS is ending. I wish they had let the SQL server user community know what was going on financially. Maybe if they had asked for donations from us in the community we could have had the ability to save it or do a gofundme. Something like a $20+ per person (about the cost of a single lunch cost) from 100k people (1/3 of the advertised number of members) would have given them at least $2 million.
Chris – essentially, that’s what the PASS Pro membership was.
They couldn’t really communicate that clearly because if they’d have said, “We’re about to go broke unless 100K of you give us $20,” because that also tells customers, “You may not get anything for your money because we may go broke, and we won’t be able to give you refunds.” That scares off customers.
It’s too bad PASS did such a poor job of marketing the benefits of the Pro membership. A lot more could have been done to communicate the value of the Pro membership. A blog post and a single web page with a high-level description just doesn’t cut it.
Yeah I agree with Brent’s and your comments, I honestly didn’t know what Pass Pro was when it was mentioned in August. Pass and SQL Saturday were main drivers for me wanting to learn more and learning new information about SQL Server. Hopefully a viable replacement will be available whenever the world gets back to normal… whenever that happens.
Robert – COVID hit fairly quickly. Until that point, PASS was expecting that their annual conference would pay the bills. They came up with the Pro membership a little hurriedly, and I’ll be honest: there just wasn’t value in the Pro membership, nothing to market. They had to scramble to try to MAKE value.
The easiest thing to throw in the Pro membership was access to the Summit recordings for the current year, but … now you see where the problems start. Since the new Summit hadn’t happened yet, there wasn’t anything new to sell. If data professionals had wanted access to six-month-old recordings, they could have bought ’em six months ago when they were already up for sale.
They did a good job of marketing the benefits. The problem was that there just weren’t enough benefits to justify the price tag. It wasn’t like you were missing marketing – you were missing product.
I have to agree with Chris. If PASS had been honest about their financial situation and simply asked the 300,000+ members that it boasts for a little help I believe the community would have responded. PASS is a not-for-profit corporation – it can accept donations and those donations are tax deductible.
Indeed, if we all gave 20 bucks
The tax deductible stuff is true of 501c3 organizations, and at one time PASS was pursuing that classification, but it’s not clear that they ever completed that goal. As far as I know, they’re still just a not for profit organization.
Yeah, I believe you’re right. I realized after I stated that, that they’re a not-for-profit, not a non-profit. I had found a non-profit on the IRS search site that I thought matched, but now think that must be a local group.
I’ll stand by my other comments though. While PASS did reach out to local groups to state the urgency of getting people signed up for the Virtual Summit, it seemed to me that they didn’t continue that effort to the groups and general membership. Maybe their hands were tied with legal red tape, but I feel they should have come right out and said “Hey, we won’t make it another year if we can’t raise $X by Y date. Would you please consider donating $20, $50, $100?” And maybe reached out more specifically to user groups explaining the benefit of hosting their websites and providing an event platform including SQL Saturday and how much it might cost them if they had to do it on their own and see if local groups would donate back $100. Or even if it was give us $50 now to keep us afloat and we’ll give you $50 off at a future conference when we’re back on our feet.
Looks like you’re saved from further comments by my dog. He’s looking at me whining, telling me he needs to go out and do his thing…
John – yeah, like I talk about a little in the video, if PASS would have signaled that they were about to run out of money, most folks wouldn’t have donated cash – knowing it was just going to go to pay off millions of dollars of debt. They weren’t short by $1M, they were short by multiple millions of dollars.
The problem is that there is no download link available for attendees.
I signed up for SQL Saturday Vienna after the announcement came out. Here is an excerpt of a response I received from them:
As a local user group, we are financially and legally independent from the PASS headquarters and will therefore continue our operations and our engagement to the community. Our local community meetings will continue as usual next year and our SQLSaturday (virtual) conference will take place on January 15th 2021 as well as the the Power Platform Bootcamp on Feburary, 19th (see registration links below)
As we make use of some PASS tooling for member administration, homepage and mailing we need to switch to different platforms for that purpose beginning of next year.
The registration links they mentioned were not included, but the important point is that local user groups and SQL-Saturday-type events will not necessarily be destroyed by the PASS dissolution. (This was Brent’s expectation in his video.)
It’s the second and third paragraphs that are the excerpt. My quoting attempt didn’t work.
It’s a heartbreaker to hear this impacting such a great organization; I really hope that they can bounce back from this reshaped to suit the paradigm shift based on how companies and organizations of all walks have had to since the pandemic rear3d its ugly head. I agree that the high cost was a contributor to marginal streamed format revenues format the PASS Summit and overall pricing should be much lower for more participants to afford. I anticipate a major change since My rosovt even retired most of its certifications and all new certification tracks are cloud centric. I also hope that SQL Saturday’s can continue in whatever form they may take; they are a fantastic resource. Hope to see more smaller events rather than the larger conferences/summits. Let’s all continue to contribute to the ideas of a PASS renaissance moving forward with BrentOzar.com leading the charge.
I just reread their announcement and noticed this statement, “PASS has engaged experienced insolvency counsel and other professionals.” How is it that a bankrupt organization can hire anyone? Is it because lawyers write our laws to allow insolvency professionals to be paid before other debts are settled?
John – that does make sense, though, because if a company tried to go bankrupt, they wouldn’t be able to hire a lawyer unless that lawyer could guarantee they’d be paid. No one would take that work.
Is Microsoft broke? Doesn’t that company benefit from PASS?
Microsoft gave PASS hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions – I don’t remember offhand) over the years. A good chunk of that money went into the pockets of a private for-profit management company, and PASS was their only client. I don’t blame Microsoft for not drawing the line: after a while, it made more sense to contribute more to the community than to a private company.
I have a copy of sql server on 2 floppy disks for OS2
I remember going to the Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 conference in LA. Admission for the 2 day conference was free. Very good steak dinners were served at the Bonaventure with large bottles of good wine.
Do you think the revenue of SQL Server these days might be a few million dollars? What kind of benefit did Microsoft get from the PASS conferences?
Anyways. Not a biggie. The way it is these days.
I’m not sure what you’re saying – are you saying you think Microsoft no longer wines and dines customers? Are you not aware that there’s a global pandemic going on, and that in-person conferences are basically toast for now?
Customers? How about wining and dining developers and DBA’s that make sql server a success? OK, give them a couple drink tickets.
I am well aware of the pandemic of course. I understand that PASS had money problems because of the pandemic. I get that. Smart not to have in person conferences at this time. Microsoft apparently did not want to provide the covid relief money to support PASS in its financial squeeze for reasons you give. PASS went bankrupt. Then Redgate took over which should be a smart move.
Microsoft is doing well keeping profits intact for shareholders. Redgate will get positive exposure by supporting PASS. SQL Server worker bees need a job. They will keep at it whether PASS exists or not. People who like the comradery of PASS may not lose out. Comradery is not in the Microsoft financial decision tree.
Good news: PASS wasn’t the only place for you to get drunk with your friends. There are much more affordable ways to do it, including SQL Bits, Data Saturdays, local user groups, and of course, your local pub.
And frankly, I’m glad that Microsoft saved money on wine and steaks. I’d rather they focus money on the product. I can buy my own food and booze.
I am happy that Red Gate picked up PASS, but I am concerned that it will not remain vendor agnostic. I have not seen any commitment from Red Gate to keep it vendor agnostic. Even if they had, there is no guarantee for such a commitment to remain. It would not be Red Gate’s first time either. SQL Server Central was purchased by Red Gate. It remained independent for a while, but over the years, it has become more and more about Red Gate. I have concerns that PASS will have the same fate. If this happens, it will start with the erosion of vendor agnosticism. There will likely be pressure on the board from the “investor,” Red Gate, to do certain things. After all, Red Gate will want to see a return on their investment.
That’s fair. I had the same feelings about PASS, which kept saying they were independent and vendor-agnostic – but for years, you got a very different response when I tried to submit sessions on anything non-Microsoft, like Amazon or Google.
I had a conference registration for PASS 2020, that was passed forward to 2021… Really going to miss to opportunities to gather, interact, share.
My annual conference clock made me look up Brent’s video. I too miss having the chance to do the undistracted ad-hoc in-person learn + collaborate + engage with the sql pass community. Hope everyone is safe and look forward to seeing this community again after all the odds have played out. …. If anyone wants to connect ….
Cheers to you too Sir!