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Blog · Feb 26th, 2021 ·5 min read

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Jed Watson

ReactConf AU, one year later

We put on Australia’s first ever React Conf in February 2020. You won’t believe what happened next!

Dinesh Pandiyan & Dominik Wilkowski having fun at ReactConf AU in front of a ReactConf AU banner poster

Dinesh Pandiyan & Dominik Wilkowski having fun at ReactConf AU in front of a ReactConf AU banner poster


There’s nothing like an anniversary to remind us how fast time moves, and just how much things change. And that’s just in a normal year!

Following a tough start to the year with bushfires raging across Australia, we had no real idea what 2020 had in store when we hosted Australia’s first ever React Conference on the 27th & 28th of February.

Overseas speakers flew in, old friends reacquainted and new connections were made. Close to 600 local and international developers gathered at Sydney Harbour to connect with, listen to, and learn from members of the React community.

Looking back, it was truly amazing that all this happened just two weeks before we all went remote and had to stop seeing each other in person for the rest of the year.

We realise this made us twice as lucky — not only did we manage to wrangle such an awesome event, but we threw one of the last parties Australia’s React Community could enjoy for a while!

Since then, we’ve been reflecting on the 2020 rollercoaster, plans that were made, and what we have achieved since.

Plans Made

  • As the event was closing, 93% of our attendees said they’d come to the next ReactConf AU, and our keynote speaker Max Stoiber ranked it as one of the top four conferences he’s ever been to globally 😍
  • While 2021 may not be the year, we do look forward to hosting another ReactConf AU again when the time is right. And in the meantime we’re all exploring new ways of connecting with each other from home 🏡
  • Our second keynote speaker Diana Mounter gave a talk on how Themeability is the path to Dark Mode, with a wealth of insight into how GitHub are building themeing foundations and applying colour theory to deliver their most-requested UI update ever
  • Our co-founder Jed closed the conference with a talk on The Value of Open Source, and surprised the audience with a voucher taped under their seat, to donate to a project that matters to them on Open Collective 💵
  • And of course, just a few weeks after the conference we were all making plans on how to keep our heads down and survive the new reality we found ourselves in

Jed Watson presenting on stage at ReactConf AU with a screen next to him displaying 'Satisfaction ☺️'

Jed Watson presenting on stage at ReactConf AU with a screen next to him displaying 'Satisfaction ☺️'

Goals Kicked

It didn’t feel like the rest of the year was going to plan at all, so it’s been great to reflect on how things actually played out:

  • Despite everything, we’re proud to say that with the support and flexibility of our team and partners, Thinkmill not only survived 2020 but continued to grow (even if only slightly compared to past years) 🙏🏻
  • After the conference, several hundred developers donated to open source projects on Open Collective for the first (and not last) time! It was brilliant watching the donations show up in unexpected places as our community paid them forward ⭐️
  • More broadly, we saw groups and fiscal hosts coming together on Open Collective’s platform to help each other through the economic fallout from COVID-19, including their UPLIFT! event which raised $105K to support the open source ecosystem 📈
  • We applied our Budget for Open Source initiative internally, renewing our commitment to maintaining projects like react-select and funding a dedicated team (for the first time!) to focus on developing KeystoneJS — our open source Headless CMS, empowering front-end developers to build powerful, easy to manage, content-driven websites 🌏
  • AirBnB got a special shout for their $100k open source funding initiative, and this year have increased that by 50%. It’s absolutely worth reading about the impact this has has on open source projects.
  • And delivering on Diana’s promise, GitHub finally launched their Dark Mode to great acclaim across the internet 👏🏻

In Case You Missed It

  • Last year’s event was packed with incredible talks, well worth a watch (or re-watch). Browse them all right here: reactconfau.com/talks
  • Possibly our most artistic developer, Tom Walker prepared unique, inspired artworks for each of the talks, and followed up with a whole write-up about the process. See and read about them in our blog!
  • We’re glad to see more companies prioritising open source funding and sustainability, but there is still a long way to go. Big things start small, so remember to advocate for the value you get from open source and help your company dedicate some budget to sustaining it.

Overhead image of a happy crowd at ReactConf Au looking at the camera

Thanks again to everyone who was part of the event — including the organising team (especially our indomitable duo Debbie and Kim), the support crew who made each day run smoothly, the speakers both local and international who put so much effort into preparing great talks, our sponsors who made the whole thing possible, and of course everyone who came to the event. We couldn’t have done it without any of you.

And for everyone who watched the conference, either online or in person, we’re glad you enjoyed it, and look forward to seeing you again one day!

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A photo of Jed Watson & Boris Bozic together

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