We interviewed Billy McFarland, Part II

"What's something that you think everyone has wrong about you, Billy?"

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Remember last week when we shared part of our conversation with Billy McFarland, the Founder of Fyre Festival?

To jog your memory — or in case you’ve never seen the Netflix documentary — at age 25, McFarland partnered with rapper Ja Rule to launch the most outrageous and luxurious music festival ever created. Once people arrived to the long awaited festival, they quickly realized it had all been massively glamorized. McFarland defrauded investors out of $27.4m and was later sentenced to six years in prison, of which he served four.

In this week’s story, we wanted to finish where we left off last week. We’re sharing more from our exclusive interview with McFarland and what we learned about his initial fundraising experience and what he has in store for the future. Buckle up…there’s talk of a Fyre Festival 2 and a new venture called Pyrt.

Check it out.

And in case you missed it, make sure to catch the full episode:

Eli Taylor-Lemire: What's something that you think everyone has wrong about you, Billy?

Billy McFarland: It’s wild. I’ve been tagged as this scammer, but truthfully, I fear disappointing people. I never intended to make anyone unhappy. I thought my grand vision would eventually benefit everyone, even if some got hurt along the way. I didn't realize the damage I was causing. I’m just a guy who wants to make people happy, not scam them.


The one thing Fyre Festival Founder Billy McFarland wants people to know 🧐 #billymcfarland #fyrefestival #fyrefest #scammer #hostedbyposh... See more

Eli Taylor-Lemire: Were your parents tough to please?

Billy McFarland: In some ways, yes. I think I developed an insatiable desire to satisfy others. I’d celebrate one achievement, then immediately ask, "What next?" It became a relentless pursuit of making others happy. It can be harmful because while you're making people happy short-term, you're hurting them in the long run.

Eli Taylor-Lemire: Can you remember the first time you tasted success in a business pitch?

Billy McFarland: Picture this, a college freshman, freshly evicted for poor grades. I took a train to a pitch competition in Philadelphia. After my pitch, a guy handed me his business card that said "Professional angel investor" on one side and had logos of 50 companies on the other. Despite my skepticism, he turned out to be legitimate and requested my pitch deck.

Having no idea what a pitch deck was, I whipped one up overnight. He got back to me the next day calling it trash and told me to meet him at Starbucks. This guy, a total stranger, handed me $100,000 at Starbucks with no contract, nothing. And that was my first taste of venture capital.

Avante Price: And how did you know about fundraising to approach this guy?

Billy McFarland: Honestly, I had no clue what venture capital or angel investing was. My college had a pitch competition, which I won because of my knack for memorizing long speeches. So, when I had nowhere to go, I figured why not give this pitching thing a shot?


One of the most influential (and unexpected) lessons from Fyre Festival. 🧐 #hostedbyposh #billymcfarland #fyrefestival #poshvip #fyrefest ... See more

Avante Price: The Orange Square campaign; where did that idea originate?

Billy McFarland: At our peak, we had a team of 8 to 10 people who weren't afraid to clash with each other's ideas. We'd enter a conference room with different ideas and leave with a concept far superior to any individual one. Everyone felt ownership over the final idea. That's probably why so many people claim the Orange Square idea as their own.


The Fyre Festival marketing campaign that took social media by storm. #fyrefestival #billymcfarland #fyrefest #hostedbyoosh #poshvip #f... See more

Avante Price: Were there any other cool ideas that didn't get executed?

Billy McFarland: Oh, there was this one for the Fyre Festival. We thought about buying a pirate ship and having Johnny Depp, dressed as Jack Sparrow, open the festival. As fun as that would have been, it would have been a waste of money.

Eli Taylor-Lemire: And what's with the fascination with pirate ships?

Billy McFarland: The pirate ship theme came to me while I was in solitary confinement, thinking of how to brand my next venture. I read Steve Jobs' book where he said, "It's better to be a pirate than join the navy." This quote, combined with my past Fyre Festival idea, made the pirate ship concept seem fitting.

The success in business is all about momentum, whether it's fundraising, selling tickets, or securing sponsorships. You have to create your momentum, find your hill, and then watch as your efforts take off.

Avante Price: That's quite a concept, almost a bit random, don't you think?

Billy McFarland: It may seem so. There are ways to optimize it, but there's a good deal of uncertainty. It's like you're running around the globe, pushing until you find the cliff. It's a lonely process, indeed.

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That’s all for this week, folks. We’ll see you next Thursday. In the meantime, happy partying.

— Avante, Eli, and the POSH team