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The title of this column is a question I am asked a couple of times a week…”should I present/apply to the DEMO or TC50 conference?” Both conferences require applications to be turned in by June 30th so I thought this was a great time to share my thoughts and feedback I’ve received about the conferences.
Let’s get the logistics out of the way – DEMO will be held on September 21-23, 2009 and Techcrunch50 will be held on September 14-15, 2009. Depending on the date of registration, attendees pay $2,000-3,000 for DEMO and $1,500-3,000 for Techcrunch50. (as a side note, I’ve seen tc50 producer Jason Calacanis giving away bunches of free tickets on his podcast, so you might try that road to avoid the high costs).
Last year I was one of the few people who attended both pitch events. You can read all of my coverage and an in-person comparison between both events. Overall DEMO was a better run show logistics-wise.
My thoughts are based on web/Internet businesses. If you have a physical product or other IT-related service, DEMO is basically the only choice.
Continue reading “Should I Present at DEMO or TC50?” »
Next week is a big one for the technology startup world. Both DEMO and Techcrunch50 will be held from Monday-Wednesday; DEMO in San Diego, Techcrunch50 in San Francisco. We’ve received press passes to both events and I thought it would be interesting to share how both conferences differ in the way they handle the press before the conference begins.
Update: VentureBeat has a breakdown of all of the presenting companies at DEMO broken down by category.
DEMO allows the presenting startups to contact the press before the event begins. Approximately two weeks ago the emails started hitting my mailbox from PR firms pitching their clients for coverage on CN. I am sure all press outlets received the same emails. Of the 72 listed startups, I received pitches from about 24. Not sure why the others didn’t come forward with their pitches. By contacting me ahead of time, this allows for a story to be created before the event begins and then I only need to publish when the embargo opens. The downside here is that some press outlets may break the embargoes.
What I’d prefer to see is a portal which DEMO creates that houses all of the startups, their press releases, etc. I would receive a login to the portal and this would allow me to select the startups my audience is interested in. I could click to setup an interview with the startup and/or get more information. This would make things much easier than receiving so many emails from the PR firms and I could go directly to the startup.
Techcrunch50 handles the pre-press coverage nearly opposite to DEMO. They have decided not to share any information about the selected startups until the night before the event (thats’ what they did last year). Presenting startups have been informed not to speak with the press either although from watching a chat between FastCompany employee Robert Scoble and Seesmic CEO Loic LeMeur, at least a few of the startups have started to talk. By not sharing any information until the night before, this makes it difficult for the press to get any coverage ready pre-event. Last year I worked through the night to get several reviews and other posts prepped.
This week a few of the demo pit companies have contacted me. The conference organizers note that their policy is designed to prevent any leaks and to "increase audience engagement". Their method of handling pre-press coverage certainly accomplishes that.
I am excited to see the 124 startups that present next week. As for which method is better overall, that’s up for debate. In my opinion a hybrid of both would probably be the best overall solution. Perhaps no public announcement until the day of the conference and utilize the portal idea I mentioned above for press.
I’d like to present an idea this evening regarding the upcoming DEMO and Techcrunch50 conferences. Both conferences will rock and are great places to launch a startup. This year both conferences will overlap in early September. Bloggers and journalists will have to try to cover the 100-125 startups that will launch simultaneously, startups will need to meet with some large number of reporters and readers will be hit by potentially thousands of reviews.
Check out my proposal in the video below. Here’s the basic idea. We all work together. Instead of 50 reviews of the same startup, we create 1 or 2 reviews of each startup. The reviews would be licensed to all of the participating sites with attribution back to the sources. Writer combinations would be picked at random and could create some great matches. A main conference portal site would be created to house all of the reviews plus all of the overall conference coverage. This would allow for a great amount of discovery between the content sources. We’d work to get sponsorship as a whole from larger companies who would absolutely love to be involved with this all-star lineup.
The benefits of this idea are:
- writers can focus on interviews, industry information, overall conference coverage, etc. and not on scrambling to get reviews done. writers also get the chance to work with one or two other writers and pick up tips and techniques
- startups would be able to focus on their presentations and not worry about coordinating 100 reviews
- readers would be able to engage with more content from more sources over the duration of the conferences
This is just an initial proposal and if the idea is well-received, we would need to get started right away on the details. As a side benefit, these new blogger and journalists relationships will provide education, and you never know what the new relationships might hold for the future. Of course it could just be a crazy idea that won’t go anywhere.
Earlier this week, Jason Calacanis pimped Loic’s LeWeb conference. Loic was then required to "re-pimp" within 48 hours – he chose Techcrunch50 by asking Jason about why he wants to kill Demo and why Techcrunch50 is a better model.
Robert Scoble has decided that not only will he jump on the "kill Demo" bandwagon but now he is going to kill Techcrunch50 as well. This move came out of left field!
Scoble says that startups should come to him on FastCompany.tv for no cost and that you can watch for no cost. Both conferences charge several thousand dollars to attend. He believes FastCompany.tv beats them both by providing more viewers and also a longer interview and discussion time (both Demo and TC50 offer ~6 minutes on stage).
What Scoble misses is that it’s not about the two/three-day infomercials, it’s about the networking, the hallway discussions and the business card swaps. I am not sure his TV station can provide this. But he does make one point well – startups should try to get as much coverage as they can.
Update #1 – Scoble says via a Techcrunch post that he doesn’t want to kill TC50 (never mentions demo), only to say, “I know the truth: that we’re both laughing all the way to the bank.”.
Update #2 – per the FriendFeed contract, there’s now a thread regarding the below video on FF
Here’s Scoble’s pitch:
Jiglu was one of the demopit companies at Techcrunch40 last month. They made an immediate impression on everyone as they had $1,000 in a clear briefcase which a man from NYC won at the end of the conference. Today Jiglu will announce that they have moved from a private beta to an open beta. In fact you can go signup now if you wish. To learn more about what Jiglu offers, I spoke with co-founder and CEO Nigel Cannings.
Jiglu’s goal is to help a blog recirculate the content that might be deep within the blog and to find hidden relationships between the blog’s content. This is similar to JS-Kit and Outbrain in their mission to help draw visitors deeper into a blog. While JS-Kit and Outbrain focus on ratings as their collection mechanism, Jiglu uses tagging for collection.
To use the Jiglu widget, you place a simple script code within your blog template. That activates the Jiglu engine and it begins to crawl your blog. Jiglu then determines the tags that match the content and provide similar content in the widget which allows your readers to discover new content. I asked the difference between the tags I set and the tags Jiglu creates – Nigel said that Jiglu uses an advanced algorithm to find the right tags – it’s pretty intense.
Revenue generation will come from the search results they serve on the Jiglu Web site. The team originally worked on email applications and then moved into user-generated content with Jiglu.
One thing they can improve on (as frankly with many startups) is their company information – there is nothing on the site about who they are, what they do, location, bios, logos, etc. Make this information accessible for jounalists, bloggers, investors, etc. Users want to build trust with a company and this information is critical for creating relationships.
Jiglu was founded four years ago and they spent the majority of that time on research. The team is made up of four people with HQ in the U.K. and a "tiny, yellow" office in San Francisco.
Update: Chris at VentureBeat and Oliver at Blognation have some good insights on Jiglu as well.
Last Sunday a bunch of CenterNetworks readers came together for a brunch at the W hotel in San Francisco. I had a great time, learned a lot about each of their startups or blogs and got some great tips for improving CN. Michael Arrington stopped by for a bit as well! I will look to organize more of these unofficial meetups as I travel to more conferences in the future.
A huge thanks goes out to Stephanie Quilao for helping to organize the brunch. She was one of the first CN regulars and has become a great friend over the last year. It was awesome to meet her in person!
The attendees included (in no particular order):
- Ben Metcalfe
- Frank Gruber
- Deborah Kaplan – ZeroFootprint
- Ismael Ghalimi – Intalio
- Petr Kral – Skillr
- Nikhil Roy/Nikunj Somaiya – SpendView
- Francis Pisani
- Lionel David – CrowdSpirit
- Dawn Douglass – MyfRIDJ
- Tomas Zeman – Wirenode
- Jemma and Nik – Faraday Media
Editor’s note: Due to the ultra-restrictive embargos placed on journalists attending TC40, I held this post as some of the brunch attendees were presenters at TC40.
Now that the first TechCrunch40 conference is complete, this post will serve as my final conference review and recap. Some of the startups asked me about full, in-depth reviews. I am going to do my best to review each one over the coming weeks, please be patient.
Before I get into the conference recap, I would like to offer some thanks. First, thanks to everyone for coming over and saying Hi. I was shocked at how many people read CN! :) It was great to meet so many people and some of the people I have met for the first time (after chatting for a long time) include: Roi, Orli, Frank, Clint, Duncan and Joyce. And thanks to Mike, Heather and Jason for allowing me to attend. I do have a surprise coming next week for everyone who gave me their business card so you better watch this space!
- Day 2 Full Transcription
- Exit Strategies Panel
- Kaltura Wins People’s Choice
- Rich Media and Mash Ups
- Getting Funded Panel
- Revenue Model and Analytics
- Google Product Launch – Presentations
- Productivity and Web Applications
- Should There Be a Disclosures List?
- Day 1 Recap
- Keynote: Zuckerberg
- Crowd Sourcing
- AOL Product Launch – Bluestring
- Commmunity and Collaboration
- Keynote Panel – Hurley, Filo, Andreesen
- Mobile and Communications
- Search and Discovery
Mike asked me last night what I thought about the conference and I told him I rate conferences in three areas: facility, networking and content. So here goes:
Facility - they score top marks. Hardwired Internet for press? Damn. Internet that actually works? Damn. There weren’t enough seats and I heard from a birdie that this was somewhat planned. Nice setup overall and they score about an A- for the facility.
Networking - Mike noted that this was the real reason people paid for a ticket. I am sure several deals were made during the conference. I think the networking was top notch. It was definitely a business crowd (not a developer/designer crowd) and I enjoyed the discussions around business and marketing.
Content - This was the area that probably needs the most work if they plan to do this again. The demos were too tightly spaced, some of the demos were canned, the audience had almost zero participation (even after Jason continuously twittered that the attendees would be involved), the demo pit had very little time so you had to either go demo pit or go main ballroom if you wanted a real look at any of the demopit presenters. The experts were basically boring as hell. Very little constructive criticism, a few of them barely spoke, hammer threw in some buzz words to appear relevant. Some of the presenters have no vc, and this was an important time for them to get some real-world advice.
There were also some questions around some of the chosen firms and it seemed to me like many of the companies were sleeping with someone else – either associated with one of the experts, a sponsor or one of the panelists. One person noted that it was like a Mafia-family board meeting. I am sure that Mike/Jason will counter this by saying that it would be hard to find someone not associated with one of the groups I listed. I disagree.
There also needs to be more women both presenting and on the panels. And I am not talking about "apparently drunk" women as those who presented one of the startups, nor am I talking about those fake-ass d-level models Zivity had.
While I know Jason thinks I am scum, I think he did a very good job as the public-facing host. He kept things moving as best he could and seemed spot on overall. Heather led a good panel and I think it would have been even better earlier in the day. Nothing like a former accountant hearing EBITDA to get my blood flowing :) Mike interjected himself appropriately into the panels and the discussions. While I am sure they all wanted to score a home run, I would give them a sliding-double.
Mint wins the $50k
This was an absolute shock and quite disappointing to me and many of the CN readers and other conference attendees. Mint’s demo wasn’t great and they couldn’t answer my questions about security. Mike didn’t even see a demo of Mint, yet they got into the 40? Mint is this year’s silicon valley darling and has received more hype (even though the beta testers couldn’t talk about it) than the iPhone and I am willing to bet that’s why they won. Why give it to a Korean or Russian startup who leaves the country never to be seen again when they can give it to the guy who is at all the parties, certainly helps for local buzz. Check out Rafe’s review from over at Webware. In fact, SpendView in the demo pit understands more about security by offering an upload option. Here are some of the other comments I heard/received after the win:
- Boy, must be nice to win knowing you have an old TC writer working for you
- Two of the votes for the winner come from Mint investors! That’s 10% of the total vote!
- At least 10 people talked about their security
- Oh, you do realize Mint sponsored a fatty-ass party for Mint – basically a semi-conference sponsor
They are also heavily funded and I guess that’s why Jason noted about giving it to charity. Personally I have absolute concerns (which many of the TC commenters seem to agree with) about giving "some startup" my financial details when they are live 1 day. Trust is earned my friend. I hope Mike and Jason will provide some insight as to why they were selected.
Thanks again to everyone and look forward to meeting you all again real soon!