Defrag Blog

Thoughts on TechCrunch40, and the fall slate of conferences

by Eric Norlin on Sep.17, 2007, under general, industry stuff

First, let me begin this post by congratulating Mike and Jason on a sold-out show. As Don says, that’s always impressive for a first-time event. I’ve never actually met either Mike or Jason face to face — though Mike and I do have a failed attempt at getting a project off the ground (it was the fault of neither of us that it didn’t happen - long story).

In any case, I’ve been thinking about “demo-style” shows for some time, and so I was pretty interested to learn about the hand that Dave Winer played in getting the original Demo off the ground (never knew that backstory). I’ve actually been holding off on “sharing” my thoughts because for some time I’ve been thinking about doing this show. But, recently, I’ve basically decided that there are enough fish swimming in that pond.

However, seeing as how this week will be “all techcrunch40 all the time”, I thought I’d take the chance to spill the beans on what I was thinking.

Jason and Mike have stated pretty relentlessly that they started TechCrunch40 (originally 20) because they didn’t like the fact that startups had to pay to be at Demo (remember, they started the show *at* Demo). Essentially, it all began as a crusade to “level the playing field”, so that the stage was not limited to “only those that could afford it.” All of which is to say that TechCrunch40’s DNA is rooted in this urge to satisfy something for startups (and a noble urge that is).

Demo, on the other hand, has built its reputation on Chris (originally Stewart) thoroughly vetting startups (not that Jason and Mike didn’t, but you know what I mean) and having them launch their stuff at Demo — where the startups were paying for either A) the buzz/press that they could generate being at the event or B) the access to the VCs in the audience, as they were in search of funding.

Now, I’m *sure* that startups on stage at Demo will get the appropriate amount of attention. And I would bet that *some* of the startups at TechCrunch40 will get a lot of attention - though I do think that opening up the “demopit” to 100 companies really diminishes that value (and if I was a presenting startup, I’d really think so).

[sidenote: you could throw Web2.0's launchpad into this discussion as well, since they're now firmly in this game.]

The thing that I keep coming back to is *who* is actually providing the value to *both* of the these conferences?

Answer: the attendees. Specifically, the bloggers, press, analysts, evangelists and VCs that are giving the buzz, exposure, attention and funding to the companies presenting at the shows.

And yet, these people - the people that are providing value to the startups on-stage - are the ones that are being asked to pay a pretty high price for admission (ranging from 2495 at TechCrunch40 and Demo, up to 3495 at Web2.0).

All of that just sets me to wondering: Why?

Allow me to provide some answers:

1. Having the audience pay serves to vet the audience…ie, the great unspoken truth is that status *is* conferred upon those that pay 2500-3500 bucks to attend these shows. And I’m not knocking that - that’s a totally valid reason, let’s just put it right out front.

2. Nobody’s thought differently about it. ‘Twould seem strange, but it is possible.

3. In the case of TechCrunch40 especially, *somebody’s* gotta pay and if it ain’t the startups, then it must be the attendees.

All of which leads me to my “alternate” suggestion for a Demo-like show……

1. Make the startups pay - not a lot, not as much as Demo, but something — say 5-8k per startup. I’m sorry, but if you can’t raise 5-8k to get exposure for your startup, well, that alone is a vetting process.

2. Let the attendees (all of them) in for free, or very nearly free. Yep, you read that right. Go get a room that will hold 3-5k people, arrange for 70 startups over 2 days and then *open the doors* and let anyone who wants to come blog, publicize, cut deals, fund, analyze or write about things come.

(sidenote: I’ve run the numbers and an event like this is economically viable.)

I think that move alone is a *truly* disruptive move for “demo shows” because now we’re A) providing *maximum* buzz and coverage for the startups and B) we’re involving everyone that wants to be there.

Would it work? I don’t know. If I was convinced, you’d be hearing about a new show right now. ;-)

For the record (and so as to claim this idea a bit), I’ve always talked (with Brad and others) about calling a show like this “Elevator” — as in, “the elevator pitch.” In any case, that’s how I’d launch a “demo show” that’s really different from Web 2.0’s launchpad, TechCrunch40 or Demo.

Okay, enough of throwing ideas around. Today kicks off the “Big 3″ conferences for this fall: TechCrunch40, the Web 2.0 Summit, and (of course), Defrag. ;-)

(There’s your september, october and november - don’t forget to register.)

Bonus Link: I’m having a *really* hard time looking at the names of the TechCrunch40 companies and not flashing back to Bill Maher’s recent New Rules - go watch, but quoting what I’m thinking of:

““This week, Yahoo announced a deal with Bebo that will help it compete with Google. I had to wiki Bebo to find out it’s kind of like Friendster and Woofie. Gosh, I hope they can all band together to save Fuzzelton village from the evil Snords. Grow up. If I want to see uncaring, money-making machines with cutesy names, I go to a strip club.”

HA!

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