Jeff Taylor, founder of Monster once gave a talk in which my biggest take away was to “Be Present”. We took this to heart in attending conferences like Disrupt, Launch and DEMO and have gotten our team access to resources that have rocketed the company forward. We wrote this post to share our experiences, both good and bad with each of these major new technology conferences.
We’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to get in front of people at a bunch of different conferences and share what we’re building. We have not paid to attend any of these events as we’ve always been sponsored. Something we’ve discovered is there are always subsidized or waived fees for everything you do as a startup, you can also always volunteer for a free ticket. By my count, we’ve saved over $25k being sponsored to all these conferences.
In May of 2010 we attended TechCrunch Disrupt in NYC, in February of 2011 we attended Launch, and in September of 2011 we attended DEMO. These conferences were amazing opportunities to share what we were working on with many early adopters, beta users, technologists, press, mentors, and investors. Many of the contacts we’ve met at conferences have provided invaluable feedback that has shaped Zazu into what it is today and have also led to major connections. While we were only chosen to go on stage at DEMO, we still took up the opportunity to pitch thousands of people at Launch and Disrupt — conferences like these make meeting new people like shooting fish in a barrel.
We attended the first TCDisrupt in NYC to a huge crowd, the biggest we’ve seen at any conference. Most of the companies there were heavily focused on consumer web/mobile technology and a majority of the attendees were early adopters. We saw a lot of Press at Disrupt but mixed into the crowd were a lot of smaller bloggers and journalists. Being in NYC there were a lot of attendees from the media industry, definitely great for if you have a media focused element to your company. If you’re not selected to go on stage, it’s a great opportunity to get a Startup Alley cocktail table for $2k to get in front of the attendees who lounge around outside the main hall. Be sure to hustle though, it’s fairly easy to disappear into the crowd and not be noticed.
Following the trend of “firsts” we had a table outside the main hall at the first Launch.is conference run by Jason Calacanis. There was a pretty decent showing, though not as big as the other conferences and since the building was quite large, the crowd was pretty spread out. There were fewer investors than what I had seen at Disrupt and DEMO and the startup founders there were all fairly mellow. Overall, there was far more love for the startups at Launch, Calacanis sat down and coached each of the teams who were presenting; I think that’s a great mentoring opportunity. I didn’t hear of anything like this going on at Disrupt or DEMO.
Demo was in the heart of Silicon Valley and going on it’s 13th year! There were quite a few more enterprise related technologies being presented here and an audience that was clearly looking for such technologies. There were many technologists in the crowd, though most were a bit older than what we’ve seen at Disrupt or Launch where jeans and a t-shirt were appropriate attire. The event was very well planned and executed, but they’ve been doing this for years. Compared to other conferences, there were no “side-dishes”, each company was there to present on stage and the DEMO team definitely worked to get us as much attention as possible. The press folks we saw here were more interested in staying and chatting, not something we’ve seen at most other events. From a partnership perspective, there were many more business development folks from many of the SV companies looking for new technologies and ways to partner up.
DISRUPT: Disrupt was definitely a “cool-kids” conference, while I made some great connections, it was clearly all koolaid. There were also too many companies at Disrupt between the Disruptors who presented on stage to the 30+ startup alley exhibitors. If you can’t hustle, don’t bother going to Disrupt.
LAUNCH: I don’t have many complaints about Launch, the folks who ran it were awesome, schedule was great and the crowd was good. Room for improvement but I think they’ll do great if they keep it going in future years.
DEMO: All attendees and demonstrators were ordered to leave upon the two-hour mark of the pavilion sessions. While I can see why they want to keep the area secure, we had the lights turned out on us and were approached by members of staff asking us to leave. At one point, a very well respected and highly interested investor was interrupted asked to leave the premises. That’s not conducive to a good pavilion environment.
* calculated based on published rates
In summary, if you’re looking for press, go to DEMO, if you’re looking for a good time, go to Disrupt, and if you’re looking for beta testers, go to Launch. Give us a shout if you have any specific questions or are thinking about attending one of these conferences!
The team at Launch
At TechCrunch Disrupt
Mid-sentence at DEMO
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