TechCrunch 50 2009 – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I attended TechCrunch 50 this year alongside my business partner Eamon Leonard and another presenting company, VidSchool which Sean Fee of Ifoods/LookandTaste fame is involved in.

Pat Phelan originally intended to join and we booked a Monster House on Fillmore and Fulton. Pat (the consummate deal maker) had to pull out at the last moment which left Eamon and I (of CloudSplit) sharing this mansion with Paul, Moneesh and Sean of VidSchool.

As failed entrants to the onstage event we had both been offered slots in the DemoPit. You get one day to showcase your company in a separate area from the stage through which the attendees have to pass to get to the auditorium. We chose Tuesday (as opposed to Monday) this gave us a chance  to attend on Monday and suss the place our prior to our full day.

Tuesday duly arrived and we headed down to the show. Its a brutal schedule with the show opening at 7.00am and running until 7.00pm the following evening. There is lots of advice to absorb on how best to pitch at TC50, but we followed some simple rules,

  • Bring a pull up stand and put your message and pitch all in the top third. Nobody can see below this point. Many of the TC50 companies only used the default table logo provided by TC50. I found myself ignoring companies when I could not discern what the offering was.
  • We brought along some tic-tacs that happened to be in the company colours. I don’t thing they got people to come up to our stand but being able to give something to people who listened did leave the whole presenting transaction with a nice soft end.
  • You need two people. Otherwise food breaks/toilet visits leave the stand unmanned. There is always action in the DemoPit area so someone needs to be on stand at all time.
  • Be prepared to get you pitch away in a few minutes

The Good

We went looking for validation of the CloudSplit offering and received that whole heartedly. We met key influencers at the investor, partner and customer level. This level of exposure to people WHO-REALLY-KNOW the software sector was invaluable.

Just the opportunity to present 200 times or more to genuinely insightful individuals who could really grasp what we were doing was a fantastic education. We now have a crystal clear vision of what we need to do in V1.0 and a goto market strategy honed by hours of feedback.

It also helped that the universal feedback was that CloudSplit was genuinely breaking new ground in a valuable and emerging market.

I would definitely target and time the launch of any new company so that it aligned with TC50.

The Bad

The DemoPit works as a competition in which the conference attendees get chips which they donate to the most interesting projects. The two with the most chips on each day get to present the product on stage. Its a nice idea but is open to all sorts of gaming ranging from booth hotties simply trading on their looks and accosting people for chips without pitching to wholesale buying of chips. Basically you can forget getting on stage on merit alone.

I can’t fix the booth hottie problem but it should be easy enough to fix the chip buying problem by making the containers piggy banks rather than jars so that once chips are donated they can’t be retrieved to be resold.

I also think there would be more liquidity in the market if the attending companies were compelled to donate their chips to other companies rather then bunging them into their own jar. This could be achieved by only giving chips to DemoPit companies on the day they are *not* presenting.

On plus side we got our first chip quite early on from Mark Kvamme of Sequoia so we really did care too much about winning or losing the competition after that piece of validation.

The Ugly

The awards ceremony was a shambolic disgrace. Mike Arrington threw all his toys out of the pram and stormed of stage. Why ? Who cares. It was an insult to the winners of the awards and made Arrington the story instead of the winners. It soured the whole event for me.

If I was Mike I’d be keeping a pretty low profile as well.

3 thoughts on “TechCrunch 50 2009 – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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