Why I regret going to TechCrunch Disrupt

Several months ago I decided to bring my startup from Ottawa, Canada and exhibit in Startup Ally at TechCrunch Disrupt. What better place than Disrupt to absorb insight, meet visionaries and explore the highs and lows of startup culture, funding and innovation? I was going to consider entering the battlefield for Disrupt NY 2012 if I felt it was going to help propel my company forward. This was before Arringtongate and the drama over journalistic integrity, CrunchFund, conflict of interest, infighting and the rest of the crap that ultimately overshadowed Disrupt San Francisco 2011.

I regret the decision to spend my precious start-up cash exhibiting at Disrupt. It was a waste of time, money and being away from my family. It was a side show. A carnival.

My advice to other entrepreneurs? Save your cash, Disrupt is dead.

Here are the facts: Michael Arrington is not the victim. Arriana Huffington is not the vilain. TechCrunch is a blog. It’s a very influential site with a lot of opinionated and influential bloggers who think they know where technology is going. They aim to be the voice of technology startups. It is also a blog that is tightly associated with several angels, investors and venture firms. Some investors work(ed) for TechCrunch. There are conflicts of interest, be them disclosed or not. None of this matters. It’s all noise. Throughout the drama, there was very little discussion about the disruptive start-ups TechCrunch is there to cover. Most of the actual coverage felt like an afterthought. There couldn’t be any meaningful discussion. It was completely overshadowed by the self indulgence and central focus of the event: the dark cloud of Arringtongate. Entrepreneurs like me who paid to participate asked themselves and each other this question:

“Why did I spend money to be here?”

The silver lining? I spent time getting to know some truly disruptive start-ups. I wrote another, more positive blog about that experience. I met some great founders and validated my vision. (albeit, against a heavily B2C, social media & gaming biased crowd.)

I went into TechCrunch Disrupt with eyes wide open…

…I walked away shaking my head.

Don’t get me wrong, Disrupt is a great platform and I am certain one of the competing brands will readily fill the void. I don’t know how tight Arrington’s non-compete is, but if I were running one of the many similar start-up launch events, I’d hire Arrington in a heart beat. I bet you get Paul Carr to moderate too!

Did you go to Disrupt? What did you think? Would you recommend to another start-up to exhibit or attend?

  1. Basically agree. We got free tickets to be on Startup Alley since we were an alternate for the battle field.

    If I spent $3k to be in startup alley I’d be very disappointed. There just wasn’t much value. I talked to a bunch of folks and even some VCs. However, startup alley (for me anyways) had this aura of desperation. While not entirely uncommon for startups (we’re desperate by nature, right?) — many of the people I talked to were really just networking or interested in telling me about their service.

    $3k is too expensive for that.

  2. Thanks for this insight.
    I was watching only streams, but even from my perspective it looked horrible, Arrington during presentation of HealthCake was just disgusting.

    Fortunatelly or not, I didn’t get the visa to go there with my start-up :-).

    Question I want to ask you, do you think B2B startups should even bother going to TCDisrupt?

    • KC
    • September 20th, 2011

    I am sorry after reading your post I am not sure if Disrupt is bad or good. You started off saying disrupt is dead and its a waste of time and then you finish off by saying disrupt is a great platform.

    So what is it? Make up your mind.

  3. I don’t think the event was overshadowed by the drama. You don’t go to these events to get coverage – its much easier (and cheaper) just to email Techcrunch. You go to these events to meet people, and when it comes to meeting people, its up to the entrepreneur to make the most of the situation.

    You can’t pay for coverage.

  4. TechCrunch has been my most read news site for almost 5 years now…but it seems they have gotten too big for their britches over there

    • G. Woundwort
    • September 20th, 2011

    Sorry to hear about this. Not surprised though given history of Calacanis-Arrington feud and the (as you say) side-show it’s become:

    http://techcrunch.com/2010/11/03/at-my-wits-end-jason-calacanis-threatens-to-sue-us/

    Just don’t succumb to pay-to-pitch:

    http://calacanis.com/2009/10/09/why-startups-shouldnt-have-to-pay-to-pitch-angel-investors/

    • john doe
    • September 20th, 2011

    There are no such things as non-competes in CA. Unless you have integral knowledge of company trade secrets and it can be proven that there is no way you wouldn’t be able to take advantage of them while in your new position, then otherwise, non-competes are not enforceable in CA.

  5. Oh well things are downhill at Techcrunch anyway. Arrington is lost or wanna be lost. Aol is running it like shit and then this combination oh well!

  6. I was at disrupt I went to the hackathon and got free tickets for me and my co-founder to the whole event. I have to admit I really did enjoy it and besides the Arrington situation everything was awesome. I am pro Arrington and think it’s his
    Right to promote or talk about startups that he invests in after all it was his blog
    And that’s why everyone loved him because he is so damn straight forward.
    Any ways I hope he starts a new blog (assuming he doesn’t have an NDA)

  7. We attended, but just like Jason, had our fees waived because we were alternates for the Startup Battlefield. I’m based in the Bay Area, but three of my colleagues flew in from Austin to participate.

    I actually think it was a pretty good conference, and I’m glad we went. There was definitely the aura of schoolyard drama, and watching Paul Carr chirpily present while simultaneously tweeting mournfully was bizarre, but Startup Alley was the main event. We got reasonable coverage out of it on some big-name sites (not just TechCrunch), as well as ongoing links with investors and other, complementary startups. It also made a positive impact with our existing network.

    It definitely needed to be used in conjunction with follow-on meetings, and meetings arranged outside the conference. In a vacuum, it’s not much more than an introductory handshake – it’s what you do with those connections that matters.

  8. My startup participated in (launched) at a TechCrunch event at August Capital years ago. It sounds like not much has changed. We had regrets very similar to those of your back then.

  9. With Disrupt, TechCrunch gives an opportunity for people to meet, discuss and learn from each other. It’s a tool. You then need to learn how to use it to make your company take advantage from it.

    It’s like saying “I bought a lawnmower, put it in my garden, turned it on and nothing happened. It doesn’t work!” No, indeed, a lawnmower doesn’t mow if you don’t push it on the lawn. When you get it, you can go even further and adjust your mower to make it mow a certain way.

    It’s the same thing for TechCrunch Disrupt, and for any tech event you go to. TechCrunch Disrupt is on of the best events in the world to discover new ideas, new companies, new entrepreneurs and maintain the techworld innovative and dynamic. It’s then your call to shake the right hands, say the right things at the right moment, and avoid people gossiping about the TechCrunch Drama.

    However, I agree that the TechCrunch Drama probably didn’t help small entrepreneurs make the most of this event for their company. It’s unfortunate, but what a better challenge than to try to make yourself visible when all the attention is focused on Michael Arrington?

    Opportunities are good. Challenges are even better.

  10. I don’t think anyone’s arguing that TCDisrupt has zero value. I just question the $3k pricetag to be in Startup Alley. Maybe it’s $2k. I still question that :).

  11. I partially agree with your sentiments. There was far too much drama and coverage of it, as opposed to the startups themselves. The other issue I had were the judges, and how at times they talked down to the founders. There were even clear cases of conflict of interest, something that could have been avoided through better screening of the judges and presenters.

    That being said, we got a lot out of it. Here is why:

    1. Expectations: I knew what I wanted from the event, and made sure we gave ourselves the best chance of getting it (we were pre-launch, so I wanted to build relationships with the press and bloggers, as well as bus-dev folks. The VC’s and angels were secondary to me.

    2. Budget: I knew how much it would cost, and cut out a bunch of other things from my budget to make this happen. It wasn’t cheap, but probably a lot cheaper than coming down from Canada. We also viewed this as part of our events budget, from marketing.

    3. Practice: We wanted to practice our pitch in real-time, get feedback on the pitch, get feedback on our ideas, and refine along the way. I personally did over 100 demos in three days, and my team did similar numbers. There is simply no better place than an industry event to get this many reps in.

    Final thoughts: I think the tech journalism space is like any other segment. There are good people, and some not so good people. There are egos, and agendas. I met some great journalists, and had a bunch ignore me. All in all, it was a good (not great) allocation of our time and money.

  12. There are so many good comments and perspectives. I love it.

    Disrupt wasn’t our primary reason for being here in San Francisco, but it was a convenient, high profile event sandwiched between Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce and Box.net’s Boxworks customer events. (I decided to come to the valley for a month and immerse myself in the scene. I highly recommend it to any non-valley start-ups.)

    I didn’t know what to expect from Disrupt. A lot of people I respect endorsed the event. One of my goals, much like one of Shervin’s goals, was to get feedback on the pitch, refine it and look for good feedback and ideas. Our primary focus wasn’t press coverage (we like being a little stealthy) nor investment (we’re bootstrapping.) Ben, you are right on the money when you say it’s what you do with the connections you make. (And by the way http://latakoo.com/ and http://www.drumbi.com/ both look very cool. Sorry I missed you both.)

    I have to disagree that TechCrunch is “one of the best events in the world to discover new ideas, new companies, new entrepreneurs and maintain the techworld innovative and dynamic.” That is what I was hoping for, but didn’t see. There were some stand-out startups I highlighted on a previous post. http://wp.me/pS4vm-7w – but remember, this is a pay-to-play event that doesn’t curate the best tech startups, but those that can pay. (mostly)

    Given the winner of Disrupt, I’d argue that the focus of TechCrunch Disrupt is on potential investment returns, not disruption or innovation. It was neither a new idea or innovative. It will make a ton of cash though. (Zynga acquisition in 5. 4. 3. 2… )

    • Yusuf Uqdah
    • November 1st, 2011

    How do I get information about Tech Crunch 2012 in San Francisco?

    –Yusuf Uqdah
    http://www.tribesandfashion.com

  1. September 20th, 2011
  2. September 20th, 2011
  3. November 2nd, 2011

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