Redeye VC

Josh Kopelman

Managing Director of First Round Capital.

espite being coastally challenged (currently living in Philadelphia), Josh has been an active entrepreneur and investor in the Internet industry since its commercialization. In 1992, while he was a student at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Josh co-founded Infonautics Corporation – an Internet information company. In 1996, Infonautics went public on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

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Friendly competition?

Techcrunch20cWhen Mike Arrington of Techcrunch announced his new Techcrunch20 conference yesterday, I was both excited and disappointed.

I was excited because I think that “launch platform” conferences are a great idea.  They provide a bright spotlight on new companies, technologies and products – and generate meaningful visability amongst press, analysts and investors.  I was excited because I think that having more opportunities to view great companies is better than having fewer.  And I was happy for Mike Arrington, who has really turned Techcrunch into a meaningful brand.  This promises to become a must-see event that I can’t wait to attend.

I was disappointed, however, by Mike’s not-so-veiled attacks on the DEMO Conference.  Rather than taking the high-road (and creating the same sense of “friendly competition” and “mutual respect” that he seems to have done with GigaOm and other competitors in the blog space) Mike choose to attack their integrity and value.  And while some might consider the timing of his announcement great marketing, I think it was bad form.

I think DEMO is a wonderful venue – that provides meaningful value to companies, press and investors.  That’s why First Round Capital has been a partner/sponsor with DEMO for the last several years.  In fact, during the last 8 years, I have either helped to found (Half.com, Turntide) or fund (Aggregate Knowledge, Jingle Networks, Riya, Krugle, VideoEgg) almost 20 companies that have launched at DEMO.  I think DEMO provides a ton of value to its demonstrators. 

Does DEMO charge a fee for presenters?  Yes they do.  However, that fee is equal to one or two months cost for a decent PR firm – and I’d like to see that PR firm get you an audience with almost 50 key reporters (from the WSJ, the NY Times, Businessweek, the Associated Press, etc) and dozens of venture capitalists.  And I’ve seen firsthand how DEMO helps companies that can’t afford it – either by making introductions to funding sources or by providing lenient payment terms.  I’ve known Chris Shipley (Demo’s Producer) for years – and she has worked hard to build a well-deserved reputation for integrity, intelligence and humility.  The way she responded to Mike’s announcement is illustrative of her class and style.

I’m a huge fan of both Mike Arrington and Chris Shipley – and I’m fortunate to count them both as friends.  I think they both have built great personal brands.  I think they both offer extremely insightful thoughts on the technology startup scene.  And I look forward to attending both of their conferences…

Comments

Erik Schwartz

While one could spend that much on a few months of a PR firm, most bootstrapped startups wouldn't.

Demo's fee is higher that our entire hard expenditures developing the fonehow.com platform, getting it into beta, and getting our first revenue. It's hard to stomach more than doubling your expenditures in one fell swoop if you're a self funded startup with a thrifty nature.

That said, from a strictly ROI basis, it probably makes sense to go.

baris

Josh,

Well said. I agree that it was bad form, unnecessary at best.

Steve Morsa

Agree. There are many paths to receiving exposure, funding, and marketplace success...more options and choices helps everyone.

No need to denegrate one approach (or the normally fine people behind them) in order to promote your own.

There's certainly room enough for all...

Megan

I agree, it's a bad move to reference competition because there are those out there with high personal attachment. However, i think he has great points and fully support the effort.

Michael Brown

Well stated Josh. DEMO has been a terrific launchpad and a wonderful meeting place for people from the worlds of Internet, technology investment and traditional media. I have loved my visits to the Conference and have returned from each feeling renewed and invigorated by the energy of DEMO and the creativity of the entrpreneurs that present.

DEMO and Chris Shipley (and First Round Capital) have played no small part in the launch of new, exciting companies that define how we all use technology today. Why bash a good thing?

DeadCellZones.com

Much agreed on your comments about the critism of Demo. Chris Shipley and her team deserve a lot of credit for bringing great people and entrepreneurs together. Tech 20 smells like propreitary deal flow as the primary agenda. You might as well call it the Sequoia Capital conference. That said I would like to attend.

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