When 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…