Techcrunch vs. DemoFall: Round 2, Fight! Is it bad for entrepreneurs though?

I, like many future entrepreneurs out there cherish any and all opportunities that can come about to showcase your product in front of anyone that’s willing to listen. That’s why when annual conferences such as Demo, Web 2.0 expo, and now the Techrunch40(or 50) come along, you always contemplate whether your company will be or should be ready to present in front of thousands of people present at the event, and with the advent of livestreaming with tools such as Stickam, Mogulus, and uStream, there can feasibly be tens of thousands of people watching live streaming of your presentation. Seems like an entrepreneur’s dream come true. VCs? Check. Journalists? Check. Tech bloggers? Check. What more can you want?

This fall’s event is quite different with another layer that many people will pick up very soon. DemoFall and the Techcrunch 50 overlap. DemoFall is September 7-9th and the Techcrunch 50 event is September 8-10th. Big conflict, major conflict…..tech battle. Here’s the tale of the tape: for DemoFall, it can cost up to 18k to present if you are an interested start-up who wants significant exposure. You bet the NPV on that can be substantially positive if you have a cool product. On the Techcrunch side, it’s FREE for entrepreneurs to present, a destabilizing business model for the former Kings of start-up launch conferences. Michael Arrington has expressed his disdain for the Demo conference, and I am not going to take sides on which conference is better for an entrepreneur, but I do know there are some interesting take aways for entrepreneurs.

Your business model needs to be flexible, with secondary business models ready to deploy at any sign of competition

Techcrunch is free for entrepreneurs to present, Demo costs 16-18k. Techcrunch has chosen to price tickets for regular admission at less than $2k until July 15th ($2,995 thereafter), whereas Demo costs $2,999 for regular admission. It will be interesting to see how Demo’s business model changes, or if it will change at all. My guess that it will change very soon, at least for the next conference.

Although it is obvious, building a brand is so essential for fending off competitors

Techcrunch has one of the most recognizable brand equity in Web 2.0 technology start-up space and they have done a tremendous job staying on top, in midst of great competitors in their space with Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, and Venturebeat. Techcrunch is no stranger to controversy, which helps it stay at the top of the echo chamber, tech discourse, and the mainstream press. Arrington is also no stranger to stating that he wouldn’t mind kicking Demo off their pedastal as the start-up launch conference. He has the networks to launch a conference with A-list attendees, that will wow the people not in the in-crowd. They can announce that they have some of the top VC firms including Sequoia as their main sponsors. Although the Demo conference is twice a year, it confines them to the Web conference space, which may be a competitive disadvantage to a media company, who interacts with their community 10-15 times a day through the Techcrunch blog. It will be interesting to see how in the near future, what things Demo could do to ensure they are talked about many times a year, rather than the two isolated conferences.

Free seems like the only business model these days

Chris Anderson, the author of the often quoted book, The Long Tail, has a new book coming out called Free, and although I have not read it, in some of the interviews he’s done, he states that the future of business is offering a great deal for free, and earning marginal revenue for other items associated with the free one. One example that I can think of is that musical artists should offer their music for free, and concentrate on generating economic rents through concerts, t-shirts, autographs, etc. I’m not saying that I all the way agree with that MO, but it seems like the basis of his argument. When you’re the King, you can charge monopolistic rents to an extent, but in Econ 101, the more people that enter your space directly competing against you, your total revenue will decrease, unless you find another way to earn more money.

Finally

Although there are a hundred other take aways that I could point out, there’s one question that I have. Actually, I have several questions. Is this bad for entrepreneurs? The point of these conferences are supposed to be focused on the start-ups and celebrating innovation. Are we to expect half of the innovation to opt for the Demo Conference and the other half for the Techcrunch50? Are the reporters, VCs, and bloggers going to split their allegiance? With the Demo conference having up to 70 presenters and the Techcrunch 50 having 50, are we going to see a dilution of what makes us excited about Web 2 dot 0? If we see poorly executed digg clones, is it going to seem like Web 2.0 has peaked? Is the conversation going to shift from celebrating the new trends to a battle of words for Techcrunch versus Demo? Or on the other hand, is this going to force the CEOs of these events to provide more value to all participants involved? Who knows! We’ll have to see in early September.

Like I said earlier, I think both conferences are great events, and they both have their merits because the attention that it brings to the space, but I must say that it’ll be a sad day if the competition doesn’t bring out the great things that Web 2.0 has to offer, and encourages continued investment in the space.

By the way, this is my first blog post, and plenty of nasal gazing to continue from here on out.

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