I spent the last week at the TechCrunch50 watching startups present and listening to the tech elite discuss various topics ranging from fundraising to tech's new clash with Hollywood. I learned a lot, took a ton of notes, and am officially mentally and physically exhausted.
As for the majority of the companies presenting, I truthfully wasn't all that impressed. There were of course some great stand out startups, but of the 52 who presented, I can honestly say I was only impressed with a few. Maybe I expected too much, maybe my ass just hurt from sitting in those uncomfortable chairs all day, but there were a lot of companies presenting extremely unimaginative ideas. For example AdRocket was building an advertising platform that delivered targeted ads in company newsletters/emails. How a startup like that was chosen to present out of the 1000+ entries boggles my mind. I even want as far as to predict that this event officially popped the Web 2.0 bubble. My favorite of the presenting companies were:
1) Yammer- Twitter for the enterprise
2) DotSpots- Annotating the web
3) ExchangeP- Virtual stock exchange for private companies
4) Mytopia- Developer of RUGS, a framework for developing and compiling native applications that will run on EVERY mobile operating system.
5) Akoha- A real world game where missions can be tracked online
6) GoodGuide- The world's largest and most reliable source of information on the health, environmental, and social impacts of products and companies.
In the end, six companies were brought on stage, five as finalists and one $50k winner. Surprisingly, Yammer took home the check. I love the idea of Yammer, I signed up for their service while I was listening to their pitch, but I'm not sure they should have been the winner. There is a lot to learn from the judges' decision though. The main thing I take away is that it's not about how cool or innovative your product is, it's about having something that is (super) simple, useful and profitable.
The startup presentations were boring at times, but the panels and discussions between sessions completely made up for it. Below are a few of the interesting quotes and advice I jotted down while listening to the various investors and geeks talk shop.
"Solve ONE particular pain point... then build the platform" - Effen Roelof (Sequoia)
"Follow the money, not the users" - Mark Cuban
"If I were raising money for a startup, I would use the angel investors, not VC's." - Raj Kapoor (Mayfield Fund)
"We like to invest in companies that have an unfair advantage in customer acquisition." - Navin Chadda (Mayfield Fund)
"I think the term viral marketing is an oxymoron" - Joss Whedon
By far the highlight of the event for me was the Mark Cuban interview. I have been a big fan of his for a long time and even more so now. Below are some of the great notes and quotes I took while listening to him.
- Broadcast was making 23 million the quarter when they sold for 5.7 billion
- We had over 1 million uniques a day when we sold broadcast.com
- Do things that people say wont work, do what people say can't be done
- I look at industries that I know are messed up
- Always put yourself in a position where you can control your own destiny
- Sales cures all - If you cant make money/sell your product, move on
- I will not invest in a company if you come to me with an exit strategy
- When we sold broadcast.com, we had 300 employees and 130 were in sales
- Everybody's got the will to win, the feeling that this is it, but not many people have the will to prepare - Bobby Knight
- You have too know your market better than anybody
All in all it was a great event and I want to thank TechCrunch for accepting my student application (at least now I can say college was good for something!). I look forward to attending and possibly presenting next year ;) .
Check out all of my twits from the event here.