Tech conferences and their conflicts

tc50 As another TC50 conference comes and goes Tom Foremski at Silicon Valley Watcher makes an interesting point in a post yesterday. As he notes much of the major tech conference circuit is put on by the same media that covers them ala TechCrunch, GigaOM and VentureBeat.

This is great from the conference participants because there is an unspoken guarantee that everything during the conference will be well covered. Which is easy to see with the nonstop blanket coverage on TechCrunch. Other than a couple of other major blogs though everyone is off talking about other things. For the media company putting on the conference it can amount to a huge cash injection for the company.

In some cases this kind of arrangement could raise the ugly specter of pay-per-post speculation which is a point Tom makes in his post

The attraction for companies participating in these conferences is good because it guarantees that each media organization will cover its own conference. This brings up a potential issue that this is a pay-per-post scheme.

Techcrunch avoids such criticism by charging the conference audience and not the main 50 companies that are presenting. However, it does charge exhibition fees of $3,000 for each of the 100 companies in the "Demo Pit."

Much of this gets glossed over as everyone seems to be benefitting from the arrangement but there is one other aspect of this that bothers me – especially with this year’s TC50. I was always under the impression that TC50 was a conference for Web 2.0 startups but this year we have had both Microsoft and Google making product announcements. Since when were they considered startups?

On top of that we have Melissa Meyer from Google making a product announcement – Fast Flip – and then turning around and being a judge on the TC50 panels – huh?

Am I the only one that sees anything slightly wrong with this?

Not only did startups that launched today potentially have their day in the sun upstaged by an established giant on the web but then they are being judged by that person doing the announcing. Sorry but that doesn’t sound very kosher.

Note: this is one of the things Sean and I talk about on today’s CobWEBs Daily Edition that I will be posting shortly.


  1. 16/09/09 at 11:25

    Well at least big companies making announcements won't be a problem they have to contend with next year as there will be no more Techcrunch50's. It looks like Arrington and Calacanis may have had a falling out.

    The question now is will someone else take up the mantel of a similar style conference?

  2. 17/09/09 at 11:46

    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Regarding your two main points:

    1. The Demo pit is $3,000 for TWO $3,000 tickets, a table, wifi, etc. So, basically we're giving people two half-priced tickets and a free table. Or, letting them in for free and charging them a small fee for the cost of setting up the event (which is VERY high). Also, we have 200-300 companies that want a demo pit table and we need to get that down to 100… so, charing for two half-priced tickets makes that happen. If you have another idea of how to setup a huge venue like this for free and feed everyone I'm all for it!

    2. We ask Microsoft, Google, AOL, MySpace, facebook, etc. to launch something big each year and two or three take us up on it. We do this because it adds excitement to the event and bring in a LOT of extra press. These demos take like 15 minutes each and everyone loves them. There is no downside to having these because, as you might not know, they are not in competition with the 50 companies. This is basically icing on the cake… I've never heard of anyone having a problem with this… so I'm sort of confused. Perhaps you could expand on why specifically you think this is a bad idea?

    all the best,


  3. 17/09/09 at 22:29

    Sorry Jason I meant to reply to this earlier but got sidetracked. First off thanks for taking the time to post such a great reply – I appreciate it.

    I'm not sure what part of my post your first point is in reference to because I have no problem with you guys making money from the conference.

    To the second point my only problem (and it's not really a “problem” per se) is that TC50 is suppose to be about the startups and DemoPit and when companies like Google and Microsoft make announcements I worry that depending on what they are announcing they could overshadow and take away attention form the starts. To be honest what I remember about this year's TC50 is Bing's Visual Search and Google's Fast Flip.

    I can understand the reasoning but I just hate to see attention taken away from the whole reason for the conference in the first place – the startups.