Conference Curation: Some feedback and thoughts about TechCrunch40

Just got this really nice email from one of the companies that presented:

  • I wanted to send you a quick note to authentically thank you for advocating [ COMPANY NAME REMOVED], and supporting us at TechCrunch40. It was a fantastic event, and the grittiest launch-style conference I¹ve ever attended.

    TC40¹s conference format was a sorely needed disrupt from the payola circuit, and it delivered honesty in projecting the future viability of the selected companies. Another very interesting by-product of the conference was that the attendance yield of each session went up, because the critique tone of TC40 made the future sessions ‘must-see’ – I¹ve not experienced that before.

    Your banter with Michael also created a conversation with the audience which was engaging. TC40 will only get better, and my only note of improvement was I felt several of the demo-pit companies were of high quality, and could have easily replaced several presenting duds ­ such is the unpredictable nature of the conference, which also adds to the mystique. Lastly, Jason, Jenny and Dan were rock-solid, organized and acted as team. My highest praise extends to Heather ­ she is the complete package: Smart, calm, and gracefully in control ­ I can¹t emphasize enough that this impression was universal at the conference.

    Again, our many thanks.
    [CEO of COMPANY NAME REMOVED ]

I’ve got hundreds of emails to get through, and I’ll post some more feedback as folks let me know if it is ok to publish their emails (with or without their names).

One of the interesting things to come out of the event was the concept of favoritism and the selection process. Let’s be clear about something, the selection of the companies was always intended on being based on the opinion’s of Mike and I. We brought TechCrunch CEO Heather in on the process because a) she’s really smart, b) we were crushed and need the help, and c) she’s done some major M&A stuff at NEWSCORP and knows a think or two about startups (to say the least).

This is not a “wisdom of the crowds” style event. We’re not voting the companies up on digg then seeing who gets the stage–that would be interesting, if not scary (and now welcome to the stage “PS3 sucks!!!” and their CEO “First comment!!”).

Nope, this event was CURATED. We took ownership of selecting the companies. Is this process perfect? Far from it. Individuals can make mistakes and they can have bias towards certain businesses (i.e. I like magazine publishing and content, Mike might be more of a platform guy, Heather likes advertising). However, individuals can also take long shots, have gut reactions to things (like Storyblender, KerPoof, and MusicShake), and pick things that are certain winners based on 13+ years in the business (i.e. Mint, Cake, Clickable, Xobni).

We curated this event. We took ownership of the content.

I’m very proud of that fact.

The ultimate test of how we did curating is–in my mind–based on three factors:

  1. Did people stay in the room to see the next presentation?
  2. Were the companies the presented noteworthy? (i.e. worth mentioning in the press, on your blog, talking about at the cocktail party, or telling a friend about post-conference)
  3. Will people come back next year?

If you look at question number one it’s a very clear yes. Well over 25% of the crowd said they stayed for all 40 presentations–that was amazing to me. The room was filled for the entire event even up until the final set of companies. The vibe in the room got better and better and empty seats were hard to find (people were putting signs on their chairs when they went to the bathroom!).

If you look at question number two I think we passed that test with flying colors. Folks blogged like crazy, and our dedicated ethernet cables in the front three rows for the press were all taken. Many of the press stayed for both days and the number of press mentions per company was amazing.

Regarding question number three…. well, we’ll see. Many folks are talking about TechCrunch40 as if it were Web 2.0, DEMO, or PC Forum already. That’s humbling and we’re certainly going to bust our butts to make it even better next year.

Next year it will again be imperfect, based on the curation of the few, and–we hope–as entertaining!

All the best,

Jason

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