Quora:Threatening Calls from DEMO conference-waste of $/time #fail

From: http://jc.is/fqMrep
Anon User
My company chose to launch at Demo.  There were some positives from the event.  But they were few and reflected a very poor ROI had we paid up front for the event.

In the end we attended having not paid up front and being assured this would be okay and we could pay post funding.  Of course the harassing phone calls started immediately DEMO was over and included their representatives threatening the company in all sorts of manners including doing everything they could to have us shut down and fail as punishment.  They backed off later but I still felt it highly inappropriate and for this reason alone I would hesitate to recommend DEMO.  You also find out, talking to your fellow participants, how many of them made private deals on pricing, which leaves one with an unpleasant taste in the mouth – everyone doesn't pay the same for the same service.

However this is a minor quibble compared to the substance of what one has to consider as a startup founder deciding where to prioritize limited resources.  What could you want from DEMO?  What do the DEMO folks either state outright, or imply, or encourage you infer, about the benefits of the event?

1) Press coverage – we analyzed our press coverage of the event and it was minimal outside of the IDG/DEMO family of publications.  They tout how all the big journalists "like Walt Mossberg" attend, then on the final afternoon walk Mossberg around for 15 minutes and show him a couple of favored startups.  You won't meet him, he won't look at your booth, and neither will many of the other journalists you read every day in technology.  You'll do better talking to those journalists directly.  

— a note on tech media:  there seems to be an unhealthy balkanization creeping into the tech media, where you get reduced coverage on one site if you launch on another.  It's sad, it's denied, but it's true.  Think about that when choosing media strategy as a startup.

— as an aside from this: DEMO/IDG is really pathetic for a media company at understanding social media.  They made it virtually impossible to share our video from DEMO (one of the big benefits they sell you on), and the site is/was out of date, poorly structured and badly SEO'd.  People won't find your info easily.

2) Investors – not really.  I met maybe two or three investors from VC firms you'd know – one of whom isn't even active nowadays.  Several corporate investors were there, or at least represented by associates.  We felt we got a really good contact with a corporate VC from there, though it didn't really go anywhere, so it's hard to tell.  However talking to other DEMO alumni we were luckier than them to get that one follow up.  DEMO won't get you funded.

3) Partnerships – this is perhaps a stronger card for them.  We saw a lot of people who were obviously from big corporations, there on the company dime. Not sure how active they were or weren't.  They certainly diligently went around the exhibit hall and talked to all of us.  Made it a bit less boring, as there were at least people to talk to (and what entrepreneur doesn't love pitching their product?).  I guess this is as good a way as any of picking up business cards for later follow up.  Just an expensive route to that result.

If you're launching your product, and it's your company's first product – i.e. you're relatively early stage, then DEMO is just the wrong place to do it.  You will spend too much money and get little or no results.  Worse, the negative signaling value of having spent money on DEMO is high.  We had to start skipping talking about our DEMO pitch entirely when talking to VCs as, if we raised it early, there was a visible shift in their attitude to the negative.  It looks bad if you weren't smart enough to realize that DEMO is not a good use of money for an early stage company.  Angels in particular will have a very negative reaction even if you bootstrapped your way to DEMO.

The event was fun, well organized, pleasant.  The people involved were nice to work with and it was a great few days.  The food was good.  But I'd have spent less money taking my team for a diving weekend in Belize and had better results IMHO.  We were seriously distracted by working towards DEMO, trying to follow up after DEMO and trying to gear up our strategy towards expected results from DEMO.  

I know this sounds negative, and there's enough in here to identify us if you're reading this and work for DEMO and want to start picking fights with us again.  But I think it's a disservice to my fellow entrepreneurs not to be honest about our experience.Suggest Edits

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