TechCrunch Disrupt (web) kickstarted it’s first event in San Francisco with Mike Arrington sporting a t-shirt with the words “unpaid blogger”, a clear reference to his noisy departure from TechCrunch . The show on stage is rather boring due to the abuse of the “fireside chat” format, actually meaning “the speaker does not want to prepare a speech so we’ll just do a sort of interview.” With very few exceptions, I find these informal conversations a waste of my time as an attendee. In fact, I can get the same content out by reading the article later posted online with the summary of what was said.
An interesting format though was the on stage “office hours”. Venture capitalists do live interviews of startup founders in a similar picked from the audience way to what could be a first meeting. Paul Graham and Harj Taggar of YCombinator held office hours yesterday with something like 6 startups (article here) and the result was interesting, as others in the audience can learn from the experience.
The most valuable thing about TC Disrupt is the Startup Alley (exhibition area for mostly not-yet launched startups) and the Startup Battlefield. I roamed around the former and picked up the 8 most interesting ones for a conference organizer.
PS: Asking questions
At a certain point, Arrington was on stage interviewing Douglas Leone from Sequoia Capital. He turned back and asked towards the people in backstage if there is any mechanism for picking questions from the audience… WTF Mike???? The room is full of techies and geeks… It’s a no brainer to have one of your writers to pick questions from the twitter stream by using a pre-defined hashtag (like #QDisruptSF). What happened was the next possible solution: they planted a mike in the front of the room and attendees could queue in front of a it (drawback compared to Twitter – you might get really dumb questions from eloquent participants, which wastes the time of the rest of us).
Interesting Startups for Conference Organizers
Many of the startups present at TC Disrupt SF ’11 are demoing their product for the first time, so expect some of the links below to redirect to a “launching soon” place holder.
LaunchRock has been announced a few months back already but founder Thomas Knoll says that “launch is very near, we’re just ironing some bugs and other details”. The use for conferences? It’s a cool tool to have potential attendees sign up for your upcoming conference on a fully personalized template before the official website is up. The system then exports the contact list to CSV and the premium version will allow you to do advance segmenting of that audience.
Quixey is a search engine for apps on multiple platforms. The use of it? Well, I tried searching for “event management” and got a list of 97 iPad apps, 69 iPhone apps, 25 Mac apps and tons of other more for Android, Blackberry, Facebook et al. In a bulging market of apps for many different devices, Quixey might become a point of reference, with snippets of information scrapped from online reviews to complement the description of the app, which usually is more of a marketing pitch than a really informative blurb.
Slides.io is yet another iteration of a web-hosted presentation software, with the special feature that you can plug in a live video (from your camera or another source, like the live video from your conference) and combines both plus a chat feature into one screen. For now, you have to create the slides inside Slide.io, which is kind of a drawback if you made your deck in another program (Keynote, PowerPoint, etc). The creators say that in a future version you’ll be able to import your slides in pdf format.
Storify is not new, and I actually wrote about it here as a great tool to aggregate content from your conference (selected tweets, photos, videos, blogposts, etc) in a sort of modern “executive summary”. A recently added feature is the “slideshow” mode, that allows you to display Storify in big screens around the venue.
You could dismiss Vibe as a Twitter wannabe, but this guys have a nifty feature for live events. The app allows you to post tweet-like comments but set their duration in time (say 3 days) and establish a geo-fence that limits the geographica space in which “vibes” will be readable by others (say 50 m, so that only people physical present at the event can see them or 5km, for those around the venue to discover them). Vibe can be projected onto walls or screens as a sort of intelligent backchannel (aka twitter-wall).
Scaneroo is yet another photosharing app who’s strength is a feature that could easily be replicated by a web incumbent but still adds value by allowing you to tag people through QR codes and then easily distribute the photos by allowing people to scan the codes, say by placing them on the attendee’s badges, on posters, etc.
Cardflick joins the crusade of startups trying to get replace paper business cards with a digital clone. Will it succeed? Hard to say… I’ve seen many players come and go but I’ll still give it a try. You create your own business card by choosing a template and adding your contact info. In a near future you might be able to have several cards under one account (e.g.: for different occasions or projects you might be working in) but for now you can only get one. The sharing happens inside a GPS geo-fenced area (the app infers you’re both at the same event). They still have to polish some details, for example here at TC Disrupt the app goes a bit crazy because there’s lot of people with the same GPS location. You can also mail your card (with the attached vCard) to someone that does not have the app.
Two guys from Perth, Australia, came all the way to San Francisco to show their cool-looking visualization of live messages (from tweets and SMS). Livepad21 is not yet publicly available but will eventually allow the organizer to use them as “conversation indicators” by displaying them on huge screens around the venue.
These are not new but have a few features that could be useful for conference organizers.
Eventbrite is not a startup anymore but it’s about to launch an iPad app that allows the attendees to pay at the door of an event (several payment methods, including swiping your credit card… I guess with a Square-esque device or something like that). Status: internal beta
Posterous launched “Spaces”, combining previous features like groups and revamping the looks and apps. Spaces can be kept private or invite-only, and could be a great way to share selected information (posts, photos, documents) with attendees.