It sounds amazing, and it is—Setapp had a great visit to TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco earlier this year. But we want other startups who are deciding whether to go to get an honest idea of what to expect from TechCrunch Disrupt, and how to get the most out of the event.
What should your goals be?
Most companies who decide to attend Disrupt are after some combination of these three goals:
- Raising capital. If you have a great pitch and meet the right investor, Disrupt could pay off huge.
- Getting new users. A lot of companies are vying for attention from attendees and the press, but a strong showing in the Battlefield competition (here’s a great account of what that’s like) or Startup Alley can boost awareness of your product with users.
- Validating your ideas. Disrupt is full of smart people who love technology as much as you do. The people you meet and the conversations you have can help you advance your product long after the show is over.
Having a clear-eyed view of what you want from TechCrunch Disrupt can help you decide how to spend your time and where to focus your energy. It’s worth talking about this with your team a lot, and long before your bags are packed!
What you shouldn’t expect to happen at Disrupt
Disrupt is a big deal, and you can get a lot of out of it, but just to manage your expectations a little, here are some things that probably won’t happen there.
Huge booth traffic without a huge effort
People will visit your booth, but you’ll have to really work to get them there. Startup Alley is crowded, and there’s a lot of competition for attention.
- You need to catch the eye, with design and graphics that draw people in. Make sure your banner conveys what you do without being too packed with text. For example, Lexis Hanson of Chameleon advises to identify the problem you solve, and how you solve it.
- Your booth has to be staffed by friendly, upbeat people who aren’t afraid to engage with strangers. Just remember that booth babes don’t work.
- Be creative like never before. Bizzabo, for example, put a toy helicopter in their booth, and found that everyone who played with it wanted to hear their pitch. Their advice of preparing 30-second, 1-minute, and 5-minute versions of your pitch is also spot-on.
Investors throwing money at you
Yes, there are investors at Disrupt, but they aren’t strolling Startup Alley with sacks of money trying to find you. Sometimes you won’t even know you’re talking to an investor, since they don’t always wear badges.
So be friendly and engage with everyone, and if one of your goals is raising funds, be open about that. Work hard to find the right people and make as many genuine connections as you can along the way.
You’ll get tons of attention
Disrupt is a great place to meet people, but you have to be proactive about it. No one cares about your product more than you, so it’s easy to get frustrated with the difficulty of getting people to the booth, and how much of that traffic is pretty irrelevant to what you’re trying to do.
By having multiple goals—new users acquired, leads generated, bloggers met, and so on—you’ll set yourself up to have a productive time there even if you don’t land a new investor or a story on the TechCrunch home page.
Setapp’s advice for TechCrunch Disrupt
So how do you make the most of your time at Disrupt? Meet everyone you can, and treat them all like gold. Disrupt is all about networking, and the best networking is active. Here’s our best advice to maximize your success.
Practice your pitch
Your pitch has to be ideal. You should be able to pitch in your sleep. Have different lengths of pitches, from an “elevator pitch” to a longer 3- to 5-minute spiel. Practice it a thousand times to everyone you can, and get their feedback.
But the most important thing is that you love your pitch, and you believe in it—the people you’re talking to will see the excitement in your eyes and hear it in your voice. Practice the words ahead of time, so that in the moment you can remember to convey the passion.
Treat everyone well
This goes without saying, right? Well, we’re going to say it anyway. It’s impossible to know every time if the person who just walked up to your booth is an investor, a journalist, another developer, or a random person.
Investors and journalists know they’re sought after at Disrupt, so they’ll sometimes try not to look like investors and journalists. Treat everyone equally—be friendly and pitch, pitch, pitch!
Network until you drop
Disrupt is the perfect place for networking. So get out there and mingle! It’s your job to find the right audience; don’t expect them to find you. If you’re naturally an introvert, set some goals for yourself and take breaks when you need to, but Disrupt only lasts a few days and the contacts you make can reap benefits for years.
Be creative with your networking, too. At Disrupt in 2015, Michael Cho of PIF really wanted to meet a certain TechCrunch journalist who is a smoker—and sure enough, he was able to find her at the backstage smoking lounge, where she agreed to hear a 1-minute pitch and then referred him to a colleague—who wrote a story.
Plan ahead with your team, and then as the show progresses, have team check-ins regularly to compare notes about what’s working and how you can support each other. After the show, don’t forget to follow up with the people you met—sometimes someone who was too busy for a long chat during Disrupt is a lot more available a couple weeks later.