Disrupt is a place where any startup’s dreams can come true. It’s a platform for new businesses to highlight their products and maybe even snag themselves a shiny investor or two…
Following the success of 2012’s final Techcrunch Hackathon and Disrupt which took place in San Francisco, the America’s foremost technology event will travel back to NYC and provide a platform for startups to hawk their wares and for those looking for media jobs the chance to meet potential employers.
This year’s September event saw around 330 new businesses vying for the attentions of visitors, which included investors and incubators as well as journalists – all eager to make their prediction on what might be the next big thing.
Bring out the Hackers
The Disrupt event always kicks off with the Hackathon – a 24-hour chance for developers and hackers to show what they’re made of and come up with a fantastic concept. It’s a fun way to make a serious point – that great ideas are borne from collaboration, creativity and good old fashioned hard work.
This year’s Hackathon again demonstrated the tenacity of the hackers, developers, designers and project managers, who, fuelled by donuts, beer and red bull; go to war to prove they’ve got the best idea over a manic 24-hour period.
The Hackathon culminates in all entrants making a frenzied one-minute pitch to a panel of industry experts, which this time around consisted of some seriously big hitters including Kent Brewster, Google+ Product VP Bradley Horowitz, Science Co-Founder Peter Pham and Menlo Ventures MD Shervin Pishevar.
This year’s Hackathon crown went to LiveBolt, a cloud-based identity management system that involves a block of metal that slides on the back of an actual lock, and an iPhone app. Once they’ve been verified, users can authorize the metal, using the app, to open and close the lock. The team snatched the $5,000 prize money from the 146 other Hackathon entrants, proving that not all tech startups have to steer clear of hardware.
Startups are Where It’s At
Howevere the Hackathon is really just the entrée – the starter to Disrupt’s main meal, and where the Hackathon whet the appetite, Disrupt 2012’s 329 startups will satisfy the cravings of any tech fan.
Startup Alley, Hardware Alley, the Impact Pavilion and all of the International Pavilions – Disrupt really does have something for everyone and it’s the ideal venue for anyone looking for a job in the technology sector.
Any startups looking for backing, guidance, support or even just a photograph with a member of the technocrati won’t have been disappointed as this time around the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayer, Jack Dorsey and Kevin Rose were all in attendance. Zuckerberg was even heard to declare that Disrupt was bigger than his own Facebook conferences.
All startups at Disrupt are there to attract the attention of investors, but they can also compete to win $50,000. By pitching during the Battlefield stages the startups are slowly whittled down by another panel of industry experts which this time included Marissa Mayer, Mike Arrington and Chris Dixon among others.
Despite intense competition from companies such as Expect Labs, Gyft, Lit Motors and Prior Knowledge, the victors this time around were YourMechanic – a website and app that aims to make getting your car fixed a cinch. In fact, such is the confidence in this California company that they’ve already scored $1.8 million from Y Combinator and cash injections from Mike Arrington through his CrunchFund, Yuri Milner and Andreessen Horowitz.
It’s Not all Champagne and Flowers
While the Hackathon teams and startups are allowed to get excited by their appearance at Disrupt and what it might bring, legendary investor Vinod Khosla was there to remind visitors and exhibitors that life as a startup is not all plain sailing and that the enthusiasm and excitement of the early days must be tempered with a cool business head. Khosla wants to make sure investors know that investing is as much about advice and assistance as it is about money.
Somewhat controversially he was quick to identify Y Combinator as a perpetrator, a set up he believes creates startups with overly sophisticated pitches that attract so much publicity they are effectively priced out of the market. He stated that by presenting themselves as super-slick from the off can prevent a startup attracting the investment and support from top-tier advisors that they so desperately need.
Khosla believes that startups should be free to pair up with anyone who accepts their terms, but that’s not the way he likes to play it.
He said: “My job is not to be an entrepreneur’s friend. It’s to drive them to do more and achieve greater heights. That’s why I never call myself a VC. I call myself a venture assistant.”
It certainly seems that if Disrupt 2013 is anything like Disrupt 2012, there will be something for everyone regardless of what they’re looking for.