This year our startup, Renly had the privilege to attend TechCrunch Disrupt in New York to participate in the TechCrunch Battlefield, and it was definitely an experience that we won't soon forget. It was our first time at Disrupt, and also our first time in New York. Due to time constraints, we don't normally get the opportunity to attend the yearly tech events that various companies put on, which is a real shame, because much can be learned by seeing what other players are up to and what other innovations are being worked on.
But more importantly, you get to meet people in similar fields. You get to discuss growth strategies, acquisition, software solutions and walk away with an idea of how your company stands for itself. This year AI was the common theme seen throughout the showroom, and while I used to shy away in the past from it, I'm starting to realize that the future is now and the right time to jump on it is also now.
So today I'll be going over the sights and sounds of the 3-4 day event that we call TechCrunch Disrupt. There was much to do and much to see in between the happenings of the Battlefield.
The Disrupt Hackathon
A big part of Disrupt is the Hackathon that takes place the weekend before the event officially begins. 24 hours and hundreds of field experts get together to attempt to build the future in a 24 hour period. Ages vary from across the board as well as nationalities and languages. At the end of the event, each team gets the opportunity to present on the TechCrunch stage in front of a panel of judges for the chance to win the grand prize of $5000. Each team only gets around one minute to explain and demo their product. And they do an amazing job with such a short notice. I managed to take glance through the Hackathon, not having the time to participate personally and was definitely impressed with the vast variety of technologies being used. Everything from drones to VR headsets could be found mixed in all of the chaos.
This year's winner, reVive, was well deserved and served a fantastic cause. The team behind the VR application that helps to detect ADHD was a team of high school students and work with the organization #BUILTBYGIRLS. They did an amazing job and definitely deserve the recognition and prize money that comes with being Hackathon winners.
One of the highlights of Disrupt is the Startup Alley, a large section portioned off with booths set up for up and coming startup companies. Everything from the latest in VR to machine learning to productivity software can be found there. And while our startup had our own booth to maintain, we still managed to find the time to visit some of the other companies showcasing their products. Many many fantastic ideas were discovered along the way.
The Alley gives you the opportunity to meet some fantastic and like minded individuals and to even walk away with a solution to a problem that your own company might have been having. For example, a common problem that many companies face is the maintenance and organization of design and digital files. Mockups for example. Many times, designs get thrown into an email, or to a task management product and a week later, it's nowhere to be seen. We face such problems and were lucky to encounter a software solution that we've begun to test out.
We also had the opportunity to explain our product and answer questions to the many interested individuals that stopped by our booth interested in what we did. Fantastic conversations filled with awesome feedback and ideas were had during the entire 3 day event.
Disrupt also offers a wide variety of technical workshops that range in topic from VR to AI.
I didn't get the opportunity to attend too many workshops, due to booth responsibilities, but the ones that I did manage to attend were fantastic. The workshops are put on by some very talented individuals who are experts in their fields. I managed to attend an AI lecture and walked away with some much needed knowledge that we will begin to research for our company's future infrastructure.
So for anyone thinking of going to a future Disrupt, I would definitely recommend attending as many workshops as time allows for. Outside of Disrupt you probably will not have the opportunity to attend as many varying talks within the same roof.
The highlight of Disrupt is the TechCrunch Startup Battlefield. A small number of startups are selected to pitch their up and coming companies ideas to a panel. It's a nerve racking 6 minutes, followed by a round of questioning by a group of well established judges. There isn't too much to say about the process. You practice, you memorize, you rehearse and then you jump on stage. We received many fantastic comments about our presentation and while we didn't make it to the finals we feel we walked away with a much stronger product in the end. We're confident that we are headed in the right direction with what we presented and are definitely grateful for all of the feedback from the many fine folks.
Disrupt is a great opportunity for young up and coming companies to showcase their products. Whether you make it to the Battlefield or not. Startups can book a booth for a price to showcase their product and get good media exposure while at the same time getting some valuable feedback from people in the business.
I can't close out this post without talking about New York. New York is on my list of places to visit and has been for some time, so it was amazing to get to experience it. Late night pizza, getting lost on the subway, and Times Square were all a part of the experience. It's true what they say, that it never sleeps. All the food was local and opened until 4am and everything you could want is within walking distance. It was definitely a fantastic experience and it makes me excited for when I get the opportunity again to pay a visit to that fine state.