Aussie in the Big AppleThursday, 09 June 2011 15:16
Lessons from the TechCrunch Disrupt NYC conference
It's funny how things have their way of working out. Even though I really wanted to go, I hadn't planned on attending the conference.
I got in touch with a friend who introduced me to his friend, and he referred me to the link to sign up as a volunteer (saving $2,995). Luckily there were a few spots remaining and I took what I could get (Welcome Team Leader). This all happened within one day.
Taking the role of Welcome Team Leader had me a little nervous, because although they provided training my job was still to essentially manage other volunteers, and I wasn’t sure how that would go down.
It turned out to be really easy and the most flexible role anyone could have, because I had the freedom to move around the floor and mingle with other volunteers – it’s funny how a clipboard implies authority.
For most people they are there to hear (or watch) the speakers, and to network – but unfortunately it is difficult to get to the “talent”. They never really walked the floor, and were either backstage or left immediately after speaking (à la Arianna Huffington). To be fair, in this crowd they would have to keep their mingling limited otherwise they would never get out of there.
In good timing, a few days after the conference Chris O’Donnell from First Round Capital blogged about how to talk to investors – his post was aptly titled “How to approach an investor at a conference #tcdisrupt”. He had some great insights to offer like:
He called this the Minimum Viable Intro.
If you follow Chris’s post it will lead you to another one by Jason Freedman titled “How to email busy people” – this is also a must read.
Both of these are very interesting and definitely helpful, but at the end of the day to really make a meaningful connection with a potential investor, you need to get an introduction from a mutual friend or connection – this is the reality of how the industry works, which I will talk more about in future.
Getting back to the conference, overall I thought it was awesome and I would definitely do it all again, even as a volunteer. The connections you make and the knowledge you gain at these events will prove fruitful – perhaps not right away, but in time. The line up of speakers was great and the winner of the Battlefield was deservedly Getaround (or as some people have put it, the winner was AngelList who helped get them funding).
For me, the most important things I wanted to get out of this event were to network as much as possible, and to learn as much as possible. There are snippets of knowledge and information that the speakers drop that you can only pick up if you are really listening.
The TechCrunch crew will always report live on the best bits so it is good to follow their website and the # on Twitter while you are the event, which helps you get involved in both an online and offline sense.
In summary, here are the key things that stood out for me:
Michael Giles is the founder/CEO of Roboinvest, a tech start-up. Michael, an Australian, is based in New York. He tweets @harland.
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