The Superbowl of Startups

When I attended Demo I remember being in awe of what I thought of as the Superbowl of Startups.

Here were these companies that prepared months to spend six minutes on stage.

Later I talked with “DemoGods Coaches” like Shel Israel or Nathan Gold. They told me just how much hard work went in behind the scenes. Some teams spent literally months preparing their demos and getting their companies ready for the big day. This year the big day is on Monday.

Each company has spent $18,500 just to get on stage. That part you all know about because of the famous fight that Demo has had with its competitor, TechCrunch 50.

But the Demo Coaches tell me there’s a lot more that goes into it. Many of these companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in time preparing (and hiring coaches like Nathan Gold, who has a few companies in the running down at Demo). They also often bring their entire teams down to both host the booth in the expo hall as well as host meetings in hotel room suites for press and VCs. Lots of deals are done in the back rooms.

This is why I was so harsh to all those sites this morning. This is the Super Bowl. It’s not a little high school recess game. Thousands of people have visited the list already in the past few hours since I posted. It’s at the top of TechMeme. There’s a lot of attention on the list.

Pointing out that these sights suck has gotten me quite a few harsh words in the past few hours. None harsher than Chris Shipley’s post in reply.

My response to her? Because this is the “Superbowl of Startups” Shipley needs to step up the game here.

Here’s a few replies to her post.

First, she didn’t call me before posting her post. So, let’s say she’s right about the fact that I post posts without getting her point of view then she just lowered herself to my level to make a point, which now is weakened significantly because she didn’t practice the higher ethics she says she wants us all to aspire to. More on that in a little while, though, because that really doesn’t have much to do with the Superbowl of Startups, er, Demo.

She wrote: “But seriously, if I cared about startups, I’d be sure there were links in my stories for the convenience of Robert and other bloggers?”

No, that’s not why I said that. Yes, I’m an egotistical baaahhhsssstttaaarrddd, and a lazy one too, but this shows you have contempt for the startups you are trying to help. A link is VERY IMPORTANT. Why? It gets Google juice. For a startup Google juice is probably more important than anything else the conference can do for you. Why? Because until someone links to your site you won’t be found very high on Google, which is where 99% of your customers will come from (not from tech blogs like this one, Shipley’s, or TechCrunch). Having a site like Demo link to you can mean the difference between being on the first page of results vs. being far lower.

Also, a link makes it easier for readers to do. When sites don’t link the things they talk about will see 100x less traffic than if they do link. Yes, readers (and bloggers and journalists even) are lazy. So, throw them a bone. Finally, by not linking you’ll force your readers to manually enter the URLs, which keeps Web sites from getting a good referral (server logs keep track of where visitors come from) so you won’t get as much credit as you’re due.

Anyway, back to what Shipley wrote. Here’s another passage: “When misinformation is propagated out of laziness and inconsideration, that’s hardly informative. It’s not “new school;” it’s No School.”

Um, OK, but did she point out something that I got factually wrong? No. Did she add new information? No. Did she just make it sound like I had gotten something wrong? Yes. Did she succumb to the same sins that she attacked me and Sarah Lacy for? Yes.

So, what did we learn here? Well, we learned that Shipley is disappointed with the coverage she’s getting. That much is clear. But did she take the time, after she had berated us for that coverage, to correct it? No.

And that makes me very sad. Because it’s like Shipley (and her commenters) are stuck in the past where words were printed on dead trees and you can’t argue with them.

This is not a one-way shipment of words. It’s a conversation.

If I say something wrong, or do something you don’t like, you get involved and slap me around for a while and then YOU CORRECT IT. Notice that I’ve linked to Shipley here twice tonight. Over on FriendFeed I passed her post to all of my friends. Same on Twitter. I’ll do the same on Facebook too. That’s a lot of attention that she had, but she didn’t take the time to get her point of view across.

Which brings me back to the “blogging is reporting” meme that she’s trying to get across.

Blogging is NOT reporting. It’s the single voice of a person. When you read me here you are reading me the way I’d talk to you at a cocktail party. You’re hearing my opinions. If I’m doing “reporting” then you’ll know, because of how I source it.

Sorry, I’m not going to call you every time I have an opinion. If you think I should, then you are crazy and don’t understand blogging.

I used to be like Shipley (Tim O’Reilly has voiced the same opinions too). I used to think that you should call me when you write something about me. That’s why I put my phone number on my blog (it’s +1-425-205-1921 — I do answer my phone and that is actually my cell phone that I use every day).

But I was wrong. See, this is a two-way conversation. You write crap about me. Then I can decide to answer you back.

This is unlike any other communication method ever devised by humans. Talk radio? Give me a break. I waited on hold for an hour last night to make a two-minute contribution to KGO Radio. Newspapers? Have you ever gotten a letter to the editor printed? How many weeks did it take? Magazines? I write for one of those and it takes months to get anything into it. TV? When was the last time a normal human being was on TV holding a conversation with someone on demand for as long as it takes? Never. Try getting on CNN sometime and see how easy it is.

But here? You can leave a comment. You can head over to FriendFeed. You can blog. You can Seesmic. YouTube. etc. etc.

Oh, and Shipley says I’m living in the “rarefied air of the echo chamber.” I love that diss. It might have held weight if she had called me and proven that she’s better than me. But, now that she’s shoved the cream pie in my face I’ll point out that none of the hundreds of startups on my show had to pay to get onto my video show. Ever.

Back to the “Superbowl of Startups.” I will relook at each site this week. Unfortunately Demo, for the first time in years, isn’t putting up videos of the demonstrators, so I’ll just be forced to link to other bloggers who are writing about Demo down there and then I’ll have to compare those companies to ones I’ll see face-to-face at TC50. That will probably introduce some bias, but I’ll link to all my work product and other sites and, anyway, if you don’t like what I say you can easily do a Google Blogsearch and find someone else you like better. Luckily there are lots of areas that don’t overlap between Demo and TC50, but where there are overlaps it’ll be interesting to compare the two approaches. I’m sure some will like the Demo approach. Others will like the TC50 approach.

It’s going to be a fun week in the Superbowl of Startups. Let me know by posting a URL here if you’re writing from either of the two conferences.

38 thoughts on “The Superbowl of Startups

  1. Since you asked for URLs where TC50 coverage will be found, I’ll offer this link.

    http://tc50.mobilejones.com

    Some video and a multimedia collection of those organizing and attending TC50 are posted as they come in from Twitter, Qik and Flickr. If anyone wants to add their Twitter, Flickr or Qik feed just send me your URL and name to mojo _AT_ mobilejones dot_com but with the correct formatting of course. I’ll be glad to add you.

    TechCrunch 40 was a great event last year and I’m looking forward to TC50 with anticipation of an informative, fun and entertaining conference. Say hi if you’re coming.

  2. Since you asked for URLs where TC50 coverage will be found, I’ll offer this link.

    http://tc50.mobilejones.com

    Some video and a multimedia collection of those organizing and attending TC50 are posted as they come in from Twitter, Qik and Flickr. If anyone wants to add their Twitter, Flickr or Qik feed just send me your URL and name to mojo _AT_ mobilejones dot_com but with the correct formatting of course. I’ll be glad to add you.

    TechCrunch 40 was a great event last year and I’m looking forward to TC50 with anticipation of an informative, fun and entertaining conference. Say hi if you’re coming.

  3. @jacob, as I said, blogging is a conversation and bloggers don’t have to be perfect.

    Looking at your quote of Robert’s article, I think he alludes to link quality but is not as clear as you’d like.

    Consequently, this article is richer for you clarifying that point about link quality.

    So I don’t think he was propagating a myth and nor should he stop talking about seo – provided readers clarify or infill points that may need it.

  4. @jacob, as I said, blogging is a conversation and bloggers don’t have to be perfect.

    Looking at your quote of Robert’s article, I think he alludes to link quality but is not as clear as you’d like.

    Consequently, this article is richer for you clarifying that point about link quality.

    So I don’t think he was propagating a myth and nor should he stop talking about seo – provided readers clarify or infill points that may need it.

  5. Reading all the coverage that goes on here as well as elsewhere (TC for example) about Demo and TC50 makes me want to stay away from these events as far as possible.
    Someone said this story reminds them of High School. Actually it reminds me of Kindergarten. Could we get back to some actual tech news now?

  6. Reading all the coverage that goes on here as well as elsewhere (TC for example) about Demo and TC50 makes me want to stay away from these events as far as possible.
    Someone said this story reminds them of High School. Actually it reminds me of Kindergarten. Could we get back to some actual tech news now?

  7. i know it’s not a huge concern for startups but my point is that this how these “seo” myths get started and spread around the web. If someone doesn’t know SEO then they shouldn’t mention it, simple as that.

    by the way i think SEO for startup companies is huge!

    i’d be annoyed for not getting a permanent link as well

  8. i know it’s not a huge concern for startups but my point is that this how these “seo” myths get started and spread around the web. If someone doesn’t know SEO then they shouldn’t mention it, simple as that.

    by the way i think SEO for startup companies is huge!

    i’d be annoyed for not getting a permanent link as well

  9. @jacob that’s true, but far too subtle a concern for a startup who are just getting off the ground with link-building.

    could the links come from content organized into silos of related-topics with anchor text selected by the startups themselves? yes. if I were a startup, would i take either? yes. did DEMO do a disservice by failing to link? yes.

    But I don’t think DEMO’s sin was as great as Robert implies (and it doesn’t seem to have been from ill-intent). But I do know that I would have been annoyed after paying $19k to not get a direct permanent link on demo.com.

  10. @jacob that’s true, but far too subtle a concern for a startup who are just getting off the ground with link-building.

    could the links come from content organized into silos of related-topics with anchor text selected by the startups themselves? yes. if I were a startup, would i take either? yes. did DEMO do a disservice by failing to link? yes.

    But I don’t think DEMO’s sin was as great as Robert implies (and it doesn’t seem to have been from ill-intent). But I do know that I would have been annoyed after paying $19k to not get a direct permanent link on demo.com.

  11. robert,

    please don’t start propagating seo myths by stating that,

    “Because until someone links to your site you won’t be found very high on Google, which is where 99% of your customers will come from (not from tech blogs like this one, Shipley’s, or TechCrunch). Having a site like Demo link to you can mean the difference between being on the first page of results vs. being far lower.”

    this is not how seo works, a simple link to your site won’t mean much unless the quality and the relevancy of the link is evaluated. if demo or techcrunch are linking to 60 companies from the same page, then the google “juice” is not going to be much at all. I hate this garbage seo speak i keep hearing about, if you don’t know seo then don’t talk about it because most of the stuff i keep reading is pure nonsense.

    j

  12. robert,

    please don’t start propagating seo myths by stating that,

    “Because until someone links to your site you won’t be found very high on Google, which is where 99% of your customers will come from (not from tech blogs like this one, Shipley’s, or TechCrunch). Having a site like Demo link to you can mean the difference between being on the first page of results vs. being far lower.”

    this is not how seo works, a simple link to your site won’t mean much unless the quality and the relevancy of the link is evaluated. if demo or techcrunch are linking to 60 companies from the same page, then the google “juice” is not going to be much at all. I hate this garbage seo speak i keep hearing about, if you don’t know seo then don’t talk about it because most of the stuff i keep reading is pure nonsense.

    j

  13. Robert – does all the Superbowl buzz this season expand the market for startup demos (I think so) or is it competition within a stagnant market? We’ve started have our events locally here because there aren’t enough options for all of the startups to get buzz, get presentation practice, and to showcase their usually-still-in-beta sites to the community.

  14. Robert – does all the Superbowl buzz this season expand the market for startup demos (I think so) or is it competition within a stagnant market? We’ve started have our events locally here because there aren’t enough options for all of the startups to get buzz, get presentation practice, and to showcase their usually-still-in-beta sites to the community.

  15. Just keep doing what you’re doing, Robert. You are my favorite commentator on the web. And, like a sailing ship, you keep making corrections to your course as necessary. (Like when you recently realized you were drifting away from what blogging is, and becoming more like a journalist.)

    I write for Apple Matters, and, although I don’t consider myself overly informed, I try to bring a different perspective. But at the end of the day it’s simply my opinion. Folks tho lose sight of that and for some strange reason demand exceptionally high standards of bloggers, expect perfection, even if the only thing the can pick on is grammar or spelling.

    But thru my writing on AM, I’ve learned it’s not about me, not about what I write. It’s about the conversation I start. My last words in an article are the beginning, not the end. It is the readers who fulfill and complete what I write. If I answer every question, every argument within an article, the article dies.

    Blogging is a conversation. When people try to turn it into something like professional journalism, it dies. And, as you say, no other medium – TV, newspaper, magazine, radio etc – comes even close to allowing that completeness of conversation.

  16. Just keep doing what you’re doing, Robert. You are my favorite commentator on the web. And, like a sailing ship, you keep making corrections to your course as necessary. (Like when you recently realized you were drifting away from what blogging is, and becoming more like a journalist.)

    I write for Apple Matters, and, although I don’t consider myself overly informed, I try to bring a different perspective. But at the end of the day it’s simply my opinion. Folks tho lose sight of that and for some strange reason demand exceptionally high standards of bloggers, expect perfection, even if the only thing the can pick on is grammar or spelling.

    But thru my writing on AM, I’ve learned it’s not about me, not about what I write. It’s about the conversation I start. My last words in an article are the beginning, not the end. It is the readers who fulfill and complete what I write. If I answer every question, every argument within an article, the article dies.

    Blogging is a conversation. When people try to turn it into something like professional journalism, it dies. And, as you say, no other medium – TV, newspaper, magazine, radio etc – comes even close to allowing that completeness of conversation.

  17. Pete I followed Robert and put my phone number up on my website. The only calls I have had from it have made me really glad I did put it up!

  18. Pete I followed Robert and put my phone number up on my website. The only calls I have had from it have made me really glad I did put it up!

  19. :O

    I’m stunned! You’ve never been harassed via cell phone? Maybe I’m just a bit paranoid then.

    By the way it’s impressive that you have comments set to appear automatically.

  20. :O

    I’m stunned! You’ve never been harassed via cell phone? Maybe I’m just a bit paranoid then.

    By the way it’s impressive that you have comments set to appear automatically.

  21. Bet she’s regretting that post now.

    And, you have your real number on the Internet!? What are you thinking? You’re opening yourself up to all sorts of trouble. I just hope that isn’t really your main cell phone like you say it is….

  22. Bet she’s regretting that post now.

    And, you have your real number on the Internet!? What are you thinking? You’re opening yourself up to all sorts of trouble. I just hope that isn’t really your main cell phone like you say it is….

  23. I was only mildly interested when the first post went up – what you wrote was interesting (honest!) but a bunch of under-achieving startup web sites wasn’t going to get me clicking. I mean, you did it so I didn’t have to, right?

    But now I’m curious – was your judgement really that wrong? Could you possibly have had an axe to grind? Now I have to see for myself. Time to click.

    Mapflow. You’re too kind.
    Plastic Login: I thinkyou’re a little harsh.
    Semantifind: Looks like they read your comments: there’s an email address collecting box there now. Good for them, they may be fast enough on their feet. Shame about their (apparently) me-too product.
    Usable: I’m about 7000 miles away from Demo. You’re right.
    OpenCircle: Not a “solution space” I know much about. But the CEO’s blog is lame. “Hello Wired Warriors”? Ick.
    Photrade: Worked for me. I get it, although I can’t see what’s new and interesting.
    Radiant Logic: I work for a large global corporate and I can’t see what problem they’re solving. Feels like a sales-led or CTO word-of-mouth thing. You may be a little harsh on them.
    Wild Pockets: Front page looks nice, may achieve market-follower status in time. Why would I want to give them money on that basis?
    Tooltogether: You’re right.
    Trinity Convergence: Well, I think they… no, they make… they’re a… Nope. Too hard. Te kind of business that’s not exactly public-facing, I suspect – if you need them, you already know wha tthey do.

    Bored now. I score you mostlyr ight, from my unenlightened position. An unenlightened and uninspiring bunch. But surely that’s why they’re in a startup talent show – the really attractive startups have the money they need without needing presentation coaches. This is “America’s Got Talent” for tech startups.

  24. I was only mildly interested when the first post went up – what you wrote was interesting (honest!) but a bunch of under-achieving startup web sites wasn’t going to get me clicking. I mean, you did it so I didn’t have to, right?

    But now I’m curious – was your judgement really that wrong? Could you possibly have had an axe to grind? Now I have to see for myself. Time to click.

    Mapflow. You’re too kind.
    Plastic Login: I thinkyou’re a little harsh.
    Semantifind: Looks like they read your comments: there’s an email address collecting box there now. Good for them, they may be fast enough on their feet. Shame about their (apparently) me-too product.
    Usable: I’m about 7000 miles away from Demo. You’re right.
    OpenCircle: Not a “solution space” I know much about. But the CEO’s blog is lame. “Hello Wired Warriors”? Ick.
    Photrade: Worked for me. I get it, although I can’t see what’s new and interesting.
    Radiant Logic: I work for a large global corporate and I can’t see what problem they’re solving. Feels like a sales-led or CTO word-of-mouth thing. You may be a little harsh on them.
    Wild Pockets: Front page looks nice, may achieve market-follower status in time. Why would I want to give them money on that basis?
    Tooltogether: You’re right.
    Trinity Convergence: Well, I think they… no, they make… they’re a… Nope. Too hard. Te kind of business that’s not exactly public-facing, I suspect – if you need them, you already know wha tthey do.

    Bored now. I score you mostlyr ight, from my unenlightened position. An unenlightened and uninspiring bunch. But surely that’s why they’re in a startup talent show – the really attractive startups have the money they need without needing presentation coaches. This is “America’s Got Talent” for tech startups.

  25. When the “Fall startup launch schedule” went from 30 or so companies to 50 or so to over TWO HUNDRED, it seems pretty clear that, much like in sports expansions, quality suffers. Whether you like TC50 or DEMO or both, you are participating in that dilution simply by bringing attention to it and calling either event a Superbowl.

    The hype around both events is too much. It’s too much of a push/pull for the VCs, the bloggers, the media, etc. I believe the tech startup industry is being done a disservice, and also believe there will be worse ripples to come out of it down the road…

  26. When the “Fall startup launch schedule” went from 30 or so companies to 50 or so to over TWO HUNDRED, it seems pretty clear that, much like in sports expansions, quality suffers. Whether you like TC50 or DEMO or both, you are participating in that dilution simply by bringing attention to it and calling either event a Superbowl.

    The hype around both events is too much. It’s too much of a push/pull for the VCs, the bloggers, the media, etc. I believe the tech startup industry is being done a disservice, and also believe there will be worse ripples to come out of it down the road…

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