Running the numbers: why Gist should have launched at TC50

Gist is one of my favorite new companies to launch its product for the first time this week. They decided not to launch at TC50, the big conference this week. That’s cool, they’ve actually had a great week and their servers are being pushed hard. Gist’s CTO Steve Newman bragged that he’s seeing 380,000 Twitter handles come through the service. Very nice. I don’t have 380,000 Twitter handles and I’ve been doing this a lot longer.

I know one PR guy who I won’t name who told me he advises clients to launch somewhere else. That’s probably why OpenTable and Aardvark all launched stuff this week, but not on stage at TC50.

Now in OpenTable and Aardvark’s case, they might not have been chosen because they were already shipping. But Gist hadn’t yet been shipping to the public and I’m pretty sure they could have made a case that they should be on stage. I’m pretty sure that if Gist had launched at TC50 that they would have been in the final five at least and possibly been the winner.

So, what did they turn down by not launching at TC50?

The $50,000 prize.
The free advertising giveaway.

Yeah, but those don’t really matter to a great company. Amazon and Google got where they are by not doing advertising at all, remember? At least in the early years. And the money? Won’t really matter in the long run, although it’s nice to pay six months of some engineer’s salary to help get to the next level.

What were the intangibles?

At one point when I was on stage I asked how many people in the audience (of more than 1,000 people) had more than 200 followers? A lot of hands went up. One guy came up to me afterward and said he had 25,000 followers and had gotten them all organically and that they were all great people, not bots or spammers.

On the video stream more than 30,000 people watched at least part of the first day. Since then MANY MANY more times that number have watched at least one of the sessions.

And every company was covered on TechCrunch. I’ve heard that at least 20 people read that blog. Seriously. How about millions of people? Note that they didn’t cover Gist’s launch this week, while other blogs like Mashable and VentureBeat did.

So, by not being at TC50 they turned down a LOT of free exposure. I think that’s a mistake. It’s an even worse mistake because next week the Demo Conference will be here and lots of mainstream press and VCs and influentials are in that audience.

But, I’m sure some PR team is slapping themselves on the back and congratulating themselves on a good launch. Congratulations.

The thing is, you could have had an extraordinary launch.

OK, let’s say you don’t like TechCrunch. Well, there are lots of other events coming where the audiences are very influential. Next week is the Twitter Conference, which should be named “geeks and celebrities talking about audience building in the modern web world.” Have you seen who will show up there? Wow.

Or look at my link of all sorts of tech events. Remember, even an event with 100 people, if they are of guys who have 25,000 followers, will get you a HUGE amount of coverage! Much bigger than if you just talk to a single blog.

Next month is Jeff Pulver’s 140 Characters conference. Yet another opportunity to launch. Or in December come to LeWeb.

OK, now tell me why I’m wrong and why Gist was right to stay off the stage at TC50 or Demo. Operators are standing by to handle the hate mail. 🙂

UPDATE: One thing, this advice only holds if you have a company that is going to end up in the final five, the way I believe Gist would be. If you were going to be further down the list than that then maybe the PR people had a point. After all, I can remember the winners at TC50, but I have a hard time remembering anyone else. But in Gist’s case, they would have been one of those you would have talked about anyway so they should have gone and collected the check and gotten the exposure.