The following blog post is cross-posted in the forum Built in Chicago
Demibooks is in Silicon Valley for the TechCrunch Disrupt conference this week. We’re going to preview our digital books platform Demibooks® Composer at Startup Alley on Tuesday so if you are in San Francisco today stop by to see us and all of the other (mostly) amazing startups.
Preparations for TechCrunch reached fever pitch over the weekend. Staying true to mu startup mission, I couch surfed with recent Chicago transplants Beibei Que and Richard Komaiko of AttorneyFee. Buying monitors, cutting pipe to adjust the height of vertical banner holders, tweaking last minute updates to websites – AttorneyFee HQ has been a frentic hub of activity leading up to Monday’s launch at Disrupt.
The TechCrunch layout is along “camps” of startups. As you enter, you’re met with the Startup Alley – a long line of some of the hottest startups across the globe (OK, at least the ones who made their way here), flanked on both sides by deep(er) pocketed Exhibitors. One Startup Alley demo company is voted as the daily Best in Show, earning them a spot on stage with the Battlefield startups competing for top honors and cash. Seems like everyone goes to great lengths to get the popular votes, and baking cupcakes for attendees was quite within reason.
Some interesting companies from Monday’s Startup Alley – cabryn is creating a store for HTML apps which, of course, includes books. Israeli innovation was represented in full force as about 20 companies showed up on “Israel Alley”. From this set, I spent the most time with binpress, which bills itself as the “amazon for source code”. Also present: a startup that had a banner with its 15-year old founder and the message “there must be a reason VCs invested in this kid”. OK, if you say so.
Next up is the 500 Startups crowd, companies funded by valley super angel investor Dave McClure. My favorite is Udemy, a service that is educational, affordable and overall awesome. Fee Fighters represented Chicago in the 500 Startups crowd. Other Chicago luminaries included 5 degrees (Clinton Hopkins and Kelly Schwedland). and Rishi Roongta from New World Ventures who was helpful with introductions all day and into the evening. If I am counting familiar faces, then it was nice catching up with my old colleague Harshul Sanghi, formerly of Motorola Ventures and now with American Express
Tech Crunch staff reported 2500 attendees registered, and besides demos and exhibits the actual conference was held in fireside chat style in a room the size of a football field. Paul Graham held court at his now famous Office Hours. Then there are the finalist startups that make it to the stage to pitch in the ominously named “Startup Battlefield”, I really like cakehealth, a service that provides a mint.com view into your personal health insurance plans. I plan to give this service a try. Based on twitter chatter, many in the crowd thought these guys had something solid. Tonara had the most amazing presentation ever for their iPad based music sheet app – a concert pianist and a 4 person orchestra. The judges (AOL, GetSatisfaction, About.Me), however, didn’t like the biz model.
The highlight of the day was a rare chance to chat briefly with Facebook co-founder and now Asana CEO Dustin Moskovitz (the guy most prominently “wired in” on Facebook after Mark Zuckerberg). Dustin made a comment that resonated with me, along the lines of how it’s still about the idea and without the right one it doesn’t matter how hard you’re willing to work as an entrepreneur. Tuesday morning in the Startup Alley, we’ll put our idea and execution to test.