Techcrunch 40 – An attendee’s opinion

I attended the Techcrunch 40 event this week. There’s been a lot of reviews and opinions from popular blogger – but here’s some feedback from an attendee’s perspective.

I was there just to look at what was going on in the startup world without any other motive to raise money or connect with investors. I also paid for the event myself, so I believe my opinion was not influenced by external factors.

The location

I think the location and the arrangements were very good. There were complaints about people having to stand, but you have to take that in your stride or be early enough to come into a room. The lunches however left a lot to be desired – especially on day 1 when they ran out of food.

The companies

Some of the companies were not upto mark and I’m not sure if they really needed to be in the 40 – or for that matter there even needed to be a 40. I think 30 might have been more better and they would have been able to eliminate some derivatives and companies that we know about. Example: docstoc, app2you, flock, crowdspirit and maybe even Wixi to name a few.

The other presenting companies could have done better at preparing. I disliked some of the presentations – namely zivity, broadclip, mEgo. Kaltura was one other one that I was not sure how it made it as the top audience choice.

That said, there were a lot of applications that I see becoming very viable soon. Orgoo, TripIt, Xobni, Musicshake, Trutap, Cake Financial, Cast TV, Yap, Clickable.

There were some that were impressive but I have my doubts about their success namely Mint (which got the Techcrunch 40 award), Pubmatic, Powerset, Cognotive code, Extreme reality.

The people

I tried to move my locations around, so I could get a sense of who was attending. Most times I was with people from startups, however there were quite a few people from larger companies as well trying to scope out startups – someone from Intuit was actually taking notes on all the companies to pass around within the company.

There was a lot of chance to pitch to angel investors and VC’s. I saw several attendees that I could identify from the top angels and VC groups.

The experts

This was the biggest crowd puller – with the likes of Marc Andreeson, Marissa Mayer, Guy Kawasaki attending. But this was by far the biggest disappointment of the event. The experts were TERRIBLE. I could have done a better job than Marc Andreeson in giving the startups better feedback. I am not sure why they were holding back. And if they did not want to be blunt, then there should not have been this session at all.

The timing

This was probably the highlight of the even with Jason Calacanis leading the way. He did GREAT. I sat through all the 40 presentations and did not feel rushed nor did I feel that there was too much going on to absorb (granted I’m faster than many people but I’m assuming the caliber of the attendees was good)

All in all, maybe I would give the Techcrunch 40 (or whatever it is called next year) another try – but just one more. They have to improve a lot in terms of content and format for them to be a long standing conference that attracts the glitterati of the internet .


Top 5 ways to increase productivity in your startup

There are a lot of interesting ideas in the blogosphere for this – here’s an assimilation of the top 5 that have worked for us:

1) Check email only twice a day at set times say 11 am and 4 pm. Close your email client at other times and turn off all email notifications. Have a set time you spend on email – say 30 min each time and encourage people to call you if they need something urgent.

2) Reduce meetings – only hold meetings when absolutely necessary. Meetings take people away from their thought process and make it more difficult for people to come back to it.

3) Don’t keep a schedule – from Marc Andreessen’s excellent post on productivity. work on whatever is most important or most interesting, at any time. Want to spend all day writing a research report? Do it! Want to spend all day coding? Do it! Read this post for sure.

4) Take out all the small things that pull away your time. Read this post for 50 ways to increase productivity for quite a few good ideas on how to save time from small things.

5) Use some of these free applications to help you increase your productivity. Note: we don’t advocate all of them, use them and see how they work for you.

There you go … start now.

Top 5 blogs for entrepreneurs related to Venture capital and investing

Must read blogs for entrepreneurs – good information on venture capital or by venture capitalists.

1) Feld Thoughts – Run by Brad Feld – managing director at Foundry Group and Mobius Venture Capital

Also read Ask the VC by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson

2) Venture Hacks – Has some great information and hacks. Run by entrepreneurs Nivi and Naval. A must read before seeking funding.

3) Startup Company Lawyer – By Yoichiro (”Yokum”) Taku who is a corporate and securities partner in the Palo Alto, California office of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Great information from a lawyers perspective on investing and Venture capital.

4) – By Marc Andreeson, founder of Netscape (sold to AOL), Opsware (sold to HP) and now Ning. Read the “startups” category here.

5) Ask the wizard – By Dick Costolo of the Feedburner fame.

Top 5 blogs to keep up to speed with internet startups

As new internet startups keep springing up daily, here’s a few must read blogs to keep on top of the new startups:

a) Techcrunch – Run by Michael Arrington, the mac daddy of all startup blogs. Bought a service called Inviteshare to get beta invites to new services.

b) Mashable – My personal favorite so far run by Pete Cashmore

c) Killerstartups – Reviews a ton of startups, not necessarily filtering as well as Techcrunch or Mashable, however interesting nonetheless.

d) Startupsquad – does a good job at catching what Techcrunch and Mashable miss once in a while

e) Venturebeat – also does a good job at catching some new ones that escape the rest.

BONUS: Read News.YC to get a good collection from all entrepreneurs but has a good mix of news, ideas as well as new launches.

Top 5 Web 2.0 startup pitfalls

1) A site that totally dependent on user data to succeed – Most sites die because they get no user adoption. However, user adoption is dependent on other users being present and creating enough content for it to be useful for new users to join. It’s kind of a Catch-22 that you need users to get other users but the initial users have no reason to contribute. A good way would be to start off with something and then allow users to build on it. Spock is doing well on this model.

2) Mashups – Mashups are very popular with Web 2.0, however a lot of them may not be useful at all. They also severely limit the number of users to the people that use the services that were mashed up.

3) Unnecessary “tags” and Web 2.0 look – Some sites create unnecessary Web 2.0 like functionality because everyone else is doing it even if it does not benefit users. Also, the look and feel of the site is very Web 2.0 like and does not work for their visitor segment.

4) The same idea with a “twist” – This is the pitfall where people create just another video site or just another photo site with a “twist”. That twist is sometimes to insignificant for users to shift to this new site.

5) Solving problems for too small of a constituency – A lot of applications get great buzz from the geek community but that community is very small and the application is sometimes not designed well for non-techies to understand and use it.