Startup Showcase vs. Industry Event: How to Decide Which to Attend 1

On February 22 I received an email saying that my startup, AdEspresso, had been invited to participate in TechCrunch Disrupt NY!

Needless to say, my small team and I couldn’t have been more excited. We hastily began checking hotels and flights to figure out how much it would cost to get to NY. The answer was: an arm and a leg.

Did I mention we’re based in Milan, Italy?

AdEspresso is currently bootstrapped and so as a team we thought long and hard about if we should attend TC Disrupt or not. We knew it would open up a world of new possibilities for us – being in front of so many prestigious investors, journalists, bloggers and other people in the startup community. However, we also had to consider our travel budget and the phase we are at as a startup.

In the end we decided to decline our invitation to TC Disrupt. Are we crazy? I hope not.

We decided to forego our TechCrunch Disrupt opportunity to focus on more specialized events like Ad:Tech.

StartUp events are simply great at the beginning …

In the first phase of our startup it would have made a lot of sense to attend a showcase like TC Disrupt. In fact, to date we have participated in many startup showcase type events including:

  • Founder Showcase in San Francisco
  • Startup Conference in Mountain View
  • Startup Under the Sun in Milan
  • TechCrunch Italy in Rome
  • Dublin Web Summit
  • Google Ventures Event in Mountain View
  • London Web Summit

All in all, British Airways could reasonably consider investing in AdEspresso given how much we fly!

Attending all of these startup showcase events has been really important for us because we:

  • Have had over 1,000 requests for access to our private beta from around the world with virtually no other marketing activities
  • Gained valuable feedback on our software
  • Were introduced to many Italian and foreign investors
  • Had the opportunity to network like never before
  • Received great press opportunities
  • Reached our target audience at each event through attendees and also the other startups and sponsors since almost everyone uses Facebook ads
  • Always had a lot of fun

There is no doubt these type of events have been incredibly beneficial to AdEspresso. However, we now believe it makes more sense to allocate our travel budget to specialized events to support the business in the long run.

But the real business is often elsewhere!

After declining TC Disrupt we decided to travel to the US but instead of NY we flew to San Francisco where we attended the much more expensive and niche Ad:Tech.

We believe the higher investment was worth it and likely brought in a much bigger return for us. Here’s why:

  • At startup events you tend to see a lot of the same people. It is great to catch up with them in person but it’s not essential to the business.
  • Startup are great early adopters when you need to build a user base for your product but they’re also very easy to reach through other channels like social media and dedicated communities
  • Nich events like Ad:Tech are boring and expensive. You go there only if you’re really interested in doing business. That was great for us, every people we talked with was a potential customer and our conversion rate was 3x those of startup events.
  • Startups, I know that very well, don’t have much money to spend. On the opposite most of the people we met at Ad:Tech had big pockets.
  • We received a new, completely different kind of feedback on AdEspresso. While usually we got precious tips on the UX, the technology etc. at niche events we got a less tech-savvy feedback but they knew exactly what features would make their lives easier if they were using our product.

We love the startup community but at this point we need to talk to potential customers more than anyone.

Before you unleash a three-headed monster on me let me just say that I am not advising you to skip all startup showcase events. By attending many of them in AdEspresso’s earliest days we gained valuable connections and feedback. Such events are perfect for validating your idea with the public and with investors.

But I think at some point in the life of a startup, it is necessary to go further and start participating in targeted events where the core audience is made up of your customers rather than the startup community.

And that is why we declined our invitation to TechCrunch Disrupt.

Are we crazy?

  • Rob Adams

    Maybe your next step is to begin sequencing your business growth so you understand what you need next. That will also define who you need to work with as you continue in your growth. You may also consider using a business model over the “old fashioned” business plan. As you are growing a business you need someone who can assist you in your strategic planning. This looks very different than one who is just running a business.
    There is another private business organization know as CEO Space International that you may wish to consider. Their focus is on the needs of businesses at whatever their stage.
    If it looks like your next best step or if you have further questions….contact me.

    Rob Adams
    rob@ceospaceus.com

About the Author Massimo Chieruzzi is a serial enterpreneur. His latest venture is AdEspresso a Facebook Ads Manager that helps small medium businesses to easily get the best out of their FB campaigns. Read more »

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