For nearly twenty years, the Demo conference has been considered the place to be for tech startups seeking attention for their new products. Instead of speeches, companies are required to give live demos of brand-new products, basically launching them onstage. Demo organizer Chris Shipley has a reputation for picking products worth flying to a conference to see. But in this economy, Demo has a problem: The show makes money by charging participants $18,500 to get onstage. The rival TechCrunch50 doesn't charge. What does $18,500 buy? Shipley has published a list of conference benefits. Don't bother reading it. Instead of checking off fluffy perks like "an online microsite" and "invitation for one senior executive of your company to attend the invitation-only CEO/Dealmaker's dinner," Shipley should write another post: List all the successful products that were launched at Demo. Because right now my stomach hurts too much to remember them, and I know I'm not alone.
Silicon Valley venture capitalist David Hornik's invite-only dealmaking conference, The Lobby, takes place again next week at a plush resort in Waikoloa Village on the Big Island of Hawaii. Camp Cyprus was nothing compared to this funeral pyre of cash. Who cares that twentysomethings spent their own money to vacation with friends, and filmed an over-the-top video of their frolics? Hornik's hoedown is the ultimate marker of what-me-worry excess in an age of recession. And Valleywag has the complete list of who's going.Here's what should enrage you as you read it: Unlike the Cyprus trip, this one is ostensibly a work event, paid for by investors and shareholders. (I suppose a handful of entrepreneurs may have bought their own tickets, but in the hopes of paying themselves back by scoring an investment.) What's the agenda for this passel of languorous corporate dealmakers, ebullient entrepreneurs, and phlegmatic venture capitalists? They party. You pay. Later on, they consummate some deals with their pals that they would have struck anyway, crediting the boondoggle junket for "making the connection." Last year's event was an epic caper, marked by drink-throwing, late-night excursions, and salacious rumors of barside canoodling. Here's whose exploits we're looking forward to reporting, thanks to the moles we've placed throughout Hornik's guest list:
"The poor economic conditions have created a very different and difficult dynamic for us this year," says an email explaining the cancellation of next week's DigitalLife Expo in New York. But don't you quit your startup in a panic. Our gadgethound buddies at Gizmodo don't buy the economy excuse. "We think it's lack of serious news draw," writes Wilson Rothman. "Booth after booth after booth of stuff we already covered" at earlier, bigger shows. All I remember from last year was iRobot's gutter-cleaning droid.
The buzz at the Structure 08 reception yesterday evening on Pier 38 was surrounding a scheduled speech by communications network heavy James Crowe, CEO of Level 3, who rarely appears in public. The speech has started — but late, and without Crow, who complained of the flu. Vice chairman Buddy Miller took the podium in Crowe's stead, stating that Level 3 truly believes Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash will come true, though not fast enough to save Second Life. Maybe if Crowe could have attended as an avatar, he wouldn't have gotten such stagefright. [GigaOm]
$1795 a head is a lot to pay for a sex ed lesson, let alone a tech conference, so why not combine the two? That was apparently the idea behind "Liquid Conversations" at Supernova, which nearly ran off the rails when panelist Loic Le Meur demonstrated his startup Seesmic, which the ebullient founder describes as "
video for Twitter for video." The video he chose featured an international group of users and a talking head with a velvet vagina puppet leading them on an intrepid search for the g-spot. Le Meur may have thought the full-motion lesson would shake up the room of predominantly male attendees. But putting female sexuality front-and-center, especially when the few women in attendance just wanted equal time on the mic, not necessarily equal time for their orgasms, was just awkward for everyone. And it didn't do much for the sex ed lesson, either, nevermind that in another context it would have been not only appropriate but sorely needed. More sexploration on Seesmic after the jump.
In this morning's otherwise sleepy session the "brave new world" of entrepreneurship at Supernova, Vipin Jain of Retrevo offered the analogy first — that for startups, attracting venture capital is like dating. "When you first start there’s some excitement. Then, the unknown!" Jim Greer, CEO of the epic timewasting Flash-game site Kongregate jumped in:
Oh, fine. Your supportive emails dragged me back onto the Internet — tempting as Leah Culver and iJustine's offer to link arms and walk off the Internet with me into the sunset was. Someone reminded me that my contract specifies I'm bound to write for one hundred years or until my first gray hair, whichever comes sooner. So back to whoring.
D6 is all but done for, and the moguls are ready to retreat from the Four Seasons Aviara Resort. But why fly home alone? Their planes are parked at Palomar. And the Wall Street Journal conference attracts real money, not just fickle Valley money. Here are the three ways they'd play it to pick up a lady friend, right in the lobby. Don't try this, startup types — you don't have the pull.
Red Herring's magazine has not been regularly printed in ages. Today, its its website has been displaying error messages — not that readers are missing much of the understaffed RedHerring.com's output. Herring's conference business alone has been sustaining Alex Vieux's rocky tech-publishing empire. But that, too, seems to be falling apart. A commenter has posted what he claims is an email from Vieux announcing the cancellation of next week's Red Herring Wireless conference in Beijing. At first it struck me as ludicrous that Vieux would cancel one of his cash-cow events. But I called the host hotel, the Ritz-Carlton Beijing, and staff there confirmed that the event was off. Vieux's email cites "difficult personal family health problems" as the reason. If true, it is most unlucky for Vieux that these health issues just happened to coincide with an eviction from Herring's Belmont headquarters.