Ever since I left TechCrunch six months ago, people have been asking me, “What’s next?” I’ve been purposefully silent about most of my activities, but today I can share some news. Beginning next month, I will become the new executive producer of DEMO, the original product launch conference.
Yes, I know. I used to compete with DEMO. But it is all good. Competition makes everyone stronger. It is good for events, and it is even better for products. I’ve always enjoyed discovering new technology products and startups, and bringing them to a wider audience. Now I will do everything I can to make DEMO the place where the best product ideas compete for attention.
Today we are witnessing a Cambrian explosion of startups. It’s never been easier or cheaper to launch a technology product. But it’s also never been a noisier or more crowded environment. There is more value than ever in selecting, culling, and showcasing the most promising products and startups. It is very much an editor’s job, which is how I will approach my role at DEMO.
But I will also be approaching it from a product perspective. Over the past few months, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for what it takes to turn a set of wireframes into living code by rolling up my sleeves at bMuse, a New York City product incubator where I am also now a partner. I will continue to work there on a variety of projects, including my own—more details on that in a future post. DEMO and bMuse are not affiliated. My only point is that building products is very different from writing about them. Both are important (I will also continue to write here and contribute articles at Techonomy), but some things you can only learn by doing yourself.
Under my watch, DEMO will be laser-focused on launching the best products, period. It won’t be about celebrities. It won’t be about tech news. The products are the celebrities as far as I’m concerned. I don’t care if they come from startups or established companies. If you are working on a killer product that will launch next year, I want to see it. Show me your best DEMO and I’ll put you on stage. (I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or erickschonfeld [at] gmail).
The first event I produce will be next spring, but I will attend DEMO this October to observe. DEMO producer and VentureBeat editor-in-chief Matt Marshall (who first told me about the opening and introduced me to DEMO general manager Neal Silverman a few months ago) has done a great job at introducing some much-needed changes over the past three years. For instance, it is a lot more startup-friendly. There are now 20 slots for early-stage startups who get in for free if they are accepted, as well as other scholarship programs.
But the startup world is changing quickly, and DEMO needs to keep pace. It used to be that the best startups all flowed through the venture capital system. Now other avenues are opening up. There are so many incubators and accelerators (Y Combinator, TechStars, 500 Startups), alternative funding from networks like AngelList, and crowdfunding is also unleashing a whole new wave of products.
I will consider any change that can make DEMO better. Nothing is sacred: format, on-stage sessions, even how applicants are vetted. Great ideas can come from anywhere. I will personally travel around the world to find the best products and startups. If you have ideas for how I can make DEMO the best product launch platform, please send me an email or tell me in comments.