Disrupt NYC 2012 begins in approximately 12 hours (tickets here).
But it’s been two years since Soluto, the software that will make your computer simply run better, took home the Disrupt Cup at the TC Disrupt NYC Battlefield in 2010. The company entered the competition with a total of $7.8 million, and after walking away with the $50,000 round, secured another $10.2 million in Series B from Index Ventures for a total of $18 million in funding under their belts.
It’s been a wild ride, starting with about 400 users as the then-stealth company stepped on stage, and only a few days later they were dealing with hundreds of thousands of users. In fact, CEO and co-founder Tomer Dvir said that the platform almost had trouble dealing with all the data being sent back by the flood of new users.
But, in his own words, “Disrupt is one of the best ways to release.”
Here’s the interview I had with Mr. Dvir in its entirety:
TechCrunch: What was it like to launch your product on stage at Disrupt?
Soluto: The amazing part was that we had about 400 users when we launched. It took a really long time to develop the product because it’s complicated and hardcore. It’s something that sits deep inside the OS. That 400 users was mostly friends and family and people we asked to install the product.
But just one minute after we came off the stage we turned it on, and suddenly were bombarded with quantities of users we couldn’t imagine before that. It was way beyond anything we were prepared for. It’s not just jumping into deep waters, it’s being pulled down into the deep water.
We weren’t really ready for that. We thought we were, but reality struck and we realized we had never learned to scale before. The challenge with our system is that every user’s machine starts sending us data. We were flooded with way more data than we had imagined. We knew that coming to Disrupt would get us some traction, and we expected maybe tens of thousands of users.
It ended up being around 50 times more than that.
It was a pretty awesome experience, launching on stage at Disrupt. We went from being with less than 1,000 users to several hundreds of thousands in a matter of days or maybe a week. We went from being nameless — no one knew what we were doing — to being known. We felt like stars at the show. People got connected to the idea, to the vision.
TechCrunch: You guys obviously won at Disrupt. It’s been two years, so what’s happened since, and how did Disrupt shape the past two years of your company history?
Soluto: I guess we learned what it means to be a company. Without Disrupt, it would have been the same growth but much, much slower. We might have gotten press here or there, but suddenly Disrupt was like a leap. A shortcut. I can’t even estimate how much time and money it would have taken to get to that state as quickly as we did.
Our biggest challenge since then has been scaling. We had to understand how to grow and not gradually, because on Day One it was already crazy.
We wanted to grow the company and get the right people. We got some amazing support, kept developing, and kept progressing and re-writing stuff.
We also had to learn how to answer reporters. We had to accelerate all processes in a company including growing our talent. We were around 20 people at launch, and now we’re at 50 employees.
Outside of the technical part, it was the first touch of the company with the press and blogosphere. The New York Times approached us. Everyone was suddenly approaching us. On Day One we were swimming with the big fish, and dealing with the press was just another thing we had to learn quickly.
TechCrunch: Do you think that winning Disrupt made it easier for you to get funded and/or bring in new talent?
Soluto: Winning or participating won’t get you funded, but it gets you the exposure you need to get there. If you have a good company you can get funded, but Disrupt works as a good foot in the door because you aren’t so nameless. VC’s meet a thousand companies a year, and after launching or winning at Disrupt you become one of the more interesting hundred or fifty, instead of just one of thousands.
TechCrunch: It seems that launching your product on a stage at a huge conference like Disrupt might be a little intimidating. Were you worried or do you think it served the company well?
Soluto: It may not fit everyone, but it was an awesome experience for us. There are several advantages.
The first is that you have a concrete deadline. It’s a good thing for a company to have something you can’t move. You can always move PR and even a TechCrunch post, but Disrupt is a freaking competition which people are trying to get into and people have bought tickets to. It’s going to happen no matter what, so you need to be ready on time.
In terms of timing, we came close to being able to release a product a few months before Disrupt and then we heard about the conference and it all aligned. It was perfect.
I don’t know if I would postpone a release for three months if it wasn’t the perfect opportunity.
Getting an on-stage launch also sends a company into the extreme. It forces you to be ready for an unexpected amount of users.
There’s also the advice you’re getting. Having Marissa Mayer and Michael Arrington see your product and give feedback, and sometimes tear it apart, it only pushes the entire company to get some awesome results on time.
It’s one of the best ways to release, I can’t think of anything to compare.
TechCrunch: I find the Battlefield to be intensely emotional. Obviously a lot of good came out of it for Soluto, but how did you feel up there on stage?
Soluto: All of us are going to remember it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It took two and a half years to release the product. Working so long and putting it out into the world in a single day is an amazing experience.
TechCrunch: Care to share any user/download numbers with us?
Soluto: Well, currently we have two products. The original product was a local download, and since launch we’ve hit 3 million downloads. We’re not sharing numbers around our web product right now, but it’s been only four and a half months and we’re definitely impressed with the numbers. We’ve really had no paid marketing, ads, or PR, so we’re certainly pleased.
TechCrunch: What advice would you give to people about to present their products at Disrupt NYC 2012?
Soluto: Acknowledge that you’re sitting in front of senior people that see good and bad companies. You have to be humble. You’re listening to people who have a shallow view of the product, but they have instincts and insights, so you must be in listening mode.
Don’t think you have all the answers. It’s fine if you don’t. Try to give your insight but really, really listen and see if there’s something they might say which is smart. Some of the smartest people around are the ones who listen.
We saw many companies present before us and they were looking for fast answers. We thought about that and felt that it wasn’t the way. Listen, be open, and make sure they understand the service and product that you’ve shown and then it’s up to you to think about the different angles.
Disrupt NYC is set to be one of our biggest shows yet, with returns from Michael Arrington and MG Siegler, along with a variety of big names like Marissa Mayer, Sarah Tavel, Fred Wilson, and David Lee and more. It’s going to be huge.
If you’re interested in checking out Disrupt and/or the Hackathon yourself, tickets are still on sale here and info on the Hackathon can be found here. Companies who want to join the Battleground can apply for the last remaining spots in Startup Alley. You can find the full agenda here.