The TechCrunch20 Conference

I am very excited to announce a new conference, called the TechCrunch20. This is a joint venture between us (TechCrunch) and Jason Calacanis, who broke the news about this earlier today. The format is simple: Twenty of the hottest new startups will announce and demo their products over a two day period. And they don’t pay a cent to do this. They will be selected to participate based on merit alone.

Many tech conferences today allow startups to pitch and demo their products to their attendees, although there is almost always a hefty fee involved that ranges from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. DEMO, where I am currently, is probably the quintessential example of this model. The entire conference is paid startup demos. There are way too many to digest—60—and it is a well known secret that if you are willing to pay the $15,000+ fee, your startup will really need to suck to be turned down.

While conferences like DEMO are extremely lucrative for the organizers, I’m not sure the startups or attendees attending get much out of it other than a great networking event. There are too many startups for press to give even passing coverage to many of them, and attendees are lost in a sea of pitches that all begin to blur together.

And there is a serious conflict of interest at the conference level. The economics of the event dictate that a certain number of startups must be accepted for a certain fee. Attendees don’t know if they’re really seeing the best startups, or just the best startups that are willing to pay the exorbitant participation fee. A few (or a lot of) duds always make their way in.

Many of the hottest startups over the past couple of years—Digg, YouTube, StumbleUpon and many others—didn’t have the money in the early days to spend on DEMO and other conferences, and so they didn’t participate. We want to give the future YouTube’s a platform to announce those products.

The TechCrunch20 Conference

Jason and I are going to do something a lot different than the pay-to-demo model. The TechCrunch20 conference will be a two day event, held this fall (more details soon), where twenty hot startups will demo their new products—and they don’t pay a dime to do this.

The startups will be invited based on the recommendation of a committee of expert analysts, entrepreneurs and journalists. Twenty companies will be invited, plus a couple of alternates. If a selected startup isn’t ready to launch ten days or so before the event, they’ll be bumped and one of the alternates will take its place.

Jason is the perfect partner for us to work with on this conference. He’s a successful entrepreneur and has held large startup-focused conferences in the past. It is our hope that his experience and our access to new startups will be a winning combination.

More details on the TechCrunch20 conference will be announced soon.