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So I’m here at TechCrunch 50 and I’ll be part of the team blogging the conference. The conference venue is huge – just a small part of it is pictured above. There’ll be 1,700 people attending and 52 (not 50 actually) startups being launched at the event.

There’s been some controversy between TechCrunch and and the competing Demo event about the issue of whether startup companies should launch their company by “paying to pitch”. To do so at Demo costs $18,500. TechCrunch is disrupting this model, selecting companies on the basis of merit and instead getting sponsors and paying attendees to pay for the conference. Obviously I think TechCrunch has the better model.

So the question is, what would your opinion be about this in the UK and Europe? Would you agree that “pay to pitch” is a bad idea – or not? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

  • Jed Christiansen

    It’ll be different for each startup: do the benefits they receive from pitching outweigh the costs of that pitch? (Costs being money, time, and effort.)

    So for some companies DEMO may be very much worth it. (And I’ve heard that from companies that have pitched there.) In the same vein, TC50 may not be worth it for a different startup because they’re perhaps too early to take advantage of the attention pitching would give them.

    In principle I prefer the TC50 model, but it really comes down to a simple cost/benefit analysis.

  • Nicole Simon

    I think it would be valuable to have something over here as well [again: UK is part of Europe, no matter how much you insist on separating it. ;) ] though the price for it would have to be way down – simply for the reason that the attention is not the same as well as the infrastructre / possible exchange is not the same.

    Other than that, it is a valid and reasonable modell.

  • azeem

    Blah blah {seesmic_video:{“url_thumbnail”:{“value”:””}”title”:{“value”:”Blah blah “}”videoUri”:{“value”:””}}}

  • Rebecca Caroe

    I think this is one of the situations where the “USA Rules” do not apply in Europe (or the UK) and part of the reason is the different funding structures from VCs in the two places.
    There are far more bootstrap startups or micro-funded teams in Europe and more generously funded VC Backed groups stateside.
    If it is about a level playing field i.e. let your technology speak for itself. Then the TC50 model is the only one to consider.
    If it isn’t about that, then the best funded groups get the loudest “shouts” online and at the events.
    PS why do Brits love supporting underdogs?

  • Daniel Mettler

    Mike, I think that *paying* to pitch at a *VC* conference really isn’t an omen of success (and probably not only lost money but also lost time). I thus favor the TC50 model, also for Europe.

  • Stefan Richter

    If your business is a viable one then it shouldn’t matter either way, you’ll get your funding whether it be through Demo, TC50 or somewhere else. If you however think that paying 5 figures will in itself get your anywhere then think again.
    Would the Demo model work in Europe? I don’t think so.

  • Robleh

    Pay to pitch is an absolutely terrible concept. It’s the tech equivalent of vanity publishing.

  • David Hart

    $18,500 seems ridiculously high. But just to play devil’s advocate, it’s just a different type of sale: one route is to sell to attendees and say, “pay to be an attendee, we don’t charge startups and base it all on merit”. The other route is a sell to the startups, saying “we have the most influential investors and if you wanna get in front of them you have to pay for the privilege” – in this case the merit angle is that you don’t get to be an attendee unless you can prove that you are able to be a potential investor.

    Maybe I’m wrong and this isn’t how it works at all, but it would seem that both startups and attendees need to be “vetted’ and possibly they should both pay something…

  • Robleh

    What kind of investor would be interested in a startup that pays $18,500 to talk to them? All it demonstrates is rank stupidity.

  • Paul

    Agree with Robleh’s comment above. The problem with DEMO and vanity publishing is there is no assurance of honest editorial review.

    I think the issue is less about who should pay and more about is there a rigorous editorial process that results in quality entries. The problem with DEMO is that it seems their model is restricting some quality entries.

    The open access publishing model in the academic world requires article authors to pay but no-one calls that vanity publishing…

  • Jack

    I used to sell this type of package at a company called World Trade Group ( It wasn’t for startups, but effectively we’d charge clients £14k to £25k to take ‘meetings packages’ with potential clients. It’;s a similar model to the ‘start up pays to get in front of VCs’ model Demo employ.

    I can’t speak for Demo, but the experience I have of this sector is that the sponsoring party is almost invariably ripped off, and was often mis-sold slightly to get them involved in the first instance. The model is different insomuch as startups can’t come back again to Demo, but in the B2B conference/paid meetings/sponsorship space, most companies wouldn’t dream of coming back as it is usually such a waste of time and money.

    TC50 model definitely makes much more sense for startups. If an idea / implementation is *that* good, why do you have to pay $18.5k just to get a look in?

  • David Hart

    Jack, that’s why I think both parties should pay something.. it’s about perceived value. I also agree that where startups need to demonstrate good financial management to potential investors, caning $18k on an event would look irresponsibly extravagent.

  • Nicole Simon

    You all are aware that there is a DEMO Europe, right? It is just not named right but it does exist. Now what does this tell us about the reach of that in comparison to for example a Techcrunch UK meetup? Exactly.

    Even if both would exist, TC has a built in audience and therefore is more attractive. :)

  • Darren Lee

    Great stuff! Can’t wait to see the 50 startups!! Or was it 52! More the merrier! :D

    We’d also launched our startup today, check us out at

    AdExcel is “The Ning for Advertising Networks with more juice in Socialized Ads”..

    Let us know what u think ;)


    Cofounder of AdExcel

  • Nicole Simon

    Darren you forgot to mention how “awesome” and “innovative” and “first ever” you are. I mean if you have one line of pseudo comment to pitch your startup, it most likely is just like that.

    btw part of the expenses of demo and TC50 are a coach. Get yourself one, just for commenting …

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