What Winning TechCrunch Disrupt Did For Soluto (Answer: OMFG)

This guest post is by Tomer Dvir, Founder & CEO of Soluto.

It’s been just over 100 days since we stepped onto the TechCrunch Disrupt stage in New York City as an anonymous, under-the-radar startup. Two days later, we stepped off stage with the Disrupt Cup in our hands and got sucked into a tornado of downloads, happy users, angry users, global media attention, and very little sleep.

I have a very vivid memory of watching the first Battlefield demo at Disrupt, by our competitor UJAM, which was simply mind-blowing. Chris Sacca jammed with them, the judges screamed “amazing”, and the moderator (Paul Carr) commented “well, I feel sorry for the next start-up”. Two demos later we went on stage, told our story, and went on to win the show (UJAM was also in the final heat).

While Ishay Green, Roee Adler and I were telling Soluto’s story in NYC, the team back home was struggling with the pace of downloads. Back in April, when we planned our goals, taking the launch at Disrupt into account, we figured that 300,000 downloads was an optimistic end-of-year target (no one downloads software anymore, right?).

Well, we certainly hit a nerve, and it seemed like the entire world reacted. Seven weeks after winning Disrupt, we were at over 500,000 downloads, and the rate kept growing. We had to shift timelines and priorities to focus solely on scale—improvements we planned for February 2011 had to happen yesterday.

Our first tiny feature, the boot analyzer/optimizer, started spreading virally between techies. Operating with no PR agency, Soluto was covered by “serious” publications such as the New York Times, ZDNet and PC World, but much more importantly, by over a thousand bloggers worldwide. Our users are spread across 150 countries. The United States leads (23% of users), followed by Germany, Japan, UK, India, Brazil, Italy, France and China. Meanwhile, Team Soluto grew by almost 40% since Disrupt.

Still, our launch was riddled with downtime, bugs, and frustrated users of all sorts. We even had to pull the download offline for over a month while we scaled up (it’s back now). It was a very difficult time. Anyone who’s ever managed product or R&D knows this feeling of going home at 3am, with bugs still out there in the field, users still suffering, but you can’t work fast enough to satisfy all of them, and there’s no simple solution. We believe that the only way to succeed is to use plenty of common sense, never stop questioning yourself, and never ever fall in-love with your decisions.

The data we already have in our PC Genome database is mind-blowing and we will soon make it public, gradually. Just as a teaser, in case you thought Blue Screens Of Death (BSODs) have disappeared from the world, think again. We have logged well over 3 million BSODs and we know what causes most of them. Granted, some of them were caused by Soluto itself (roughly 750), but at least we know this, and we want every software developer to know the problems caused by his/her software.

I must address the criticism about TechCrunch allowing a startup that raised $8M to compete. I understand where this criticism is coming from, but I strongly disagree with it.

We’re dealing with a damn complicated problem. Real research is required, and I mean real research—tackling kernel-level technological questions relevant to a billion PCs that no one in the world has answers for. It takes time, and we need to feed our 25 engineers. To date, the largest non-R&D expense at Soluto were the flight tickets to TechCrunch Disrupt NYC (we flew coach, cargo was fully booked).

There’s a saying: “if you’re 100% certain it can be done, you’re probably not far enough ahead of the competition”. That’s what we live by.

Just four months after our launch, we’ve already been approached by many of the top 10 PC manufacturers, and our application is deployed in numerous Fortune 500 companies where IT managers are considering to deploy Soluto organization-wide. And this is just for our tiny boot feature, which is the first step in our development roadmap.

A few thank-yous are in order. To the bloggers worldwide who get what we’re trying to do – thanks for seeing beyond the initial boot feature and into the revolution we’re initiating. To our amazing team of developers (please stop reading this and go back to work). And to TechCrunch, for giving us and many other start-ups a stage to shine.

This is what TechCrunch Disrupt did to Soluto. We’ll be at TechCrunch Disrupt SF, and we’ll be bringing the Disrupt Cup to hand off to the next winner. As you can see form the video below we had a lot of fun with it. Good luck to all the Battlefield startups and see you at Disrupt.