It feels like only days have passed since TechCrunch Disrupt NYC went down, but as every season turns (turns, turns…) another Disrupt is on the horizon. Our San Francisco event will commence on September 8, and every time preparation begins for the massive conference I can’t help but take a look back at the incredible success stories to come out of Disrupt.
In fact, a whole mess of them can be found right here. But those aren’t even the half of it, which is why we’ve decided to revive our “Where They Are Now” series, starting with TripIt. Since launching on the TC40 stage back in 2007, TripIt has survived the rise of the smartphone, raised a total of $10.1 million in funding, and completed a super successful exit in the form of a $120 million acquisition by Concur.
I sat down with Andy Denmark, a founder and VP of Engineering, to hear the tale of TripIt’s journey from our stage almost 6 years ago to today.
Here’s the interview in its entirety:
TechCrunch: What was it like launching on the TC40 stage?
Andy: Well, actually, we were back with the servers, watching the live stream. We wanted to make sure we didn’t go down. In the first few days we had over 10,000 new users. I mean, we had gone from only having our friends and spouses using the product to over 10,000.
Even though we didn’t win, we were one of the finalists. And it wasn’t about winning. The outcome was all about accelerating our growth from the day we launched the product and never looking back.
TechCrunch: Tell us about the following months after Disrupt.
Andy: Being a part of TC40 made a lot of the first few months easier for us. We had that big day but it didn’t end there. We were tracking referrals and we found that traffic wasn’t coming only from the TC site but from all over the place. A lot of follow-up inquiries came after the conference, and we spent a lot of time talking to other outlets, too.
TechCrunch: I’ve heard a lot of investors say that they like watching on-stage launches at Demo days and conferences like Disrupt because it gives them a real feel for the founders, and we all know how important investor/founder chemistry is. Do you think having an on-stage launch at TC40 made a difference with investors?
Andy: I think it did. I still remember the sweater Gregg was wearing. Some purple thing. I only bring that up because it did give investors a product, but it also gave them a kind of insight into our personalities and what we were trying to do. With these conferences, a lot of people who attend are traveling in and the launch at TC40 gave us a great opportunity to talk about a very recent experience that they had. Plus, they could use the product on the way home.
It also helped that the folks who attend Disrupt and TC40 are generally early adopters. They get it pretty quickly. When you try to create a new category of app, like we did, it helps when you can collect an incredible concentration of people who just get it. They can be your ambassadors, and they ended up being huge fans. As they left and went back into the world the kept talking about it and using it.
TechCrunch: How has TripIt changed between then and now?
Andy: I’d say the biggest change that happened… Well, we launched in late 2007. You gotta remember that there was a world that existed that didn’t have iPhones and Androids. SMS was hot and feature phones with WAP browsers were the shizzle. That was the world where we launched TripIt.
So, one of the biggest changes to the product is our support of mobile platforms and native applications. Because we’re a travel site, it’s obvious why that was so important. Another thing we obviously changed was we went social. Social didn’t really exist back then either. There was Facebook but you had to be 18-22 to use it.
I remember sitting in the TripIt office in that summer when they opened it up to the world. Back then it wasn’t even a question to use the Facebook platform but that was another huge change we’ve embraced and adapted to.
TechCrunch: Do you think your success at Disrupt played a part in the Concur deal? At the very least, did it help out your credibility? I know Michael Arrington loves you.
Andy: It’s interesting because Concur is in a completely different space. Their core space is enterprise travel and highly managed travel programs with large Fortune 500 companies. TripIt comes from the complete opposite. TripIt is for consumer travelers.
But the guys at Concur really saw the future when they were talking to us. They have and continue to provide a great distribution platform for the TripIt application. The marriage of the two really provides a great opportunity for what the future of the travel industry could look like. That’s why I think the acquisition made a lot of sense. It will continue to be disruptive.
TechCrunch: What advice would you give to future Disrupt companies?
Andy: I think Disrupt is an awesome experience. If you can get in, go for it. Be ready for a huge avalanche of traffic and interest. That’s the core advice. In addition, you have to keep yourself grounded and remember why you’re there. For us, it was what problems are you solving for the traveler. If you put those things together you’ll have a message that resonates and captures imaginations.
Disrupt NY is great, but Disrupt SF is where the magic happens, right around the corner from our nation’s technological pride, Silicon Valley. There will be plenty of brilliant speakers, Hackathon magic, and the usual barrage of amazing startups battling it out for the Disrupt cup.