TechCrunch Disrupt Survival Guide

It's been a couple of days since the Cyclr team returned from TechCrunch Disrupt London 2015. We were on Startup Alley alongside some other really exciting startups, each at different stages of development. Some were funded and had customers, others were earlier stage and still looking for both.

Wherever you are on that spectrum, I can highly recommend Disrupt to you. Here's what we learned, I hope it's useful to other startups.

Our goals at TechCrunch Disrupt

First, we wanted to network venture capitalists and angels. It's been hard work raising our seed round; as great as Cyclr is, we simply don't have the personal connections or networks in the finance sector. Should we decide to raise again, we now have some great contacts who I think could help us make it happen.

Second, we were looking for potential partners. Getting more cloud apps in our Connector Store is easy from a development point of view, but to maximise the value of that effort we need to let as many people know about them as possible. That means partnerships with the companies whose software we connect to, which hopefully result in blog posts, social media mentions, newsletters, and further collaboration on education and marketing. We did well on this, with many of the companies we want to work with sending along representatives to Disrupt.

Results and next actions

I've done shows before and come away with a stack of business cards, most of which I'll regrettably just thank for their time but then toss into the bin. TechCrunch Disrupt was different: every card offered was a genuinely interesting connection. The crowd was overwhelmingly smart, tech savvy, and excited about making things happen.

I've spent the last day or so dropping our new contacts into Pipedrive and categorising them (investor, partner, prospect, personal, and so forth). I've already followed up with a few and we're beginning to setup meetings for early next year. We also now have a healthy list of people who are keen to get into our closed beta. We're keen to get them in as well! I can't wait to see what new services and automations they build on top of their apps' APIs.

Here's my top five tips for TechCrunch

1. Have 3 pitches ready

Broadly, there were 3 types of people who wandered onto the Cyclr stand: potential customers, potential partners, and various types of potential investor. Each one of those needs to hear something specific to interest them, so look at their badge and ask them what they do before you launch into a generic pitch. Conversations I had on the stand varied from picking over our gross margin to actually opening up Visual Studio to show someone a piece of code.

2. Set up your stand properly

Stands at TechCrunch Disrupt are tiny. You are allowed one roller banner and are given one small round table. Everyone is on equal terms, so the real difference is in the personal details and not competing marketing budgets.

I recommend one laptop and two people. One of you should be directly on the stand, with the other nearby. If you stand too close together, it looks like you're demoing and people will walk by. The person floating in the aisle can help pull people in or engage with them whilst they wait for your colleague to finish a demo. For those that just can't hang around, take some postcards which give a basic summary of what you're all about. It's a shame if someone walks away and instantly forgets you.

3. Jelly beans!

Our secret weapon. I bought a huge plastic box of them and left them on our table with the lid open. These drew people in all day long and were a nice way to jokingly force them to hear my pitch: "Now you've eaten my jelly beans you have to give me 30 seconds!"

One Scandinavian VC had never seen jelly beans before. I think we may have changed his life.

4. Network hard before you go

I wish we'd done more on this and set up timed meetings with people. We had only one. Our trouble was, aside from a few journalists we knew, we didn't really have any contacts to setup meetings with. If we were to do it again, I think we would put in a solid amount of effort on reaching out to VCs and journalists to ask them: 1) are you heading to Disrupt; 2) can we grab a coffee so I can give you a one-on-one demo; 3) failing that, drop by the Cyclr stand so I can feed you jelly beans.

Something simple like that to ensure you get a lot of good meetings. The alternative is a lot of travelling and full days out to see them individually, so well worth the effort.

5. If you want that Wildcard...

We were unprepared for this. At the end of each pitch I'd always said something like "if you like what we're doing, please vote for us to go through to the Startup Battlefield". I'm not sure anyone did, no matter how well I think the pitch went.

In retrospect, I should have used the voting QR code TechCrunch had sent me and asked every visitor to scan it and vote. The email containing the QR code arrived on the day, but, thanks to poor mobile reception, I didn't even see it until lunchtime. Here I think TechCrunch could make a real difference to voting engagement by printing the QR code on the table display for each startup. Just a thought.

If you're off to TechCrunch Disrupt with your startup, I wish you all the best! You'll have an amazing time.