Scams, start-up conferences and see you at Slush!

07. October, 2015

Lately there has been numerous claims and counter-claims about start-up conferences and Web Summit in particular. I think there’s two issues at heart.

1. Are their marketing techniques just scams?
Web Summit has been criticized for running Facebook ads which imply a quota of start-ups for your country is being sought for and offering free demo booths to those who successfully apply to their alpha program. During the application process, a start-up will learn that you still need to pay for conference tickets, and obviously flights and hotels.
Is this a scam? I would say it is manipulation but not a scam. Social proof is a fundamental driver of buyer behaviour and there’s no reason not to use it. Are the quotas inflated or misleading? Possibly. Do they have to be mathematically correct? Absolutely not.
The application process for the ‘free' booth may seem somewhat of a charade but then again, no-one forces you to take it up if you balk at the overall deal.
We decided to skip it.

2. What is the real value of conferences?
Let’s face reality.
Investors are outnumbered massively at conferences. They will be fed up with pitches by the end, if not already!
In Europe at least, it’s unlikely you’ll get any money without strong evidence of traction or, wait for it, social proof. Same goes for press.
Potential customers can be found but are more likely to be found at far less glamorous industry-specific meet-ups.

So why bother?
One reason is that you gain from public exposure – even if it mostly consists of fellow start-up people. It may not be your target market but you’ll get a sense of whether you can clearly communicate what you’re about, and if it resonates. Does anyone really understand the platform you’re building? Who is your product for? How do you plan to make money?
Start-up life is nasty, brutish and short. A busy conference where you are merely one of many is a reasonable approximation to the state of war that you are in.

NE Device SW will be going to Slush.
We weren’t scammed or manipulated into it. Or if we were, it’s so subtle that we still aren’t aware of it!
We will be revealing more about our own ’software-as-a-service' product.
So come and visit our booth! Contact me now for a free pass… :-)