Sunday 13 September 2009

The 51st Company

In my previous blog post I was lamenting our failiure to get in to the TechCrunch 50.

Well this week, in an unexpected twist to the story, I got an email from TechCrunch CEO Heather Harde asking for us to go over there and pitch.

Oh my heart did skip a beat!

Apparently some companies were at risk of not making their slot, so she wanted us to come over as the "first reserve" so to speak. If it turned out that we weren't needed then we would be given a DemoPit spot instead.

I received the email on Wednesday. She wanted us to fly over on the Friday to work through our pitch then get stuck in on Monday or Tuesday.

Only problem was, since getting the initial rejection, we had been working on other things - not making a specific demo for TC50 (we had something specific in mind that would have been exceptionally cool for all companies there - not just us).

Shortly after getting the email I was on the phone to my co-founder Jennie.

"So you know that demo we were going to do specifically for TechCrunch 50 that was probably going to take about 2 or 3 weeks to get ready? Do you think you could still do it in two days? How about if you just stay here and work on the demo, while I go over to San Francisco, have a great time at the conference and bask in the limelight of being a presenting company? Strictly speaking do you need to take time out to eat and sleep?"

OK, so pretty obviously it wasn't going to be possible. Nevertheless, we could have presented something, possibly shown FestBuzz. The only problem would be that it wouldn't be a product launch, so much as a technology pitch, and TechCrunch 50 is about launching products.

Even if we didn't end up on stage, we would have been in the DemoPit. Doing an exhibition without any preparation would be challenging to say the least. I figured we could probably wing it, however with rather prophetic timing, Jason Calcanis' email newsletter had just arrived with 22 tips on how to operate a trade show booth.

Let's just say that none of these tips include, "decide to go to a trade exhibition a couple of days before it starts and just wing it". Hmmm....

So anyway, Heather had said in her email that she would call me the next day or that I could call her at any hour to discuss, so I did that. No answer on her cell phone so voicemail was left and then I sent her an email outlining my concerns and suggesting that we probably couldn't do it. I tried calling a few more times, because I was really hoping that she would try to persuade me to do the pitch. However I never heard back from her. No phone call or reply to my email, so I guess it was taken as a decline (unless they're still expecting us to turn up. That would be awkward!).

When Jennie and I were talking about the possiblity of doing the pitch, there were quite a few things running through my head. This is TechCrunch 50 and we've been asked to do it! It's web-tech lifetime opportunity - we would be mad to turn it down. Even if the demo is not perfect we should just do *something*.

Luckily Jennie was the voice of reason, not least because she would have to make the damn demo! Sure we could turn up and do a demo of *something* but it wouldn't be good enough. We might end up doing more harm to the company than good. Just because it's TechCrunch 50 doesn't mean we should put our reputation at risk. Even if we're just mediocre, people don't remember mediocre. I think I was being driven more by the prestige of the TC50 badge rather than the practicalities of the situation.

The reality is that although I was extremely excited when I got Heather's email, I knew we probably wouldn't be able to do it. At first I was like "Yah!" but then I "Meh'd"...

So I guess we were the 51st choice company (unless some other reserves had already turned them down!), and Michael Arrington's 75-80% chance of us getting in was fair. I wish the best of luck to whatever company has presumably replaced us. I do hope they get a chance to go on the main stage and make the most of this (presumably) unexpected opportunity.

That's twice in the past couple of weeks I've meant to have had a conversation with Heather and we have not managed to connect. I really hope I'll get the chance to speak with her eventually! And hopefully they'll remember us and Affect Labs will still get a chance to pitch at a TechCrunch event in the future!

N.B. We've actually got a few pitches coming up in the next few weeks. We were selected as one of the Guardian Tech Media Invest top 100 companies and we'll be pitching at the related event at the Emirates Stadium, London on 1st October.

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