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25 Things I Learned At TechCrunch Disrupt

At the startup world's most important conference, even Death can't stay off his smartphone.

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There is no accessory more important than the all-important, all-seeing lanyard. They were color-coded to help sort out the pitchers (start-ups) from the pitchees (press) and the bags of money (investors.)

It is overwhelming. My first impulse, honed from years of living with San Francisco's homeless population, was to smile, nod and keep moving.



In between trips around the convention floor, there were moderated panels and on-stage conversations. Only one time, in a "Content is King" panel with people from HBO, YouTube and two start-ups, did the conversation get heated: most seemed relaxed and chatty — some were mellow to the point of being in-person press release, though others were more meaty.



Max Morse / Getty Images

Going to a conference is not cheap: in addition to the $2,000 or so that companies paid for booths each day, there were travel, schwag and staffing costs. One participant said that some cash-strapped start-ups were spending upwards of $30,000 to press the flesh at Disrupt. Why? For some, like Cliff McKinney from Memphis-based Work for Pie, who was visiting San Francisco for the first time, they wanted to sign up companies to appear on their website, which is devoted to improving the recruiting process for companies looking to hire engineers and developers. For another, Game Genome, a product that helps sort and categorize Android games, it was an opportunity to drum up press and potential investors in advance of their October launch.

But the cold truth was that many of the companies eagerly handing out key chains and candy were probably not going to be around for the next Disrupt: the world can only use so many cloud storage services or scheduling widgets. True disruption (or "revolution," the term Square founder Jack Dorsey advocated from his keynote) was in short supply.



After just one day at the conference, it was startling to re-emerge into the open. I actually hit a strange emotional low point on the second day: the wall of humanity, humming and pitching and posturing felt overwhelming. It all seemed sad. Taking refuge on the floor, I just watched people for a while. Most seemed like happy worker bees, but stray expressions of anxiety caught my eye. Eventually, moved by the sight of giant bins of Diet Coke, I roused myself and got back into the swing of things.

Contact Reyhan Harmanci at

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