TechCrunch Comes to Austin
Yesterday the TechCrunch Meetup came to Austin for the first time, and I must admit, I was impressed with the turn-out. Granted, the event organizers are masters of marketing "exclusive" tech events by using Silicon Valley tactics to make them appear inaccessible. They used clever grass-roots promotions combined with traditional media and highlighted the sold-out tickets, followed by sporadic "releases" of tickets when people least expected to find them available. For example, one of the releases was at 6 a.m. on Labor Day - and within a few hours they were gone! I'm not one to check e-mail at 6 a.m. on a holiday, but there's clearly a contingent in the tech market out there doing it.
The Meetup featured a panel discussion including 19 people - the largest panel I'd ever seen. And apparently, tech reporter Lori Hawkins noticed before the panel that it wasn't going to include a single woman. So at the last minute, after she called TechCrunch, event organizers threw a token woman onto the panel, which is always a little disheartening as a female professional.
But on a positive note, the panel did provide some insight.
- not sure if I bought off on this tangent, but there was a lot of conversation about the difference between viral marketing, democracy and grass roots. To me, this is teetering on needless marketing dialogue that is expressed mainly to sound smart.
- another panelist argued that grass roots/viral campaigns only can be done for authentic, strong products. Companies looking to do this type of marketing for products that frankly "suck" won't have any luck (I strongly agree with this one). The online community will catch on and be noisy about their frustration.
- an underlying theme among panelists discussing marketing trends over the past 50 years is that the Internet allows brands to listen to their customer base like never before - and respond with changes for their customers (which makes us lucky, anyone not taking advantage of this is in the dark)
- as much as the conversation focused on the Internet, representatives from the music industry (Austin City Limits is happening in Austin this weekend - 60,000 people are here for it, making music take center stage everywhere) reminded people that the music industry still spends 60 percent of its marketing budget on the radio because it's more effective than the Internet.
As for the party, it was massive. LP&P was one of the sponsors and we made our splash (literally) by sporting drink cups that turn colors when cold liquids are poured into them.
There were easily more than 500 people there and I spoke with more than a few people that agreed that it reminded them of the parties in the Bay Area during the dot com era. I've been in Austin for seven years and I haven't seen anything like this event since I lived in SF. I met plenty of start-up companies and even a VC that just moved here from Boston to start up a new VC firm in Austin, which is what Austin needs. I'm tired of hearing people say Austin can't compete with the two coasts for innovation. They're just saying that because there isn't as much VC money here, but hopefully that will change soon, because the talent and enthusiasm is here, and it's only growing.
All in all, it was a success. But TechCrunch probably needs to keep a closer eye on not selecting all men to speak on a panel of 18. That was the first thing I noticed when I walked in the room.