Startups · Alpha

Are tech conferences worth the money?

Aly Mahmoud Marketing Executive at Osool for Real Estate Services

June 21st, 2016

My start up just got accepted to exhibit at ALPHA Web summit in Lisbon next November.
The tickets are quite expensive, I'm wondering if these events are worth the money for a seed-stage start up? Cheers

Brian McConnell

June 21st, 2016

Conferences are a terrible way to promote a new company. I've been active in startups for 20 years. Very few of them will generate decent leads. People don't go to conferences to find new vendors like they used to 10 or 20 years ago (they use the web for that).

Scott Ling CEO/Founder @InstantAPI - Investor of time and knowledge to BitAngels - Lean/Agile Mentor

June 21st, 2016

1. never as a start-up pay to attend or pay for a demo table. you money is best used elsewhere.

2. you only get out of a conference what you put in effort wise, great for general socializing, awareness and some networking, don't expect anything to impact your bottom line, if you do get lucky - enjoy it, just don't expect it.

Summary: if you get a free demo table and tickets - do it, if not don't. (based on experience of paying and not paying for demo tables and tickets at far too many technology, startup and funding events over the past 5 years.  not paid for any tickets in the past 3 years.)

Guy Poreh Founder, Playground

June 21st, 2016

Honestly, It's a wonderful way to waste your seed money and get really frustrated.
Everybody gets accepted to exhibit at conferences and there's no need to repeat what the smart people before me said.

But, if you can get yourself to present on a stage, or be part on an expert panel, then you have a real chance of getting somewhere.

Kirill Pertsev

June 21st, 2016

If your customers would be there in significant numbers - definitely go. If not it's a leisure trip. Alex Turnbull summarized it perfectly I've also written on that some time ago, but used too much swearing, so I'm not going to give a link :-)

Ian Shearer Executive Chairman at Parakeetplay

June 22nd, 2016

I note that very few of the comments above display any real knowledge of WebSummit (except Assaf) and they all talk about conferences in general which is not very relevant. They are not all the same.
The history of WebSummit is that it started in Dublin (Ireland) and has this year moved to Lisbon. Collision is a sister event. 
Its not in any way an industry specific event (other than its a technology event) but it does attract a lot of big names and big VCs.
So if you are looking to find customers its probably a bad way to spend your money. On the other hand if you are willing to "work" the conference you can make great contacts especially around the VC and partner area.
As one of the other contributors said, you should find out beforehand who is attending and arrange to meet them during the conference. You will get out of it what you put into it, as with most things in life.
I was involved with one Company that chose WebSummit for its official launch a couple of years ago.We got an astonishing amount of interest. However due to our own incompetence we failed to probably follow up properly.
There is an incredible buzz to WebSummit, and there will be a huge and very international attendance in Lisbon this year.

Kate Hiscox

June 21st, 2016

It depends on your goals for the conference and how certain you feel you can achieve them. Combine that with the cost and that should be your answer. Personally, we've never paid to present or exhibit at a conference but we we don't really use them to acquire customers so your case could be different.

Mark How Co-founder at Shopswell

June 21st, 2016

I attended Collision in New Orleans. 

There were probably 400 startups there.  I would bet there were 40-50 legit VCs that attended.  The startups all line up on huge benches, and the benches line isles. Standing out at a show like this is going to be up to how you prepare before the show, moreso than what happens at the show. 

We did not exhibit, and I was glad. Instead, I spent my energy chasing meetings with top investors.  I managed to secure meetings with 8. As a result, the show was a success, mostly b/c it was a convenient way to meet people making bets in our segment. 

My startup is in shopping - 

There are a lot of firms that are interested in the space, but it is also a VERY difficult market for a variety of reasons.  As such, I find making contact at shows is something that works for us. 

Note - I am a non-technical founder, and had to spend dozens of hours chasing meetings. 

Good Luck

William Agush Founder and CEO at Shuttersong Incorporated

June 21st, 2016

YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).


June 21st, 2016

I disagree that conferences are a waste of time for any company. Conferences are where buyers and investors attend. The outcome of your experience & ROI will depend on your strategy when attending a conference. 

Chicke Fitzgerald 𝗘𝗻𝗴𝗮𝗴𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗿𝘁 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗮 𝗳𝗼𝗰𝘂𝘀 𝗼𝗻 𝗴𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗴. 💡 I zig where others zag #͏z͏i͏g͏w͏i͏t͏h͏c͏h͏i͏c͏k͏e

June 21st, 2016

The key words in your post are "just got accepted to exhibit".  Conferences exist to sell trade show space to exhibitors, so it would be rare not to be accepted.   If this show has an entrepreneurial track and a special deal for early stage companies, then it could be worth your while to exhibit.  

But I agree with the previous advice that the real benefit is attending, IF and that is a big IF, you are the kind of individual that can walk into a room full of strangers and determine where to spend your time and if you can open up the needed conversations.  

For years I used to participate and even have a booth at the biggest industry event in my industry (travel technology).  A few years ago they started broadcasting it free and I can now listen and TWEET.  They have gigantic screens in the main hall showing all the tweets, so now people think I am there.  I have visibility and I can listen and Tweet at my own pace.  It works for me.