Everyone enjoys a little healthy competition – especially your typical startup founder. And what makes competition more interesting is when two precious resources, cash and publicity, are on the line. As a result, the thing that made TechCrunch Disrupt, and its predecessor, TC50, unique relative to typically staid and predictable tech conferences was and continues to be the competition witnessed on the Startup Battlefield.
What is the Startup Battlefield? It is a rare opportunity for a startup to kickstart both its fundraising and product adoption in three short days. The TechCrunch editorial staff invites thirty promising startups, usually with somewhere between zero and two million dollars in funding to date and significant product progress (though not very much market progress) to pitch themselves to a panel of Silicon Valley luminaries. Each startup has only six minutes to cover their vision and business model and demo their product.
Winners receive $50,000, the “Disrupt Cup,” and, most importantly, every competitor gets the benefit of massive PR that comes with being in the Battlefield. VCs suddenly start taking your call, and users start searching for you, rather than the other way around. One past finalist mentioned his app going from having a few hundred downloads cumulatively to suddenly getting five thousand downloads a day. Past competitors who launched their products at Disrupt include Yammer, Mint, and Dropbox.
This year, the prize went to Layer, a startup working to develop a common, unified communication layer across mobile apps, with the goal of every app offering voice, video, text and file sharing. Finalists included Regalii, an international mobile payments startup founded by Edrizio de la Cruz, WG’12. You can bet he got some of the loudest cheers of any startup thanks to the very boisterous Wharton West SF contingent.
Startup Battlefield is the perfect metaphor for the microcosm of building a startup: spontaneous, very tight on time, and a very tough set of competitors. And boy was it fun to watch.