The 13-year reign of Chris Shipley as the Diva of Demo is coming to an end. The writer, consultant, and longtime content chief of the conference series, started in 1991 by Stewart Alsop, is leaving the show. Demo is now coming under the direction of Matt Marshall, founding editor of the VentureBeat blog.
I've been going to Demo since 1992, when I was working at IDG, the conference's owner. It's been my favorite conference for years. But it's an old structure and it's time to give it a thorough inspection and probably change out some of the foundation. Here's what I hope Marshall and his team consider as they take the reins of this warhorse.
Make the Web site work The Demo.com site is a half-decent archive of Demo info and videos of presentations. But with that killer domain and with what the conference stands for--innovation in technology and risk-taking in business--it could be so much more. Demo.com could be a hugely trafficked site for consumers interested in the next big thing, a competitor to TechCrunch, or an active community of starving entrepreneurs and the moneyed elite. Any direction would be better than the brochureware the site is today.
Take the show on the road Shipley was responsible for kicking off Demo conferences in Asia and Europe. That's ambitious and difficult, and I'd rather see Demo focus more on the U.S. start-up community. A series of "farm team" Demo conferences around the country could help entrepreneurs elsewhere hone their skills and might be a good way to improve the breadth of technology and ideas that make it to the big mother ship Demo conferences.
Move the main show to Silicon Valley It's fun to travel to sunny San Diego or another warm location for this show, but it's wasteful and the era of fancy-pants resort-driven conferences for the tech industry is over, at least for now. Thirty percent of the presenting companies this year are based in Silicon Valley. Probably more of the venture capitalists are from the area. Move the conference to a more central location.
Dissenting view: co-worker Daniel Terdiman says, "They should definitely do it in Hawaii."
Clear up Demo management The Demo conference is not, strictly speaking, Shipley's, and it never was. Demo is run by tech publishing company IDG, and for bizarre reasons probably having to do with corporate politics, it's now run by the group that publishes Network World. That's strange enough, but the core work of choosing the content for Demo is outsourced, until recently to Chris Shipley's Guidewire Group, and now to Matt Marshall, who's keeping his gig as VentureBeat's publisher. Demo deserves to live in a group that is focused solely on it and not split between two companies.
Loosen up with the press embargo nonsense Demo, and other start-up conferences like TechCrunch50, jealously guard their lists of presenters so as to not spoil the big reveal they get when companies hit the stage. That might have made some sense in the time before blogging, when writers could take a day or two to file a report from the field. Today, the strategy makes it difficult for journalists to write cogent commentary timed for publication when the conference starts; and after the conference is over, interest in the show fades rapidly. So readers get weak commentary and writers get limited traffic from their efforts.
At least the Demo companies often reach out to writers ahead of time; TechCrunch50 companies are so terrified of being dropped from the presenting lineup they won't talk to anyone before that conference. But it's time for conference organizers to let their presenting companies decide if they want advance coverage or not.
… Read more