5 things we learned at TechCrunch Disrupt London

Clarity PR was at TechCrunch Disrupt London 2015 to take a look at the startups, scale-ups and established tech companies on display. While nothing like the same scale at Web Summit, TechCrunch Disrupt proved to be an equally invaluable experience, full of interesting characters from the press and investment community, as well as the world of football.

Here are our five top takeaways from TechCrunch Disrupt:

Blockchain is still doing our heads in
“How many people understand what blockchain is?” TechCrunch Disrupt MC Jordan Crook asked attendees. A few hands went up. “How many really understand it?” she asked. Fewer hands were raised. Once the panel consisting of Steve Waterhouse, partner at Pantera Capital, Vitalik Buterin, founder of Ethereum and Blockstream’s CEO Austin Hill took to the stage, chairman Jon Biggs asked the audience the same question again: “How many people here understand what blockchain is?”. By now, already utterly confused, most of the audience kept their hands down. And that’s when it got even more impenetrable – as TechCrunch writer Natasha Lomas says, “this is level 10,000 on the nerd scale”. Biggs’ analogy of a dead goldfish hardly helped to clear up matters.

However, what is clear is that blockchain has a lot of potential for making all sorts of transactions more transparent, traceable and trustable. And that those who are quick to build applications for this technology have the potential to become major tech players of the future.

Investors don’t want to hear about your exit plan
Index Ventures’ Danny and Neil Rimer chatted with Ingrid Lundgren on the opening morning of the event and one point that really stood out was that they were very wary of startup founders who weren’t looking to build a company that would eventually IPO. “We never invest in companies that see M&A or sale as their goal.”

Nearly every investor that took to the stage was asked the usual questions about London’s place in the tech world (and it seems to be the universal opinion that it is now the undisputed home of fintech, with fashion and music startups also proving to be interesting) and why Europe hasn’t yet built a company the size of Google or Facebook. “You can build multi-billion dollar companies anywhere in the world,” said Thomas Korte of AngelPad. However, the Rimer brothers were a little more specific – there was little likelihood of Europe building a hardware giant, they said. It’s more likely to be a software or services company from Europe that hits the big time.

Football management can teach us a lot about business
Sir Alex Ferguson, who has evidently calmed down a lot now he’s retired, talked on stage about his managerial career and the kind of qualities that successful leaders in all areas of life need. Effectively, it all boils down to approaching things in a rational way – although leaders need passion (like Gary Neville, who evidently wakes up every day like “he is beginning a new quest”) they need to remain true to themselves, be consistent, and be loyal to their staff. The biggest danger leaders face is the “disease” of complacency, he said – certainly something he could never be accused of himself.

Keep droning on
There was a lot of talk about drones at TechCrunch Disrupt. Clarity client Fleye was showing off its personal flying robot, which is the same size and weight as a football (or soccer ball, if you are that way inclined). It’s designed to be incredibly safe – all the rotors are covered, and it’s also very easy to use. Meanwhile, on the main stage, the CEOs of Sky Futures, Verifly and Airware talked about the challenges and opportunities that they face. Regulation is the most pressing issue that needs to be resolved – as the panel’s host pointed out, in the US guns don’t have to be registered, but drones will have to be. While there are many exciting applications for drones – such as monitoring oil pipelines and data centres – it seems that it is regulation rather than technological advances that will dictate when these things will actually happen.

Be professional
One thing we really picked up on was how many startups exhibiting at the event hadn’t got their stands set up ready for when the doors opened. It looks really bad – especially as many press and investors take the opportunity to walk around the floor during the quieter moments. If you want to come across as professional and organised, and make the most of the opportunity you have at an event like this, you need to be set up and ready to demo at all times. The more eye-catching your setup is, the more people you have at your stand, the more interesting you are to people walking past. Not turning up until 10.30 or abandoning your stand for hours during the day will also be noticed – and it won’t go down well.


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