It’s the most wonderful time of the year: TechCrunch Disrupt SF. For startups, TechCrunch Disrupt is the Super Bowl of tech — just with fewer tackles and more mid-afternoon desserts. Mixed holiday metaphors aside, there’s never been a better place for startups and sponsors to pitch their solutions, demo their apps, and hand over branded tote bags in exchange for a badge scan. I would know; I left TechCrunch Disrupt NY with games, stickers, two t-shirts, and a TechCrunch sweatshirt. I was scanned more thoroughly than a frequent flyer.
I may not like how frequently the tech industry uses the word “disruption,” but I’m all in when it comes to TechCrunch Disrupt. It’s a place where app ideas feel new again, where one VR headset is shared by all. And I can help you make the most of your time at TechCrunch Disrupt SF.
The Disrupt Hackathon weekend
Where to begin… Well, if you weren’t automatically swayed by the free stuff argument, the more highbrow answer is this: hackathons, sessions, and networking. Let’s start with the Disrupt Hackathon weekend. It’s Saturday, September 16 at 12:30pm to Sunday, September 17 at 2:00pm. It’s not your grandma’s hackathon (although she’s welcome to compete if she has a ticket and development skills). During the 24-hour hackathon, teams join together to build a new product and present it on stage to a panel of experts in front of a live audience. Teams have seen large-scale business success with these hackathons in the past. Plus, you could win prizes and tickets to the main conference.
We’ll also be at the hackathon all weekend, representing the Topcoder Cognitive Community. What’s that, you ask? It’s an online community that provides challenges and learning resources for developers and designers who want to learn and hone today’s most in-demand cognitive skills. It’s free to join and people of all levels of skill are welcome. Simply flag a Topcoder representative down and they’ll help you get signed up. You’ll even get a prize just for registering! In short, you could win at the hackathon, but you’ll definitely win with Topcoder.
Startup Alley and Startup Battlefield
TechCrunch Disrupt SF is the premier event for early stage startups, investors, big name sponsors, powerhouse speakers, and curious attendees alike. But to ensure that the event showcases the best early stage startups (over 500 of them!), TechCrunch staged a competition that gave free exhibit spots to the top three applicants in each category (e.g., health/biotech, robotics/drones, etc.). Check out the full list of all early stage startups and the featured Startup Alley companies at the event this year.
Startup Battlefield is where dreams come true… for a handful of competitors and one big winner. Top early stage startups come together on one stage over the course of three days to compete for the Disrupt Cup, a $50,000 prize, as well as investor and media attention. Past winners include companies like Mint, Dropbox, Yammer, and Tripit. And judges include TechCrunch editors, top VCs, and entrepreneurs. Because TechCrunch Disrupt SF is basically a magical Candy Land of tech, applying and participating in the Battlefield is 100% free; TechCrunch doesn’t take any fees or equity from any of the startups.
Must-see speakers and sponsors
If you attend the quintessential fireside chats and sessions, you’re guaranteed to leave with a better understanding of what’s going on in tech today. Business leaders from companies such as Pinterest, Google, AngelList, Apple, Houzz, Nest Labs, and ClassPass will present on subjects as vast as virtual reality and augmented reality and as granular as recruiting, eSports, and sexism in Silicon Valley.
You’ll also want to tour as many sponsor booths as you can. Sponsors this year include several names you know and some you don’t: Amazon Web Services, Crackle, Google Cloud Platform, Mamava, MIXhalo, Red Bull, and Topcoder — to name a few. (A word of advice about the Red Bull backpack-toting people you’ll undoubtedly see everywhere you go: You will have the opportunity to drink many cans of free Red Bull. They will have many flavors. If you choose to go down this path, pace yourself.) And of course, you’ll want to stop by the Topcoder booth to grab free swag, learn more about the Topcoder Cognitive Community, and find out how we can help with your design and development projects.
Bonus tips: the full San Francisco experience
If you have a free night or long weekend planned in San Francisco, you’re in for something special, and likely delicious. There are sushirritos to be eaten, museums to be visited, and Sutro Baths to be seen. There are also late-night street vendors selling bacon-wrapped hot dogs, great gastropubs and breweries (even a local meadery!), Mission-style burritos… the list goes on.
See you there!