Let’s Get Real: Business is Not Personal


Good morning, all. How’s everyone out there in peaceful-happy-go-lucky-tech-land? Everyone good? Anyone received a death threat recently? Oh that’s right. We have! Well, I supposed it’s good to be noticed. What is that old saying? If you’re not pissing people off, you’re not doing things right? By that logic, we must be running a hell of a show.

I’m not entirely sure who whizzed in Mike Arrington’s Wheaties but someone at DEMO/Guidewire Group apparently did. From what I hear, we’re in good company; the list of people Arrington doesn’t like is approaching impressive proportions. If I have any advice for folks in the tech industry, entrepreneurs and media alike, it’s to watch your back. Friendly competition is obviously not in Mike’s vocabulary; either you succumb to his will or… DIE!

Calm down, Mike. We’re just talking about tech conferences here. No one’s waging a war against terrorism. We aren’t two points on the Axis of Evil. What we are trying to do – or at least should be – is foster a healthy environment in which startups can grow. And, yes, we’re both in business so we want to make a little profit, too.

Before I go any further, let me be very clear on a few points that have been tossed about in comments without much consideration, or demand for clarity or truth, for that matter:

The DEMO conferences are NOT pay-for-play and that assertion is insulting to every company that’s launched at a DEMO in the past 19 years. As someone who’s relatively new to the screening process (I started helping Chris with the interviews two years ago), I assure you that I would never have attached my name to a process that was anything but integrity-rich.

TC50 can embrace a “free” business model if they like, they can even call it a “merit-based” system, but until they donate all those demo pit and attendee fees to charity, they’re in this game for profit, just as surely is DEMO. To position TC, as so many comments seem to do, as philanthropic is just absurd.

Let’s ask the obvious question here: Where are all those $18k DEMO demonstrator fees going?

They pay for a top-notch production that is unmatched in the conference industry. They pay for media support from some of the best professionals in the business. They pay for a rich media hosting environment that insures that every 6-minute demonstration can reach a world-wide 24/7/365 audience. They go to creating an environment that allows entrepreneurs to be heroes in the spotlight, if only for the 3-days of the event. And let’s be frank, DEMO with all its platinum production values has outlasted virtually every major tech conference. There’s a reason for that, and it isn’t because Chris and the execs at IDG are lining their pockets with filthy lucre. As Chris pointed out in her post, that money goes to extensive coaching on every level, and yep, some of it is profit. Shocking isn’t it: aiming for profit in the business world?

I’ve been advised against this post by PR mavens, and Chris – who is far nicer than I – may blow a gasket here, but I’m saying it: I’m tired of dancing around an ego that everyone seems to agree is over-inflated. Michael Arrington needs to get over himself and realize that the tech industry was thriving long before he came on the scene and will continue to long after he’s gone. Arrington would do well to adopt an attitude of respect and professionalism toward the startups he claims to promote. And the community at large would be wise to demand it of him. . . and of every blogger, journalist, and analyst (ourselves included) covering this great industry.



  1. Come on, Michael Arribgton has just won a 25 million dollar law suit from FaceBook, and he pledges to give it all to Charity! He is just a Sweetheart of a Troll.

    We do love him dearly!

  2. Pete said

    I don’t know. I think I might have listened to your PR guys…

  3. I hear where you’re coming from and I’m certainly no TC defender (and A. certainly holds himself in high regard) but it seemed to that this was an business model debate. I know you don’t like to call it “pay-for-play” but as much as I’d like to DEMO our venture, we are completely self-funded and have to make the decision if the $18 is worth it (no judgment – it may well be) The question is how many excellent, cash strapped start-ups are you missing because you charge them. TC is surely profit based as you are. A. said your business model needed to die. It’s not clear to me how personal that was. All that said, i hope we get to DEMO one day, after we scrape it together.

  4. TC50 offers the same visibility without the $18k, right? So what’s DEMO’s plan?

  5. If “Business is Not Personal”, why make this post so personal? Would it have not been more profitable to defend your model with constructive comments about your business? By taking the low road, you appear defensive, even worried, that the comments regarding DEMO on TC, comments aimed at the plan and not the individuals involved, might be accurate.

  6. Kevin B. said

    I agree with Pete, unless you want a war of words. Mike’s already ‘tweeting’ your post and calling it a personal attack…

    But your last sentence infers that was your last word. We’ll see.

    Just a thought here, because I agree with the ‘spirit’ of Chris’ response (that there’s room for all and that is really all about what’s best for the entrepreneur), is there an opportunity to collaborate? Would that be in the best interest of the entrepreneur? It is a Web 2.0 world, afterall…

    Just a thought…

  7. Look for a post on this in my blog. $18k is an outrage! Do not make money off the backs of entrepreneurs trying to launch. Are you kidding $18k?

    I understand TC mackes money, but they are not charging $18k to demo. Did I mention $18k. These are bootstrapped companies that are trying to launch.

    It should be illegal to treat innovators and entrepreneurs this way.

    Someone explain what the heck you get for your $18k.

  8. I have been to Demo and without a doubt it is a top rate event. Great vehicle for a well funded startup to do a market launch.

    But regardless of how much you scream in all caps that the event is not pay for play, that is the market perception.

  9. I could be wrong (just an opinion) but I think a lot of this (overall, not just in this instance) may be theatrics on Arrington’s part, under the principle of “all publicity is good publicity” (I don’t agree with that by the way over the long haul). The fact that Arrington also cites (publicizes) your (this) post is, perhaps, just more evidence of that.
    Here’s more related thinking on this:
    Michael Arrington – Talking (Too) Tough At Times – By Alex Hammer

  10. Miranda said

    Whoa! Things are completely personal up in here! On all sides. Interestingly enough, I’ve always thought business IS personal. People and relationships are involved, and that really does make it personal…

  11. Solacetech said

    Well, the buzz is starting and sadly there will a polarization/choosing of sides. I don’t follow A. words as law, but, the “fee” for a start up to register with DEMO IS awful high….

  12. There’s no point getting in a pissing contest with Mike Arrington and TC. The cost is pretty absorb and that issue will need to be addressed. However, DEMO can make a slight change in what company they will allow to DEMO and get a huge audience and support of entrepreneurs. TC 50 won’t accept any companies that has launched and received some press…Mike has no problem putting entrepreneurs in a tough situation with having them hold off their launch so DEMO should extend the invite to companies who have been around for the last 6-9 months that have not thoroughly broken into the scene yet or companies who are now starting to make a big splash and are very up and coming. Honestly those are the people who will be getting the most attention anyway…

  13. […] Thompson put her criticism a little more […]

  14. Dawn said

    I paid to be in TC’s demopit last year. We got less than 50 hits from it…as I recall it was like 28. And no, I’m not kidding or exaggerating.

    $18,000 is a lot of money, and no, I wouldn’t pay it. But for those who do, I’m sure it’s at least of some benefit. Demopit, which cost $2,500 last year, is a total waste. Nobody cared about Demopit. All the attention was on stage.

    Save your money. Don’t bother with Demopit.

  15. P Harrison said

    I’d pay the $18,000 to launch at a professional, well respected, well known tech conference and if you’re a startup looking for exposure, you might as well do it right. Half assing it in order to save a few bucks could cost you more in the end.

  16. […] Mike saying that DEMO “needs to die” is a little strong. As Carla Thompson of DEMO writes at Guidewire, we’re just talking about a couple of tech conferences here — it’s not the Battle […]

  17. cj2015 said

    I know I am a day late and dollar short but I do catch the essence…same oh game…since time’s beginning…some like the dog eat dog approach….some were raised better… I must say…love your writing style…and kiddo…you’ve got balls.. and most important…integrity
    ..you’re gonna go far in life! smile

  18. Baria said

    I want the thirty seconds of my life back I used up reading this hysterical, personal swill from a glorified used car salesperson.

    Business is “not personal”? You sure as hell made it personal, for some reason, and it doesn’t reflect very well on you or your company, or even the parasitic niche your company occupies.

    Enjoy the “profit” you make off the creative work of others for a little while longer. It won’t last.

    Entrepeneurs really don’t need leeches.

  19. Darrow Christian said

    i don’t think the above post was personal. sounds more like TC fanboy trolls. but i’ll step up to the plate: Mike Arrington is the consummate douchebag. his 15 minutes of (unjustifed) fame will soon end. then it’s back to chasing ambulances. Demo’s the primo show and i completely trust the organizers’ integrity to do the right thing. keep trucking, guys (and gals)!

  20. I went to TC40 last year. Powerset payed plenty (not quite $18k) for all of our tickets. It’s not like it’s free to go.

  21. Looks like competition on the horizon for angel capital..:)

    You want to find the funds you have to go where the deep pockets hang out!

    Is it worth 18k for the exposure it all depends on the client. Some people maybe adequate to do it Gorilla Style.

    But then a proper event is desired to enter the market professionally. The event organizers have expenses and overhead, so no free lunch.

    Let the supply meet demand, and let the buyer beware!

    Forget about Arrington, he is really good at spinning things his way. If you going to compete head to head with him, you will lose! Also he is very selective when giving startups a chance, so someone who is not up to par with him, will get snubbed. Being so, there is a market opportunity for other conferences. But you may reconsider the price tag, 18k!

  22. […] Let’s Get Real: Business is Not Personal « The Guidewire Oh, it’s on! (tags: demo08 mikearrington) […]

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