Chris Shipley on the merits of DEMO

Bambi Francisco Roizen · February 27, 2009 · Short URL:

Executive director of DEMO talks about the value of the longstanding conference for startups

Next week, Chris Shipley, co-founder and Chairman of Guidewire Group and executive producer of DEMO, will share the stage with Matt Marshall, founder of VentureBeat, and incoming director of DEMO. The conference, which will be held in Palm Springs, Calif., will showcase 40 "hot" startups, as considered by Shipley and others who've sat in the selection committees to choose the companies that make it to the event. Shipley told me she looks at 2000 annually! So, suffice it to say - DEMO is a conference that remains a gold standard of conferences for emerging companies.

(See which companies will be presenting next week.)

Shipley, as many have read, will be leaving to focus on her own startup Guidewire, an advisory firm to startups. I was fortunate enough to sit down with Shipley for several interviews, including a "Lessons for entrepreneurs" interview; one on how the Internet has changed culture, and importantly what's ahead for Shipley, her company Guidewire, and the upcoming Innovate!Europe conference.

Shipley was also my guest host for four Vator Box segments, in which we analyze and discuss four startups: Kosmix, Diddit, Filtrbox and Digger. But Shipley was also gracious enough to talk about the value of DEMO, in light of the many competing conferences, notably TC50.

In this segment, Shipley and I spoke about the upcoming DEMO conference and specifically we touched on the ongoing and public controversy between TC50 (TechCrunch's conference) and DEMO. In a recent TechCrunch article, titled "DEMO gets desperate," the writer refers to DEMO as "the startup and product-launch conference owned by IDG that competes with our own TechCrunch50 conference," and that DEMO could use some "fresh blood." Clearly, the author took the opportunity to take a swipe at DEMO.

This bad blood between the two conferences seemed to start way back in April 2008, when TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington said this to CNet. "Demo needs to die... It's just anold-school model... It clearly involves pay to play, and what we'reoffering is better."

DEMO has always charged startups to present, and this year it charged $18,500. That's the big beef that TC50 has with DEMO. Why should startups have to pay to present at an event? If they're worth celebrating, then let sponsors pay to be in front of them. But all this is old news. What's new is Shipley's planned departure at the end of this year; how she views DEMO and what's next for her.

What you'll find, from this interview, is someone who has humbly served the startup community. When I asked her how she felt reading articles that called her a "The woman with the Midas Touch," she responded: "I’ve been privileged to work with a lot of great startups to hopefully give them a lift to their flight. I may have good judgment, but they’re the ones that turn themselves into gold, not me."

On the topic of DEMO, she said that many of the companies are more mature than they were in the past. These companies are bringing product to market. Many already have business models. "This is not an era of we'll figure out a business model later," she said.

When I asked her what she thought of the seemingly vocal jabs coming out of TechCrunch and its own conference TC50, she jokingly said: "What's that event?"  

Then she went on, "It’s not the first time someone’s mispositioned DEMO... Fundamentally, we’re a different event than TechCrunch. We’re about companies that are mature enough to take their products to market."

What's the perception of DEMO vs. TechCrunch 50? I asked.

"There’s a role for TechCrunch to showcase entrepreneurs... There are how many thousands of companies coming into the market? If they’re [TechCrunch] lining up behind entrepreneurs, God bless them. That doesn’t mean it has to be a zero sum game," she said, adding, " is another way [to help entrepreneurs."

As for the steep amount to be paid by entrepreneurs, who probably could put those funds toward other uses, Shipley said that “DEMO offers a range of services for that price," including services to launch the product, as well as a well-done production to celebrate them. A price point also acts as a "filter."

Indeed, a price point does help separate the wheat from the chaff in many cases. And, if paying up contributes to a well-produced event, then it's probably worth it. 

Be sure to watch my other interviews with Shipley. They'll be up during the coming weeks. 

Image Description

Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

All author posts

Support VatorNews by Donating

Read more from our "Interviews" series

More episodes

Related Companies, Investors, and Entrepreneurs



Joined Vator on

TextDigger is a San Jose, CA-based startup developing advanced semantic solutions for the Web, including hosted semantic search, automated content tagging and topic generation, and optimized keyword generation. These products make Web pages more findable, both to outside search engines such as Google and to other pages within the same site via cross-linking and related search. The result is increased revenue from higher inbound traffic and longer sessions. TextDigger was founded by a group of former CNET employees and executives who developed patented linguistic technologies that, today, are used to enhance the content on thousands of pages within CNET's award winning websites.

@WalmartLabs (Kosmix)


Joined Vator on

Kosmix was acquired by Walmart in May of 2011 to create @WalmartLabs.

Through the innovative fusion of retail, social and mobile, @WalmartLabs is redefining Commerce for the largest retailer worldwide. We are a group comprised of the brightest technologists and businesspeople in the industry, excited about the limitless opportunities that this next generation of Commerce will bring to billions of people around the globe, all in an effort to help them save money and live better.

Kosmix was funded by Time Warner Investments, Accel Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Dag Ventures, private investor Ed Zander and Jeff Bezos' personal investment company, Bezos Expeditions.


WalmartLabs is hiring.


Diddit (Ludic Labs)


Joined Vator on

Diddit -- you are what you do -- is a site for people to discover, connect and get credit fortheir life experiences.  Diddit, aproperty of Ludic Labs, combines a comprehensive experience guide with apowerful social platform empowering people with compelling content andadvertisers with highly targeted audiences.  Headquartered in San Mateo, California,Ludic Labs was started by the founding team of search engine company Inktomiand is funded by Accel Partners (,KPG Ventures (, its founders and private individuals. For more, visit



Joined Vator on

Discover what your customers are saying about you on Twitter, social networks, blogs and news sites. Filtrbox monitors conversations on millions of sites in realtime and alerts you to things that are directly relevant to your business. Participate in the conversation, build closer relationships with your customers,  and watch your brand and business grow. 


Filtrbox delivers daily emails with new articles, and provides a rich web application to monitor, analyze, and collaborate on Filtrs (searches). Unlike google alerts, Filtrbox removes duplicates, maintains history of what you have seen, and allows feedback to fine-tune your results. Articles are scored based on relevance for noise control also.  

You can try Filtrbox for free @ 


chris Shipley

Joined Vator on