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Hey startup parasites: We don't have time for you (anothersb.blogspot.com)
196 points by michaelhoffman on April 15, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 52 comments

Yeah, we had the same thing with the web summit run by the same people who run Collision. "Hey, we think you've got a great startup, and we'd love to talk to you to see if you qualify for our start-up track."

After the interview, of course, they follow up with the exact same sort of line:

"As you know, we can't invite everyone. However, I'm happy to say that it seems XXX is doing great things in an exciting space and you've been selected for XXX, the later stage startup track at XXX."

Followed by this...

"Your code will reduce the cost from €12,950 to €1,950. As discussed the package includes 3 attendee tickets, plus a complimentary exhibition stand for one of the three days."

Afterwards, if you interact with them in any way, expect to get 5-15 average spam mails a week with "Guess who's going to be at our conference!" If you unsubscribe from the list, it seems like they just invent another conference to spam you with.

Not surprisingly, their "exhibitor" costs rival some of the largest and most successful industry conference costs, even though, in the case of the one I inquired about, it it was the first event that they had put on in that track. Afterwards, of course, "oh, but you qualify for our start-up track which lets you stand in this hall for one day for $5,000!"

Agree with earlier poster to avoid.

> the package includes 3 attendee tickets, plus a complimentary exhibition stand

This is the kind of wording that drives me insane. If I'm paying for a thing, then anything that comes with that thing is by definition NOT complimentary.

Collision is run by Paddy Cosgrave, who conned the Irish Government into paying for the Dublin Web Summit (DWS) and F.ounders. Mind you, he has a fair track record in conning gullible politicians out of their money! http://www.irishelection.com/2009/04/micandidateeu-the-full-...

He once threatened to sue someone for organising an event during the same week as DWS, claiming that they were riding on his coattails.

Avoid like the plague!

I went to Collision (Las Vegas) last year, and it was a waste of time and money.

Same startups, same VCs, same bloggers, etc, repeating the same stuff they said in a similar conference the week before i.e. loads of words are spoken, but no real content. Add to that the junk food they served, no seating (seriously, no seating through out the event for all the attendees), loud fans made it impossible to have a proper conversation, remote and random location, expensive, etc... and now the pay-to-pitch schemes. I felt treated like cattle. Stay away from these events.

The only tech event I strongly recommend attending is LAUNCH Festival by Jason Calacanis.

>The only tech event I strongly recommend attending is LAUNCH Festival by Jason Calacanis.

Agreed. It's very well done. Also note that Jason has been very critical of the "pay to pitch" phenomenon: http://www.businessinsider.com/my-latest-war-angels-who-char...

Worse, if you do present, you'll find that the "angels" who are members of these groups are often wealthy professionals with no startup or technical background (lawyers, doctors, ranchers etc).

They're often tire-kickers who will waste a lot of your time doing "diligence" and trying to negotiate absurd notes with excessive warrant gearing/premiums. As you talk with them, you'll come to find they have never put in more than $50K and have only done one or two investments.

Hey, we survived a couple of years on these kind of investments. It was a fulltime job for one founder; he burned out. But it kept us going.

It's weird to see you casually describing and justifying the deteriorating mental health of a person who was important to you.

I don't think you'd do the same for, for example, RSI. "Hey, we survived a couple of years with a bad keyboard desk combination. Typing on that was a full time job for someone; they got RSI. But it kept us going".

How do you want me to describe founder burnout? Like it was my call? He was the founder, not me. Heck, I'd like to know the stats on how many founders DONT burn out.

Startups are hard. Very very hard. Every step. Every day. Rewarding but hard. Building, funding, traction, revenue - each one more impossible to attain than the previous. Burnout of the founder is the norm.

Hence my anger at the parasites who waste the time we already don't have.

I don't think it's a topic we need to tiptoe around. This is one of the few places where it should be normal to write about it casually. Describing it as 'deteriorating mental health' makes it sound like something to be ashamed of. Like burning out means you've gone bonkers. That attitude probably deters many founders from wanting to talk about it.

Maybe deteriorating mental health shouldn't be equated to "going bonkers", and then we won't be discouraging people from talking about something so common.

I agree that burnout is serious. That's why I think it's weird to see it so casually dismissed - this guy burntout but that's okay because we got some cash and we were able to keep going.

I don't think it's okay to allow people to burnout; and if their job is causing burnout something about the job needs to change.

It's odd that you call for people to discuss their mental health problems while simultaneously using deeply stigmatising language.

Wow you guys read a lot into a few words. Lets reset. He burned out on pitching several times a day, took a break of a few weeks, moved up the food chain to more qualified investors (> $200K) so he didn't have to pitch but once or twice a day. Doing fine now.

Lots of people burn out on lots of things. Its not always a complete mental meltdown. Sometimes its just "I can't do this any more; lets find a new way"

Seems to me we have some conflation of the term "burnout" versus the verb "to burn out". The other people in this subthread were talking about this:


i disagree, sometimes burnout just happens, its not the job, its the person. maybe they just don't want that much stress or aren't cut from the right cloth... don't auto-blame the job.

Makes me sad that Keiretsu is still around.

Jason Calacanis went after their horrible tactics 5 years ago[0], and was very vocal about it. This is the first I've heard of them in 3-4 years, so I just assumed they had closed up shop.

Only one link among many. [0]: http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/blog/techflash/2010/11/ja...

From The Funded site comes this gem of a comment:

"Many years ago as a young entrepreneur I had a lunch meeting with an investor, at the end of which I tried to pay. He stopped me and said "any investor who lets you pay for lunch isn't a real investor". I sat in on a K forum, considering pitching them. When they told me they wanted $3000K for me to "join their community" and pitch I almost fell over."



I like how most people are directors or presidents of Keiretsu Forum and TWO people are staff employees.

This reminds me a whole lot of those "modeling agencies" that charge reasonably attractive young women with no hope of making it as a model for photo shoots.

There are also writing "competitions" that accept everything and anything, put all entries into some crappy "anthology" and then try to sell copies to everyone who entered.

An elderly relative of mine fell for that. Oddly, it changed my opinion of them - the amount of pride he extracted from it was more than worth the couple of hundred dollars he paid.

With this thread + yesterday's about WWDC being so "oversold" and people lamenting their desire to go back to the 500-person meetups of yore I thought I'd share a tip.

I've found it helpful to purposely target the smaller, industry-specific or location-specific conferences.

While you don't necessarily meet the "super angels" or luminary press figures, I almost always come away glad that I went.

Two recent examples was pitching our location startup at the Telecom Council's "Connected Car" start-up:


I think registration was $200 and it was maybe 300 people deeply connected into the telecom and auto industries.

Or the App Developer's Alliance in Los Angeles (regionally important to us):


Again, great people, lots of indie devs, etc.

I could walk away from both being materially glad that we attended, and with a list of people that I connected with face-to-face and look forward to doing business with.

Check out Compute Midwest this fall. Previous speakers include founders/leaders from iRobot, reddit, Shapeways, D-wave, DARPA, interaXon, singularity, NASA Mars Rover project and so many more


I was approached to speak at Collision. When I included my speaking agent in the loop that was the last I heard from them! :-)

Collision called us as well and made a bunch of promises to get us on as a speaker. Post registration, no speaking engagement. Felt like a bait and switch. It better be good.

If they promised to get you on in order to make the sale, then it didn't just "feel like" it.

On the flip side this post comes to mind http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2010/10/13/be-careful-not...

How much value is being generated by the founder(s) being at events like this?

I would like to know too..

I have long ago stopped applying for awards rort.. took away so much of my time..

My team snagged tickets to the web summit in Dublin last year, not to present but just as attendees. We actually had a great time at it, got to see some good talks, some not so good, and met a huge amount of really cool and interesting people at the eating/drinking events held afterward.

I can see how there would be a huge amount of opportunities there for startups. There is a vast amount of money people, lots of technical talent and lots of ideas all brought together for a few days and I think that if you're socially savvy you could make a lot from it.

What I did not like is how the organisers conduct themselves. Their approach to getting speakers is, I believe, totally offensive. I understand that they're running a business but they spam and bait-and-switch like no company I can recall in recent memory. I believe, or read somewhere, that their hiring practices for their volunteers/staff are pretty awful also.

I suppose it is what you make of it. Would I go to it again as an attendee? If the tickets were given to me and I was in or around Dublin at the time, certainly. Would I pay to attend myself? Probably not. If I were running a startup and wanted to get it in front of people, and to meet people who might be interested in it? I'd probably pay €1500 for the opportunity. It's not very expensive compared to the opportunities it may present. Worst case scenario is you have a few fun days in an interesting city.

"If I were running a startup " is key here. You don't.

Another sub-species is the organization that does nothing but get inactive VCs/Angels to small events and charge founders $20-$50 to attend and $100-$500 for 'a table' for the company Names like Lifograph (aka Cofounder Club) or FundingPost come to mind- They seem not to do anything except these crappy events constantly with the same 6-7 tired VCs year-round. Great way to charge for tickets, for 'tables' for companies to display, and sponsor fees.

Just to be clear - there are good and legitimate startup events/pitches/conferences. And there is a sea of parasites.

Although I tend to agree with this post, we had a good experience with the only conference we decided to attend.

We at Codacy decided to attend the Web Summit last year and invested the amount they asked us to put in (I can't recall how much but was the standard for the BETA category). They upgraded us to the BETA category even though we actually should have been put in the lower ALPHA one.

In any case we executed on a plan: to extract as much as we could from it and that we did:

* We abused the day with the stand to talk to Startups and give awareness of our product. We actually met a few of our best customers.

* We did a list of people we wanted to meet and took some effort to network and reach them. We got into very interesting discussions and follow on meetings after the conference. We met great engineers and people we ended up partnering with.

* We took part in the pitch competition (with some hesitation at first to be honest..), but took it seriously and we ended up winning the whole thing (techcrunch.com/2014/11/06/lisbons-codacy-wins-the-web-summit-pitch-competition/)

So while I cannot speak for these new conferences, for us the Web Summit was certainly a great investment.

My experience with the WebSummit is that it's valuable IF you participate in the pitch competition. If not, you can get a lot of value at the evening/night events.

Some of the talks are also very interesting and gives you the chance to see people that you usually don't see in Europe.

But the stands? The stands have been completely useless for us.

BTW, congratulations, we were finalists in 2013 and even that gave us a big push.

Offering a discount if you're accepted to pitch isn't comparable to conferences (I won't name names) that make you pay to come AND pay to "present" if selected.

I wouldn't call that parasitic at all - I think it's silly though (they're clearly not making money on those folks so why charge them at all?) but it's a reasonable way to do things.

Hey guys, Paddy G (@thepadman) from Collision here. Probably best for me to chip in and clarify the situation. We do get thousands of applications and make time to hop on calls to make sure the companies are viable and have cool teams. We end up choosing around 10%-15% of those who apply.

Regarding registration; Physical space at any conference would come at a premium. As advertised, we're removing this element of the cost to startups who could bring value to the event and charging a fee for tickets & registration. The package grants you 3 tickets (2 day event and evening socials), online circulation, access to industry leader talks, workshops, investor office hours & invitations to partner activations as well as the physical space in your chosen industry area. Our website clearly states that there is a cost associated with registering. Our event isn't free but you can see by the calibre of attendee and speakers (as outlined in the website) that there are definite opportunities and knowledge to be gained.

The event was really well received last year and more than half the participating startups either joined us at Web Summit and/or are returning to Collision this year. For me personally, that is a great testament to the event. We are working tirelessly to improve our systems to make sure everyone gets value from the event. We're a tech startup ourselves and we just want to put on an awesome tech event.

Happy to answer any more questions. Feel free to drop me a line at Patrick.griffith@collisionconf.com.

Thank you for taking the time to comment. As I make clear in the post, it's not the fact that you charge that is the problem. It's the misleading tactic of calling startups, making us present, asking us questions, then e-mailing us "Congratulations! Your company is great and we are selecting you after screening. You can now pay us $1,400." If you are not explicit when you reach out by e-mail in the first place about the fee, and if you don't mention it on the phone call - you are wasting many people's time. Please look through the comments in this thread.

Thanks for your note. Paddy G here again.

The team are really sorry that there was a misunderstanding between us and the author of the blog article Lenny Teytelman over the cost of coming to Collision and taking part in our Collide track for startups.

We really try to be as transparent as possible about the costs of attending our events. We believe that we offer great value for money for all attendees, whether they are startups, investors, speakers or general attendees. At our flagship event, Web Summit in Dublin, the numbers of those attending have doubled every year - which we feel shows that many people agree that we provide a great networking experience. Some on this thread have mentioned this.

To be clear, in our call with Lenny there seems to have been a misunderstanding over costs. We followed up the conversation a week later with an extensive email setting out the costs and the benefits of attending in the hope that he and his exciting startup could come along.

I've checked with the team here and from the email correspondence he told us: “I misunderstood you during the Skype call. I thought you are waving the attendance fee of $1450, instead of reducing the price to that.” Which is fair enough and we apologise if we were unclear on the call in any way. He then declined to take us up on the offer and we left it there.

As I have mentioned earlier, our Startups page on the website collisionconf.com clearly states that while exhibiting for selected startups is free, there is a cost for attending. To quote:

'Each week we selected 25 early stage startups from around the world to exhibit for free as part of our Collide Program. The bigger tech companies pay $9,950 to exhibit, meaning exciting, disruptive, early-stage startups can afford to attend no matter what. All they will pay is a discounted price for tickets and Collide registration, and we’ll give them a free exhibition stand.'

Really sorry if Lenny feels we wasted his time. We were genuinely excited about the possibility of him attending Collision but as mentioned previously, we do need to make the effort to screen applications so that we present the very best experience for startups and investors at our events.

We are a technology startup ourselves and of course we can always improve what we do. We are working hard right now to make Collision in Las Vegas on May 5-6 a success for the hundreds of startups across 14 industry areas who are attending. The networking at our events has been called “legendary” and we try hard to live up to that tag.

We are reaching out to Lenny to offer our apologies for any misunderstanding and we hope that those on this thread who are attending Collision will report back on their experience.

Happy to answer any more questions. Feel free to drop me a line at Patrick.griffith@collisionconf.com.

No Paddy, I did not "misunderstand" during the Skype call. That e-mail was just my polite way of telling you to go away. Here is a less polite but more direct response: http://anothersb.blogspot.com/2015/04/last-post-on-collision...

I am not going to engage in "he said, she said" with you. Instead, I encourage readers to look at the other comments in this thread to make up their mind about Collision. Plenty more of such concerns here http://www.reddit.com/r/startups/comments/2x8i04/weve_been_a....

Hey, I'm the author of that reddit post (knowhere). We decided to not go and are very happy about our decision now that that comes to light. We almost spend a lot of money for what felt like a big shot.

We decided against it because the deadline was so short. We got accepted on a tuesday and would have had to pay by friday the same week. We passed because that wasn't enough time to make a good decision.

We have the same problem with the phocuswright europe conference as well. They want us to pitch but spend 7500€ (we won't). It's hard to navigate that because as a startup you feel like you have to get out there and deciding between the really goot opportunities and the bad ones is harder then I thought.

Also, more than happy to meet up with anyone in person at Collision. I'll be off my feet during the day time but will be floating around Downtown/Fremont in the evening so just ping me on twitter.

Thank you for replying. I don't think it's reasonable for you to be downvoted here. Whether readers like your response or not, you are the one of the direct subjects of the article, so your responses (and certainly your initial response to the article) are extremely relevant here.

Moderators: downvoting the parent is perhaps the clearest abuse of downvotes I've ever seen. Please act.

Where there's a buck to be made on the gullible, the shameless flock it seems.

I wonder how these folks sleep at night and how much money they're really making. They could be doing something else with their time that is a win-win for everybody, not just them.

On the flipside - maybe we ought to be glad they're running around doing small-time scams, imagine these jerks infiltrating large organizations and spreading their ways around in ways that affect the masses.

So glad you wrote this, it is so amazing to me to see people trying to feed on start-ups. I find that good deals get better and bad deals get worse, when there are all these added costs of getting the chance to present or involved in certain meetings, the level of enthusiasm seems to drop on all sides.

We're attending Collision this May, and were offered the deal the article mentions. I wasn't cold called, but applied on their site directly for their startup offer.

We saw it as a fair good deal, and didn't feel scammed at all. It took us one 10 minute phone call, and then we got offered the tickets for $1,500.

It's our first conference, other ones we've looked at cost far more. So for a first one, we thought the event looks interesting, not as expensive as other events we've cost up, looks like there will be interesting people there and Vegas is a fun city for us all anyway!

I'll be there as well.. Hope we have a good time! Vegas for 3 days with hotel included isn't a bad deal..

I'd be interested to hear how the experience goes and if it is worth the $1,500.

Feel free to drop me an email if you're interested after the event.

It's not filling me with confidence reading other comments in this thread, but still happy and excited to be going.

I'm curious as to how I ended up on these startup spam lists as well.

I've always suspected CrunchBase, since that's when they seemed to have started, but can't prove it.

I am getting several sponsored ads for startup conferences in Facebook, it is very annoying.

First world problems eh!

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