TechCrunch Disrupt was launched in Berlin in 2013, but by 2014, the organisers were looking at London as well as Berlin, as the two European cities with the most vibrant tech start-up communities. The show brings together tech start-ups and experts in the sector to provide a lively, informative and creative platform for learning and development. The event occupied London’s Old Billingsgate in 2014, and in 2015, moved to Copper Box Arena in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, whose quirkiness added to its appeal: “It was the only venue that was available consistently, it was large enough for our event and having a former Olympic venue is pretty special,” says Director of Events Leslie Hitchcock.
What made London so successful?
“There is good access to the start-up community and it is productive, there are great contacts in London that attendees could access, which allowed them to meet investors and get business done outside the event, which they could not in Berlin "
Leslie Hitchcock, Director of Events, TechCrunch Disrupt
London lived up to expectation and the event ran smoothly. “It was a great experience. Delegates liked having an interesting and unique venue where there were no problems with services such as WiFi: it was great not to have to deal with the usual things that are frustrating at a conference. From the quality of the product to the venue, these things are interesting for people,” she says. “And they were attending a conference where they heard things they would not have been able to hear otherwise.”
London & Partners’ role
London & Partners teamed up with TechCrunch Disrupt when it moved to London, to help find an appropriate venue with a large green room (40 journalists and speakers), exhibition space for start-ups, overnight hackathon at the weekend, plus evening venues for dinners and celebrations.
“I gained their trust by showing that I understood what they were trying to achieve and after the first meeting, because it came across so strongly that they were very happy with Berlin, I re-wrote our initial proposal to better emphasise London’s strengths,” says consultant to London & Partners Pat Holmes. “We saw around 20 venues, as we needed to demonstrate which locations would work best. And we kept in mind that the show is part of Huffington Post and they have journalist and other contacts in London, who were also putting forward ideas.
“We also needed to find outstanding venues for the VIP and sponsor events. In Berlin, they held a dinner in a private house and the owner showed them his extraordinary art collection,” she says. London pulled out all the stops and last year (2015), TechCrunch Disrupt entertained VIPs and sponsors at a dinner at St. James’s Palace, hosted by the Duke of York. “I am not sure how we are going to up our game, I am quite nervous about that,” says Leslie Hitchcock.
''London & Partners was fantastic,” she says. “They spent two days with me in 2014 to do the sell-in for the venue of the VIP event and were instrumental in helping me find a caterer to work with at Banqueting House and St. James’s Palace. London can be an expensive place to do business and they helped me mitigate that. They were super helpful and I really appreciate it.”
The event brought together hundreds of tech start-ups, investors, media and speakers of worldwide recognition such as chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com Marc Benioff, CEO and Founder of Twitter Dick Costolo and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg. On-stage interviews and panels consisting of some of the biggest names in technology gave delegates advice, insight and first-hand knowledge of what it takes to build an industry-leading organisation.
For early stage companies it was a great opportunity to be part of a forum which encourages networking and gives visibility.
"Last year, European start-ups raised more money than they did during the dotcom boom. Much of that money and start-up activity is coming out of London, as European entrepreneurs are often using it as a bridge to the Valley"
Mike Butcher, Editor at Large of TechCrunch
“At the same time, it remains the first beachhead for many US start-ups looking to scale in Europe, so there are hard and fast reasons why it made sense for TechCrunch to return to London with Disrupt,” he says. “Plus, we set off a media atomic bomb last year, with multiple media outlets covering the start-ups that launched on our stage. We aim to repeat that.”
The show has given London its vote of confidence and is returning again this year. The capital is bracing itself for TechCrunch Disrupt 2016.