Going to Comdex this year? And how was your trip to PC Expo last June? Oops. Doors closed and as unlikely to reopen as Lehman Brothers. So why did I just return from a trade show that's not only alive and well, but going strong after more than a dozen years? That was Demo Fall 09, which just concluded in San Diego with a full house of more than 60 startups paying as much as $18,500 to demonstrate their wares, and nearly 600 attendees, including a sizable contingent of sharp-eyed venture capitalists.
Well, it's because innovation remains the lifeblood of our industry, and even in tough times, money and ideas need to flow. And unlike the dear, departed trade shows of the past, Demo has been able to evolve with our rapidly changing industry. (I should disclose that Demo is owned by IDG, which also owns InfoWorld. But I'd add that I attended and enjoyed previous editions of the conference long before I worked for this company and no one told me to write this column.)
This year, the conference organizers presented a basketful of lifetime achievement awards to executives and technologists whose companies debuted at Demo and who went on to become significant forces in the industry. Their names will give you a sense of the show's scope and influence. Not to slight anyone (a full list is available) but you've got to note that the list includes Marc Benioff, who debuted Salesforce.com at the show in 2000; Diane Green of VMware, 1999; Donna Dubinsky, Palm, 1999; Mike Cassidy, Xfire, 2005; and Shah Agassi, TopTier, 1997.
Move Demo to Silicon Valley
Is Demo as good as it could be? Of course, not. The conference needs to do more to retain its relevancy.
One big issue is the decision to hold the show in San Diego, when so many of the companies and venture capitalists who attend are based in Silicon Valley. San Diego is certainly a lovely city to visit, but in this economy, forcing companies to spend thin resources on travel and hotel bills doesn't make sense.
And as others have pointed out, there should be a boot camp for the presenters. Poor pitches are distracting and block the flow of ideas. What's more, the presenters are spending big money to be on the stage and attendees are paying to hear their ideas, so putting more polish on those pitches would result in more ROI for everyone.