Chris Osborne

Should founders attend big tech events?

Yesterday on Twitter Jon Russell asked his followers who’s attending Rise this week, a huge tech conference in Hong Kong that according to their site, had 53,000 attendees last year.

Here’s my response:

I have a few founder friends attending Rise this week and I have mixed feelings whether founders should attend these mega tech events.

For most founders, I feel it’s a total waste of time as most founders are much better off focusing on product and customers, but with that said, it does all depend on where a founder is at with their business.

Are you sinking or swimming?

I put most tech startups in two groups: those who are working on product and finding product/market fit and those who have found product/market fit and are now trying to scale.

If you’re working on product and trying to find product/market fit, I think it’s essential you spend all your working hours improving your product.

But what about all the networking?!

If you’re craving the networking opportunities such huge tech events provide, consider looking for a smaller focused event that aims to cover one specific area of your business that you’re struggling with.

Whether that’s learning Facebook advertising or becoming a better manager, my view is that learning and networking with an expert and 20 other attendees will have a bigger impact on your business than attending a 35,000 attendee event will have.

What about all the extra business I can drum up?

I’ve attended multiple big tech events over the past 10 years and I’ve yet to produce enough business to cover the costs of travel, hotels, tickets etc. But that’s just me – I could really suck at building business relationships face-face, I’m not sure.

But ultimately I think the trouble with conferences like Rise is that they try to cater to everyone (i.e ‘everyone in tech’), and thus, if it is sales you’re after, I think you’ll be much better off finding more targetted events where the majority of attendees are a much better fit for your business.

And what about all the impressive speakers?

If you want to attend a huge tech event to hear what the speakers have to say, know you’ll be able to watch all the talks from the event on YouTube in no time (here’s a list of all the talks that took place at last years Rise event).

Swimming and eating chocolate cake at the same time?

On the other hand, if you have found product/market fit and have a team in place to run day to day operations or have key clients attending, you enjoy the luxury of taking some time off to ‘network’.

Or least, take some time out to have a lot of fun.

There’s no denying flying into another city/country, staying in a nice fancy hotel, eating the local foods and having the opportunity to network with like-minded folks is a lot of fun.

But in my opinion, that’s all you’ll probably get out of attending a bega tech event; having some fun.

Which is why for me personally, I’d always opt for a week away from product/growth/team/family to attend a 10-30 person event learning a specific craft over attending one of these mega tech conferences.

Post updates

1. I think Chris nailed it here:

2. From Andrew, a member of my mastermind group:

I think most people are scared more of the smaller focused events than a big crowd event as it’s easier to be passive in a large crowd than a small crowd.