Home DEMO Producer Chris Shipley to Pass the Torch to VentureBeat’s Matt Marshall

DEMO Producer Chris Shipley to Pass the Torch to VentureBeat’s Matt Marshall

The DEMO conference, a Silicon Valley institution, will announce a changing of the guard tonight. Executive producer Chris Shipley will begin a hand-off of leadership to Matt Marshall, San Jose Mercury News reporter turned blog founder at VentureBeat. That’s right, DEMO is being taken over by a blogger.

If you’re not familiar with DEMO, it’s a very slick conference where startup companies are selected to present to an audience of potential investors, reporters and others. It’s been around for decades and has roots in the mobile world. All the major tech blogs now race to cover the scads of companies that launch there each year. It’s also become very controversial as the media and tech landscapes have changed.

The move comes after a period of speculation that the business was losing momentum, at a time when startup companies tend to debut on a stage that didn’t exist until recently (on blogs) and amidst an extended public fight with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, who famously told an interviewer that “DEMO needs to die.” Startups don’t require huge piles of money to launch anymore, thanks in large part to the Web 2.0 phenomenon. Arrington argues that the DEMO entry fees prohibit the participation of some of the smallest but most exciting startups.

I like DEMO, though my wife reminds me that every one of the 3 times I’ve been there as a reporter and once with a presenting company, I’ve called home and said “why do I come here, I don’t want to ever come to this again.” It’s too Silicon Valley for me, though I do love getting to see and meet many of the people I always do at DEMO. I feel similarly about reporting on this story. I just want to see what Kara Swisher has to say about it, because I’m guessing that she’s going to explode with snark.

More details on this in a few minutes as I fill in my thoughts on the topic. I just wanted to post first on it because the behind the scenes wrestling match over embargoes, etc. is absurd. It’s actually pretty funny that you read about this here first.

I hate the fact that most of this story is not about Chris Shipley, who has done a great job for 13 years running DEMO, even dancing on stage while she does it! Unfortunately, some big personalities have overshadowed Shipley’s hard work at least in these parts and in recent times.

Photo of Chris Shipley CC by Robert Scoble

Michael Arrington’s contention is that DEMO is a “pay for play” event that excludes some of the most important innovators by way of its nearly $20k price of participation. Arrington, who incidentally is a former employer of mine and whom I owe a lot of gratitude for help with my career’s advancement, believes that his competing conferences (the TechCrunch 50 etc.) are superior because they are free for startups to present at. That’s a debate that has raged back and forth but my personal opinion is that many startups have for decades been able to drop that $20k without too much hesitation. Those who can’t can debut at different events, or on blogs. Scheduling the TechCrunch events at the same time as DEMO seemed an overly competitive move to me, but Arrington doesn’t often put the words “overly” and “competitive” in the same sentence. He is winning, too, so that’s hard to argue with.

Now DEMO will be taken over by Matt Marshall, who is ostensibly a blogger and seems like a nice enough man. He’s also been a partner in Arrington’s other major conference The Crunchies for the past two years. We at ReadWriteWeb were as well for the first year, but we declined to participate this year.

Michael Arrington is a very competitive man whom many people either love, hate or have both feelings towards. Many people live in fear of falling out of his good graces, but now someone very much within his good graces (Matt Marshall) will be taking over the conference that Arrington seemed intent on killing. Meanwhile, Arrington himself is out of the country in an undisclosed tropical location taking a much needed break from a lot of hard work and some really inappropriate backlash from psychotic people targeting him for his accumulation and perhaps use of power in the tech industry.

It’s all a big nasty Silicon Valley mess, and Silicon Valley is always fairly big and nasty. We’d like to see a bunch of successful conferences thrive and bring great technology into the public eye. We’d also like to congratulate Chris Shipley on her great work over the last 13 years and wish her the best in the consulting she’ll continue to do.

Disclosure: DEMO is a current RWW sponsor.

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The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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