TechCrunch Disrupt events, hosted each year in San Francisco, New York, London and Berlin, are awesome gatherings of the most innovative startups that come from all around the world. The air is filled with such a vibrant startup energy that makes you even more enthusiastic about your own venture.

It is a unique opportunity to present your idea to the world, tell the startup community about your product, find new partners, and get financing from multiple different sources.

We at Zeroqode were not looking for any financing rather our goal was to spread the word about the no-code development technology that allows building web and mobile apps without code up to 10x faster. It was our first experience participating in TechCrunch Disrupt, yet a very successful one, so we’d like to share some hints and tips about how we did it :)

Find a Sponsoring Organization: 3-4 Months Before the Event

Participation at TechCrunch Disrupt is quite a costly venture, so if you are short on budget you might want to consider investigating whether there is an organization that will sponsor startups to represent your country. Sometimes participation is sponsored by startup accelerators and incubators. Normally these startups are organized into country or accelerator pavilions.

Start Preparing: at least 3-4 Weeks Before the Event

Don’t underestimate the amount of preparation that you’ll need to do, even if you are going to have just a small table. So once your participation is confirmed you might want to go ahead and start getting everything prepared as soon as possible.

The Booth

If you are a part of the Startup Alley then all you’ll get is a small round table 80cm in diameter. Not much, right? But with a creative approach you can still get the most out of it. An absolute must is a roll-up banner.

Most visitors don’t like to come and ask each startup about what exactly they are presenting. They prefer to understand the main idea by taking a quick look at the visuals and then if they get interested — they approach and talk to you.

So make sure that the message on your roll-up is very clear, or at least that it will catch people's attention. Don’t be afraid to be creative and come up with bold statements that will intrigue people, like we did. :)

Instead of describing in detail what we do, we decided to simply write “NO. MORE. CODE.” So people were curious to know what we meant by it.

Developers were approaching to find out if they are going to lose their jobs — and we explained that it was quite the opposite — we simply want to make their work more efficient.

Founders were asking how our technology can help them launch products faster and with leaner budgets.

Designers were curious if they could start building functional apps instead of simply static designs.

We also printed a few cards with logos of famous and eye-catching websites and apps, like AirBnB, Slack, Trello, Instagram, etc., and a sign saying “Build your own app without code”:

We'd pinned them around the table so that they were visible from various angles. This got visitors even more intrigued and they wondered whether they could build apps like those without code, hence they continued approaching us and asking questions.

We also printed a card saying “Get your free app template” and put it on top of the table. We all love freebies—TechCrunch participants are no exception :)

Another thing we did was to put a tablet on the table which was playing a looped recording of a no-code app development process.

So summing up: catchy roll-up banner, cards pinned to the table, tablet with video playing, and the Free Templates card created a great impression of what we do. So visitors spotted at least one of these promo elements and then if interested — they looked at all others or just approached us directly.

Branded T-Shirts

Not only do they help to create a positive image and brand awareness—they can attract interest too! Usually the startups get only one day to exhibit, while the Disrupt event is two days. So, the first day we were wearing these T-shirts while roaming around the startup alley and that itself was enough for people to wonder what we were doing and approach us with questions. The front of our T-shirts read “NO. MORE. CODE.” and the back read “Apps without code? Ask me how”. So we were approached a few times with a one-word question:  “How?” :)

My partner Vlad and me at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin

Printed (or not) Materials

Business cards are obvious, so we printed some. (A couple hundred per person should be more than enough.) But we decided not to print anything else, because our website does a better job presenting the product and no one likes carrying piles of paper these days. And it’s good for the environment too to avoid printing something that will be thrown in the trash.

On-site Lead Capturing

We've got a landing page with a simple email capture form. Once someone enters their email it is automatically added to our Mailchimp list. For that list we configured an onboarding reply template that basically says "thanks for visiting us" and includes the links to free app templates built by Zeroqode.

Initially the plan was to get a QR code and put it on the business cards so that people would scan them and be taken to the page. But on the day of the event we realized that we could get faster results if we ask them to fill it out immediately! Otherwise most of them would simply forget and never return.

So after presenting the product on our laptops and answering all questions we opened the site with the email capture form and asked visitors to share their emails to get the links to free templates. That way we captured 72 emails in one day (high-quality leads who were interested in our product)!

This will also save you time because you won’t have to process the collected cards manually after the fair.

Wild Card & Interview With TechCrunch

TechCrunch selects some startups for interviewing. However, because there are so many startups exhibiting, chances that you will be selected are slim. But Wild Card winners (visitors voting for the most interesting startup of the day) automatically get the interview secured.

So we decided to go after it and do anything we could to get as many votes as possible.
Voting is done through the Disrupt mobile app and the attendee can vote for only one startup per day. The voting normally opens at 9 am and closes at 1 pm. So we asked everyone who approached our stand to give us their vote if they were interested. Many agreed because they liked what we do.

You can also make some friends at the event and ask them to support you. Vote for someone on day one and ask them to vote for you on the next day (or the other way around).

Useful Hack — some visitors don’t install the app and thus it takes time to ask them to install it and vote. Only later did we realize that we could use the apps installed on our own phones. All we had to do was sign out and sign in to the other person's account by simply scanning the QR code on their badge. Then we would look up our company in the list and ask them to press the “vote” button :) That turned out to be very helpful because the Disrupt Android app wasn’t working on that day and we lost quite some votes just because of that :)

So after we won the Wild Card we were invited on stage for an interview with John Biggs from TechCrunch.

Good to Know:

  1. Read all the emails from TechCrunch — they send various updates including short-notice changes that might be important to you. Also, they send you guidelines, logistics details, the hours, schedules, and many other things.
  2. On your exhibition day come early (in our case doors opened at 7am, but we arrived at about 7:20am)
  3. Tweet about your startup using the official TechCrunch hashtag (#TCDisrupt)
  4. Install Brella app well in advance to find event participants and make appointments before the event.

Bonus Material :)

More from Indie Hackers: