In 2007, TechCrunch launched the first ever TechCrunch 50 conference, later renamed TechCrunch Disrupt.
The goal was to identify the most promising early-stage tech startups and help catalyze their success through media exposure and investor connections. Out of over 1000 applicants, 50 startups were selected to launch on stage at the San Francisco event in front of technologists, investors and media.
The startups spanned a variety of sectors - from software to hardware to medtech and more. They had all built innovative products, but most were still refining their business models and hunting for funding to scale. Presenting at TechCrunch 50 gave them a chance to gain major visibility and attract investor interest.
Some of the most notable alumni from the first TechCrunch 50 include:
The enterprise social network debuted on stage at TC50 and walked away with the top $50,000 prize. It enabled colleagues to communicate across a private company network and was dubbed an early “Twitter for work.” Shortly after TC50, Yammer raised $5 million in funding before being acquired by Microsoft for $1.2 billion in 2012.
This startup set out to build the “family tree of the whole world” by getting people to create interconnected profiles of their relatives online. It generated buzz at the conference and later secured $100 million in funding from the likes of Amazon and Amidzad Partners. Ancestry.com then bought the company in 2012 to expand its own family history databases.
Heroku provided developers with a simple cloud platform to build, run and scale web apps in multiple languages. As a TC50 presenter, it attracted significant interest from technical minds before Y Combinator invested in its seed round. Salesforce acquired Heroku in 2010 for $212 million to accelerate its cloud services capabilities.
This startup sought to “webify” traditional offline hobbies like model railroading and remote control cars. Its first product, 50Cubes, allowed hobbyists to control modular robotic toys over the internet. After TC50, it raised $12 million in Series A funding led by Bain Capital Ventures but ultimately failed to find a sustainable business model, shutting down in 2011.
Called the “Myspace for meeting people,” Tagged used social networking to connect strangers looking to date, meet new people or just make new friends. It was voted audience favorite at TC50. Over the next few years, it acquired niche dating sites like Digsby and Hi5 to expand its user base. After another decade of growth, Tagged was sold to the Meet Group for $500 million in 2017.
This startup enabled users to access, collaborate on and share files online. It competed in the first TechCrunch 50 just a year after launching. Shortly after, Box raised $6 million in Series A funding led by DFJ and turned into a multi-billion dollar secure content management company for businesses.
This popular time management tool tracked how users spent their time on applications and websites to promote productivity. After TC50, it raised funding from prominent angels like Mitch Kapor and Naval Ravikant. A decade later, RescueTime continues to help over 2 million people optimize their time.
This now defunct startup produced an automated data center solution designed to reduce IT infrastructure costs for businesses. It claimed the Audience Choice Award at TC50 before getting acquired by Violin Memory in 2013.
Power’s platform enabled web and mobile developers to easily build and scale business applications. It caught investors’ eyes at the conference before raising $7 million from Partech International and hiring Geoff Entress, an early official at Microsoft, as CEO. However, it shut down in 2010 after failing to find product-market fit.
In subsequent years, TechCrunch Disrupt would continue catapulting young startups into the spotlight - 20 companies from the first 5 years of the conference were acquired for a total of $3.15 billion! They include revolutionary companies like Mint (bought by Intuit for $170 million), Zimride (renamed Lyft after its TCD appearance) and Soluto (acquired by Asurion).
Names like Spotify, Uber, Thalmic Labs, Getaround, Cloudkick and Cups all presented on the Disrupt stage between 2008-2012 during key developmental phases. Other alumni like Dropbox, Airbnb and Slack have become tech giants after launching at the conference.
To this day, Startup Battlefield (formerly TechCrunch 50) lives on as a core part of TechCrunch Disrupt. Companies compete head to head in front of VCs and tech leaders for funding, feedback and attention that might just lead to long term success. For any early-stage startup, it remains one of the most high profile launchpads available.