Two Korean Disrupt Alumni Reveal All

Every startup dreams about winning TechCrunch Disrupt’s Startup Battlefield  like Pied Piper did on HBO’s Silicon Valley. Pied Piper’s “we’ve arrived” moment comes at Disrupt, and it propels them into a world of investor proposals and news coverage.

We have advice-filled interviews with two startups that won Korean government support to compete on the Startup Battlefield.

Some kids dream about hitting that walk-off home-run; startups dream about winning Disrupt.

Before we get to the interviews, why is Disrupt so important?

For Asian startups, an appearance at TechCrunch Disrupt is comparable to the “Say my name” scene in Breaking Bad. A TC Disrupt appearance symbolizes  the validation of your startup’s idea beyond your home market. It gives you license to  cross over to another continent and hear the differently accented  “ooohs” and “ahhhs” from a whole new crowd.

Anne from American Startup, MOBILEFOMO, found that, “… cool kids feel like they must attend as a rite of passage.” For an Asian startup the feeling is immeasurably multiplied.


Since 2013, KOCCA (a Korean government association tasked with promoting and developing content companies) has been funding a steady stream of Korean startups to exhibit at Disrupt. It’s no secret that a trip from Asia to SF is not budget-friendly for the startups themselves. But the cost of a flight and hotel represents only a fraction of the total cost of a successful trip to an overseas conference. Startups must also:

  • Find English speaking staffers (if none are already on board)
  • Translate the website, app, and promotional materials into English
  • Get covered in English-language or Silicon Valley tech media so the story spreads beyond conference attendees, to potential users.

So, here are our interviews with a pair of Korean startups who made the trip across to exhibit at Disrupt SF 2014, Cloudike and Between. They’ve each answered key questions to help you decide if the trip is worth it!

What was your primary objective in attending TechCrunch Disrupt?

We went to Disrupt to promote Cloudike to the US market as well as to potential investors.

Did you achieve your primary objective?

We didn’t directly achieve our goal at Disrupt, however our coverage at the event helped later. When we approached investors the coverage definitely added to our overall appeal and it also helped us achieve more publicity.

What kind of promotional material did you prepare for TC Disrupt?

We prepared a variety of promotional materials prior to Disrupt. That included translating and preparing leaflets, banners, gifts, and pre-arranging interviews for when we would arrive in San Francisco.

What type of pre-marketing do you think is most effective?

Contacting press prior to the event to arrange interviews was the most helpful. This really helped us achieve coverage with TechCrunch.

Are there any direct benefits received as a result of going to Disrupt?

I think just our presence there helped secure a lot of attention for Cloudike. As a result of attendance, we managed to obtain quite a bit of press coverage which in turn, helped with press coverage

What was your primary objective in attending TechCrunch Disrupt?

We wanted to do see what kind of opportunities that are available for Between in the US.

Did you achieve your primary objective?

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to reach any meaningful conclusions about when to enter the US market. However, we were able to do some extensive networking at Disrupt. We ended up with a pretty good number of contacts across a number of different sectors globally.

What kind of promotional material did you prepare for TC Disrupt?

Among other promotional materials, we prepared an iPad to significantly magnify the Between experience for potential users (laughs).

What kind of promotional material do you think is most effective?

To be honest, we had a lot different marketing ideas post-Disrupt that we felt would’ve done well (laughs). One idea we had was to take polaroid pictures of couples and give them the photos with Between’s logo between them. That way they can remember where it was from.

Another one we wish we could’ve done was to offer gym bags. I mean if we offer them a bag, they can put all their free swag in their while doing a bit of free promo for us too ;).

Did you do any promotion or advertising about attending the event?

We did! Prior to the event, we contacted a number of people including investors, potential partners, and friends. In the end, our friends were our best resource as they helped us arrange meetings with potential partners and clients.

What type of pre-marketing do you think is most effective?

Figure out who’s coming for the conference and contact the people who you need to meet. Be early, since they usually will be flooded with emails to meet them during that time. If you’re looking for a meeting, so are other people!

Are there any direct benefits received as a result of going to Disrupt?

Because our trip was sponsored by the government we received naturally received a bit of press attention at the event. In addition, we were also able to network with people who could help us enter other Asian markets where we weren’t getting a lot of exposure.

Gambling on Disrupt?

Both Cloudike and Between managed to find value during their time at Disrupt. While neither achieved their primary objective prior to the event, they both walked away with other objectives that helped boost their startups in the long run. Cloudike flipped their news coverage into an asset at investor pitches and Between gained contacts for future expansion.

Cloudike and Between’s experience speak for the sheer prowess of Disrupt itself. While you may not be able to address your immediate objective, the event is massive enough that you’ll be able to find some value nonetheless. That said, if you have the money and the time, why not try your hand at Disrupt? Disrupt may not net you that angel investor you’ve been dreaming of, but it might just help you land that spot at your dream accelerator.