LAUNCH Conference

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LAUNCH Festival
Key people Jason Calacanis

The LAUNCH Festival was created by Jason Calacanis. The Festival now averages 10,000 attendees per year and features a few dozen speakers well known in the start up world. Past headliners have included Mark Cuban, Paul Graham, Evan Williams, and Yves Behar. During the festival, 50 start ups are revealed and "launch" at the event. The entrants compete in front of a select panel of judges for $100,000 in investment. Winners of the competition have also received investment from the LAUNCH Fund, such as Connect, which received $250,000 from the fund after they won the 2014 competition. Other key LAUNCH Festival competition alumni include Fitbit, Dropbox and Yammer.[1]

2016 Conference[edit]

The 2016 conference was held March 2-4 at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. The Hackathon started the previous weekend on February 26-28. Fifteen winners were selected including Cafe X, the Best Overall winner and Betagig, the Best Hackathon winner. [2]

Early history[edit]

Although it is legally unrelated to the TechCrunch40 and TechCrunch50 events, it has been perceived as the natural evolution of those events citing Calacanis' involvement, and then split, from Michael Arrington and the TechCrunch series of events.[3][4] The premise of the Launch Conference was to create the "most affordable, high-end technology event in the world.".[5]

Competition structure[edit]

In the Pitch Competition, around 50 startups are allotted 4 minutes each to pitch their product on the main stage. There is a Grand Jury of judges that selects the winners in each category after watching their pitches. Beginning in 2015, the Festival abandoned its 1.0 and 2.0 categories to focus entirely on brand new companies, many of which had never even had an online presence prior to launching at the Festival.

Prize Categories[edit]

  • Best Overall
  • Best Alumni
  • Best Business Model
  • Best Demo Pit
  • Best Design
  • Best Education
  • Best Enterprise
  • Best FinTech
  • Best Hackathon
  • Best Hardware
  • Best Health
  • Best Presentation
  • Best Smartcamp
  • Diamond in the Rough
  • Best Social Good


Each year, a Hackathon is kicked off the weekend prior to the Festival. At the Hackathon, around 200 teams of 4 members spend the weekend building a product which competes for a chance to enter the LAUNCH Festival competition. 5 teams are selected from the 200 for the final chance to get the $100,000 grand prize.

Demo Pit[edit]

The Demo Pit is and area specifically designated for startups who are invited to demo their product at the festival. Out of 200 companies invited, only 5 to 8 are selected to pitch on the main stage. A table in the demo pit is generally free of charge to the founders, although, should a company not be invited there is an option to purchase one.


Jason Calacanis also runs a LAUNCH Incubator that is closely tied to the Festival. All of the companies involved in the incubator are involved in the pitch competition on the main stage, and qualify to win the prizes for their given category.

IBM SmartCamp[edit]

In the 2016 Festival, IBM held their own category within the pitch competition between 10 of their own portfolio companies in what they called the IBM SmartCamp.[6]

Former Competition structure[edit]

Through the 2014 Festival, there were two types of entrants to the Festival, 1.0 and 2.0 companies. Each category had its own requirements for qualifying to participate in the Festival.


This competition was created for completely new companies that had never had any press, public demos and whose services are currently in closed alpha or beta. Companies applying to be in the 1.0 Competition are required to have zero web presence, ensure that they were not included in press or public notices of any kind, and keep their presence in the competition private until they take the stage to present.[7]


This competition was created for existing companies that were launching new products, or significant new versions of an existing product. As cited by the FAQ, a 2.0 company must have a "feature or product that GigaOm, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, Mashable, and ReadWrite all want to cover."[8]

Previous competition entrants & winners[edit]

Previous keynote speakers[edit]

Past festivals[edit]

2016 Conference[edit]

The 2016 Festival took place at the Fort Mason Center and saw over 11,000 attendees. 47 companies debuted on the LAUNCH Stage, 15 prizes were awarded.




2015 Conference[edit]

The 2015 Festival took place at the Fort Mason Center and saw over 12,000 attendees.




2014 Conference[edit]

The 2014 conference took place on February 24-26 at the San Francisco Design Center. 40 companies presented on stage.



  • Best Overall: Connect
  • Best 2.0: Credible
  • Best Alpha: The Pocket Drone
  • Best Design: Dattch
  • Best Consumer Hardware: Drop
  • Best Enterprise Hardware: Density
  • Technical Achievement: CSTM
  • Best Benefit Corporation: HandUp
  • Best Enterprise: Knox
  • Hackathon Winner: Vue
  • Hackathon Winner: Blush
  • Hackathon Winner: Ripple
  • Barracuda Hackathon Grand Prize: Blush
  • Ice House Contest Winner: AdStage
  • Ice House Contest Winner: Flyr


2013 Conference[edit]

The 2013 conference took place in March at the San Francisco Design Center. 50 companies presented on stage, 13 prizes were awarded.



2011 Conference[edit]

The 2011 conference took place on February 23–24 at the San Francisco Design Center. 500 companies applied, only 54 presented on stage, 13 prizes were awarded.

1.0 Competition[edit]


2.0 Competition[edit]


The LAUNCHPAD Competition[edit]

The LAUNCHPAD companies were selected from over 80 participants that were invited to the conference by Calacanis on his "This Week in Startups" podcast, such as TripBod, or through competitions run on both Quora and HackerNews. In addition, companies could pay $1500 to have a table in the LAUNCHPAD. The method of entry (invite or paid) did not affect the selection criteria by the grand jury when LAUNCHPAD companies were selected to join on stage.


Grand Jury[edit]

The Grand Jury selected the Launch competition winners, and were required to watch all presentations as well as walk the LaunchPad floor to select participants to join on stage.[9]

The 2011 Grand Jury was made up of:

TechCrunch controversy[edit]

The initial Launch conference did have a minor controversy. TechCrunch refused to cover the event.[10] Based on its self-description of their mission, "to obsessively profiling startups, reviewing new Internet products, and breaking tech news",[11] the lack of attendance was seen as a disappointment to attendees of the show.[12] While TechCrunch did not have anyone in attendance, several startups and competitors were profiled in TechCrunch during the conference, although the associated articles made no mention of the Launch conference. The first presentation of the conference, Careers 2.0, was profiled without mention of the conference.


  1. ^ "US START-UP EVENT TO LAUNCH IN SYDNEY". Business Events Sydney. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  2. ^ Calacanis, Jason (March 8, 2015). "The 11 winners of the LAUNCH Festival 2015 (and why they won)". Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  3. ^ Boutin, Paul. "Launch Conference founder will invest in winning startups". VentureBeat. Retrieved 16 March 2011.  External link in |work= (help)
  4. ^ Boutin, Pail. "Confirmed: TechCrunch50 conference is no more". Confirmed: TechCrunch50 conference is no more. VentureBeat. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  5. ^ "Calacanis Pits LAUNCH Conference Against TechCrunch Disrupt". Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  6. ^ "IBM SmartCamp". Retrieved 30 March 2016. 
  7. ^ "Conference Rules". Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  8. ^ "Conference FAQ". Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  9. ^ "Judges and Grand Jury". Retrieved 11 March 2011. 
  10. ^ "It's War of the Silicon Valley Boosters". It's War of the Silicon Valley Boosters. The Atlantic Wire. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  11. ^ "About TechCrunch". About Techcrunch. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  12. ^ Scoble, Robert. "Will TechCrunch cover The Launch Conference?". Quora. Robert Scoble. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 

External links[edit]