Trouble in conference land: TechCrunch50, DEMO happening at the same time

tc040208.pngThe dates are out for the next TechCrunch conference, and surprise: TechCrunch50, in its second year, will be held on almost the exact same dates as venerable — or some might say vulnerable — tech-startup conference DEMO, which is about to enter its second decade.

DEMO had previously announced that it is being held from September 7th to the 9th. TechCrunch50 has scheduled for September 8th to the 10th.

demo040208.pngThis is an important story for the startup world, because both conferences do essentially the same thing: Launch new companies and bring accolades and attention (not to mention funding and users) to the best ones. Companies in both conferences are asked to remain in stealth mode until their day at the conference, when a press blitz is kicked off in an attempt to predict the winners.

Michael Arrington, the founder and editor of TechCrunch, claims that he’s not trying to create a schedule that conflicts with DEMO, telling me the decision was all about the venue, The San Francisco Design Center. “We really wanted this venue,” he said. “It was really hard to get any time slots in the fall, and this was what we could get.”

There is, of course, little love lost between Arrington and the DEMO organizers. Last year, the conferences were held only a week apart, which created an uneasy choice for entrepreneurs: Launch your company at TC40, or at DEMO? Two companies got kicked off the DEMO list after launching at TechCrunch40 — essentially forcing entrepreneurs to choose which conference they wanted to focus on.

“It baffles me, because ultimately it’s not very good for entrepreneurs,” said Chris Shipley, one of the organizers of DEMO, when I contacted her. “There’s a ton of room in the market for competitive events and supporting entrepreneurs. It doesn’t make sense how this will help them.”

Its worth pointing out that DEMO brought its conference two weeks forward this year, while Techcrunch brought its conference one week forward. Neither one wants to be pre-empted, so now it’s an even more conflicted choice for which conference startups should focus on. Maybe the two conferences could coordinate and let companies launch at both places at the same time?

TechCrunch started its conference just last year with TechCrunch40 in which, you guessed it, 40 startups presented over the course of several days.

Another conflict here is pricing. Demoing at DEMO is no cheap proposition, coming in at about $18,000. TechCrunch was free for presenting companies. Those companies that weren’t selected to be among the 40 instead had the option to pay half off the regular $2,000 entrance fee and then present in a part of the conference called the Demo Pit.

If it’s a choice of one or the other, the question is whether TechCrunch’s clout as a widely-read technology publication will help it to eat into DEMO’s revenue — or if DEMO itself will be able to compete based on its long-standing reputation as the place to go for interesting new companies.

Eric Eldon contributed to this article.