Farewell, DEMO. It’s been an incredible ride

Today, we’re announcing that, after this coming DEMO on October 1-3, VentureBeat will no longer be producing the DEMO event.

Since 2009, we’ve co-produced the DEMO event in partnership with the media company IDG. DEMO will live on, but it will do so under the guidance of a new executive producer, Erick Schonfeld. I couldn’t think of a more talented guy to take over.

Why the change? Well, since taking over DEMO, VentureBeat has come a long way. Our traffic has doubled each year, and our staff has tripled. We’re producing our own events. We’re making other big moves on the business side, including the hiring of industry veteran Ken Beach as chief revenue officer. And as founder and CEO of VentureBeat, I’m most committed to ensuring continued growth. In short, after the three-and-half-year contract with DEMO was up, I could no longer in good conscience continue to fulfill the substantial duties of DEMO executive producer — with all of the travel it required, the planning meetings, and so on — without it negatively impacting our work at VentureBeat.

Leading DEMO was challenging, but it was an amazing gig. The job allowed me to peer into the heart of entrepreneurship like no other job could. Each year, I met and listened to the pitches of hundreds of entrepreneurs. Most of these entrepreneurs were in the throes of that gut-wrenching moment of their journey: Launching their product, driven only by a conviction their cause had meaning, but with almost no cash, no customers, and no guarantee they’d be in business the next month. For many, launching onstage at DEMO would be among the most intense, stressful events of their careers. I’ll forever carry memories of the raw emotion. Once, a French entrepreneur was so pent up, he jumped off the stage after his demonstration, ran out of the building, sprinted across the street, and pumped his fist, screaming: “I did it!”

DEMO Asia launch

Above: Adeo Ressi and myself, at DEMO Asia launch in Singapore

I feel good about where we’ve left DEMO. The conference needed a bit of a shake-up after we took over. In 2009, it was facing both a recession and increased competition. We initiated several moves. We introduced a scholarship program to allow companies to launch for free. We moved the conference to the San Francisco Bay Area, from places like Palm Springs, Calif, making for easier access for entrepreneurs and attendees — while at the same time expanding the conference internationally (the picture at left is from our launch of DEMO Asia earlier this year). We invited experts to provide onstage feedback to companies. And before each event, we organized a series of live-pitching sessions with leading venture firms.

Erick Schonfeld Executive Producer

Above: Erick Schonfeld

Image Credit: Bloomberg

While we’ve brought DEMO a long way, the landscape for events like DEMO is as challenging as ever. Leading DEMO really is a full-time job. That’s why I think Schonfeld is a perfect fit. He had impressive experience helping run the competing Disrupt event for years. He’s wickedly smart. And best of all, he has the time, having earlier this year stepped down as editor-in-chief of TechCrunch. In fact, he was the first — and only — person I turned to when looking for a successor.

Meantime, rest assured that we here at VentureBeat will continue to be fans of DEMO, and we will continue to cover the amazing entrepreneurs who attend. I’d have more misgivings about leaving the DEMO job if I didn’t know that VentureBeat is all about covering the ongoing story of disruption, anyway. Going forward, we’ll be covering that story bigger and better than ever. My full attention is back on VB, and I’ll be pushing it to great new things — stay tuned.

The Wall Street Journal has posted on the story here. Shonfeld has a great post here.