This week brought New York City’s Internet community another installment of TechCrunch Disrupt, the live event component from the popular AOL-owned blog franchise covering all things related to early stage web entrepreneurialism and disruption. The conference took place at an enclosed area covering an entire pier on Manhattan’s West Side and the Digital Lab was there to take it all in.
In many ways, TechCrunch Disrupt centers around the concept of a giant Internet product parade. It showcases everything from a playoff-style pitch contest that gives startup founders of all kinds the chance to win over guest judges until an overall winner is named (this year’s champ was visual conference call enabler UberConference) to panel discussions with a variety of notable power brokers in the digital game today.
So what startups at TechCrunch Disrupt, especially from an advertising perspective, left an impression with us? Well there was everything from TagBrand, which promises to allow consumers to check-in or “brand-in” to their favorite apparel brands via mobile, to SponsorHub, a turnkey online-based platform that allows brands to canvass and sponsor industry events of all kinds. However, one major recurring theme at this Disrupt event appeared to be local business loyalty tools. Not one or two but at least three companies at Disrupt, including Mirth, Cardify and LocalBonus, were all pitching their own individual spins on providing tools to allow local businesses to recognize and reward consumer patronage and loyalty.
While it’s too early to tell who will be the king of the digital punchcard hill, at least one thing is evident by all of the attention being given to the long tail of retail. While one would think that three-year-old Foursquare has a major head start in making a foray into space, the reality is that the brick and mortar retail market is so vast and tough to create scale across and the opportunity is so immense that this war to conquer the world of retail loyalty solutions is just getting started.
And as TechCrunch Disrupt drew to a close this week, there was one other thing that seemed evident: there is a flood of talent and ambition that is continuing to fuel the New York City digital startup scene marking the most exciting time in the space since the Internet bubble of the 90s. While this may eventually bring about a bubble-like environment where the enthusiasm outstrips the fundamentals of reality, it should also result in entirely new ways for brands of all kinds, including real-world retail brands, to reach and engage with the everyday consumer.