TechCrunch Disrupt convention brought more than 12,000 people to SF

The Moscone West area was teeming with tech talk Thursday, as the three-day TechCrunch Disrupt convention wrapped up in San Francisco.

Thousands of venture capitalists, angel investors, and leaders from top tech companies converged for the convention. Young entrepreneurs also came to pitch their startups.

"It's just been an insane, innovative, crazy journey," said Abhigyan Biswas, a UC Berkeley senior and co-founder of Helio 8, "We're backed by NASA, and so we're working on growing food in space. But fundamentally what we're thinking about is the existential question of human survival."

For the first time, the TechCrunch Disrupt convention expanded to 8 different stages across the tech industry, including topics from AI to fin-tech, health tech to hardware, cybersecurity and privacy issues.

"It was our biggest event ever. We had well over 12,000 attendees compared with about 10,000 last year," said Connie Loizos, the Tech Crunch General Manager & Editor-in-Chief, "We were very interactive so people could ask venture capitalists or founders  questions in a very small, intimate setting."

Top tech leaders from companies such as Meta talked about global privacy issues.

"The last few years have seen an explosion of requirements," said Michel Protti, Chief Privacy Officer of Product for Meta.

"We track literally hundreds of new and emerging global laws and requirements which translate into strategies and product plans by domain of privacy work, whether it's deletion controls, privacy controls, sensitive data use."

The President of Signal was on stage Thursday and discussed messaging encryption.

"End-to-end encryption is the technology we have that can ensure meaningful privacy in the digital world as they used to call it  and there is a concerted global attack on end-to-end-encryption," said Meredith Whittaker, President of Signal.

The convention's biggest prize was the Startup Battlefield.

"This year we had the most number of applicants we've ever had. We had 3,000 qualified applicants from all over the world," said Neesha Tambe, the TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Editor.

The 20 Startup Battlefield finalists were invited on stage to pitch their ideas to a panel of investors and tech experts.

The winner was BIOTICSai which uses AI to help detect fetal abnormalities. It won the coveted Disrupt trophy and a $100,000 cash prize.

"You can't help but be optimistic when you look at all these startups that are out there trying to fix something that is broken," said Tambe.

Attendees said it was exciting to be in San Francisco and hear some of the industry's leaders.

"I went to the talk of the former founder of Instagram. And basically, seeing him building a second company and still hustling, that really inspired me," said Grace Gong, founder of Smart Venture Podcast.

"I also like investing on the side as an angel so I found some interesting deals," said Anand Thangaraju, an angel investor with Hustle Funds.

"At this conference, everyone was saying San Francisco is still the place to be. Either San Francisco or New York," said Ali Kirmani, co-founder of Adlytic AI who came to the convention from Pakistan, "If you're a techie this is the place you want to be."

Nearby businesses say the back to back conventions have brought a welcome return of crowds and cash.

"This is good for the business," said Hasnae Lagsaibi, a worker at the Oasis Grill across from Moscone West, "Normally there's four people who work in the morning but during convention there's 7 to 8 people who work here."

"We noticed a difference," said Anuar Abu, owner of City Wine and Spirits, "More law enforcement patrolling the neighborhood. We've seen less homeless issues. I feel this is like the old days, prepandemic...for now."