My First Disrupt

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Originally published Oct 27, 2022 | By Jacob Drouin

TechCrunch Disrupt came back in full swing this year, being held for the first time in-person in three years. The event packed three days of speakers, networking, and opportunities for startup companies and investors alike, attracting the brightest minds in tech.

Big thanks to Amanda Silberling, journalist at TechCrunch, who gave me the opportunity to attend with a free ticket. Check out her podcast, Wow If True, for a one stop shop on internet culture.

Disrupt 2022 was a change of pace for me. As a public relations student from Oregon, Silicon Valley had always felt out of reach until now. The three day conference was a science fiction novel. I walked out of San Francisco’s Moscone center on the last day with a backpack full of free t-shirts and an inside look at what strategies are driving the best tech startups today.

Here are my top three takeaways:

The community pipeline

The most successful consumer-facing companies in tech thrive on community. For these brands, CRM is about creating relationships between customers, not just with the brand itself. 

One startup that has capitalized on this strategy is Clubhouse, a social audio app where users communicate through audio chatrooms. Since its initial launch in April 2020, the platform has connected people from all over the world. But when it first released, the app barely had any features.

“Our goal is always to grow the platform in a gradual way as we know that’s optimal for the community,” said Paul Davidson, co-founder and CEO of Clubhouse. By leaning into the community, Davidson and his team were able to build up to a more complete platform over time without facing significant churn among their user base.

Challenges attract talent

Startup founders tend to think the best way to attract employees and business partners is to rattle on about how well their company is doing. According to Emil Yeargin, VP of Talent at Gusto, the opposite is true. 

In a panel about finding the right hires, he explained that companies actually find more success when they are honest about the challenges their company is facing and what they need. The best person a startup can hire is someone that understands the pain points they are there to solve and wants to help the company succeed.

In some cases, the right candidate isn’t the one with the most complete skillset, but rather the one who’s goals best align with the company. Someone who is willing to go the extra mile for a company will do a lot more for a company in the long run than someone who just checks all the boxes.

Greentech is growing up

On the last day of Disrupt, Minerva Lithium won first place on the Startup Battlefield, for their Nano Mosaic filtration system, which provides a faster and cheaper way to mine lithium, all while reducing the amount of water consumed in the process. Minerva was far from along however, as dozens more companies showcased innovative new eco friendly products at the event.

Sustainable solutions caught the attention of investors too. While in past decades climate regulations were seen as a burden, recent shifts in the economy have turned greentech into a major business opportunity. Even with the tech industry taking a turn for the worse in the past year, experts predict that the climate tech subsector will see significant job growth going forward.


TechCrunch advertises Disrupt as the SuperBowl of Silicon Valley. After seeing the line wrap around the block each morning, I wouldn’t call that an exaggeration.

On the Startup Battlefield, you could see founders buzzing with excitement. At roundtable discussions, you could find business cards trading hands left and right. Serena Williams and Kevin Hart each spoke on the second day too – I’d call that a halftime show. 

I’m grateful to have been a part of Disrupt this year. Even though the impromptu trip to San Francisco left me a little behind in my classes, playing catch up for a few days is a small sacrifice for all the new connections, experiences and startup swag I walked away with. I’ll say it one more time – thank you so much, Amanda!