So you’ve been to a couple of seminars, seen a couple of gurus, and sold an ebook.  Where next?  Is there more to life than flogging information products online?  Have you noticed that many gurus seem to sell Information products which focus on how to make money selling other information products to other people?  If that’s a bit recursive for you,  maybe it’s time to join the other half of the internet marketing world.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking to badmouth the gurus.  There’s a place for what they do, but there’s more to making money online than flogging ebooks, or signing people up on a membership scheme.  What if you want to join the big league?  What if you’re genuinely ambitious, and you want to become the next PayPal or Google?

It is possible.  There is a community dedicated to helping you.  And it’s called TechCrunch.

TechCrunch is best known for their famous blog, which gives the lowdown on what’s happening in the world of tech entrepreneurship.  You’ll find the latest news on who’s raised financed, sold out, or launched a new product.  But there’s more to TechCrunch than just the blog – there’s a whole series of events.

When TechCrunch runs an event, it’s not like the events you might be used to.  It’s not a few knowledgeable gurus trying to get punters to part with cash to learn the basics on internet marketing.  This is a whole different league.  Companies come to pitch for hundreds of thousands of pounds, and any one of them could end up being the next Amazon.com or ebay.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is the ocean of internet marketing, not the sea of info products.

I spend much of my life going to investment speed dating events and beauty parades.  I sit in more lectures than you can shake a stick at.  I can categorically assure you, that in all my experience, one of the few places where the entire start-up sector of the internet marketing industry comes together is TechCrunch.  Anyone who’s anyone is there.

The ‘Christmas Crunch’ event was typical TechCrunch fare – the great and the good gathered in an uber-stylish London venue to hear what’s moving and shaking in the tech sector.

I was as happy as a pig in poo. My work is based on finding business to invest in, and in tracking the opportunities and pitfalls in this industry.  There’s one thing that the information marketing crew are much better at than most of the firms at TechCrunch – and that’s the small matter of making money.  And that, for me is pretty crucial.

Allow me to explain further, if I may.  I’m not suggesting for a second that the businesses pitching or reporting at TechCrunch don’t take things seriously – far from it.  However, there’s still a culture in the tech sector which seemed to get set in during the early 90’s, and hasn’t yet been shaken out.  A culture, epitomised by the likes of Twitter, which says that becoming ubiquitous is more important than making money.  Let’s face it, if you look at firms like Google, which didn’t even have a revenue model for years after they started, you have to admit that there’s some credibility in this model.  However, I just don’t sit comfortably investing in a business which won’t even try to make money for years.

Frankly, the hard-sell, take-no-prisoners approach of the info-marketeers can teach the tech sector a thing or two, in my humble opinion.  I regularly consult for, and consider investing in, businesses which appear to have forgotten that they’re there to make money.  I have a big problem with the Silicon Valley culture, which is based on raising money from investors, not from customers.  I think it’s a dangerous habit.  Just like smoking, it’s far easier to start relying on investment funding than it is to stop.  I like my investments to be focussed on making money from day 1.  To be fair, some of the tech-sector firms do take this approach, too.  In my opinion, however, it’s far too rare.

Anyway, philosophical differences aside, what actually happens at techcrunch and who benefits from going?

I won’t mention too much detail abut individual firms here, because things change fast, and the opportunities will have changed or gone by the time you’re reading this.  However, here’s some highlights for me (with apologies for any misunderstandings or out of date info):

Nurphy is a cross-platform communication tool, which allows you to chat with someone on email, if you’re on facebook, and vice versa.  The philosophy is platform-independence – increasingly important as social networks change, grow, merge and die.

Yasmo Live is an on-site social network, designed to allow conference delegates to find and chat to each other with the ease and speed of facebook.  For me, the question is commercialisation (just like it is for facebook).  The idea isn’t new, but can Yasmo dominate the market?

Catwalk Genius is a platform which allows designers to access markets for their clothes.  A competitive and crowded market, but can their strategy of backing emergent designers pay off?  I’m not sure they’ve got their model quite right, but there’s plenty of opportunity for refining that.

If you’re looking to set up a business which does something more than operating a membership site, flogging a few ebooks, etc, then you’ll find a natural home at TechCrunch.  If you’re trying to be the next household name, you’ll find a garment that fits you far better than the ones the gurus tailor.  Also, if you’re an investor who’s quite happy to put time, money, blood, sweat and tears into a firm, often on a grand scale, then you will find as many opportunities here as you will at the finer Angel investment evenings.

Finally, if you’re simply looking to keep your finger on the pulse of the tech community and the cut and thrust of its business, then there’s only one place to be: TechCrunch.