So to both, I want to be very clear - the big problem I have is not that you charge, but the way you mislead startups in the way you approach us, waste our time, create a false sense of exclusivity and conceal the fee in the initial conversations. If you were to make the fees you charge clear and explicit from the first contact, I wouldn't be blogging about either of you.
You have told me today that the month of conversations I had, with not a single mention of the fact that you charge $4,500 for the right to pitch your angel investors, was just an honest mistake. You said that it never happens and I am just unlucky. You argue that the $4,500 fees that you charge are legitimate and provide value to the startup.
If that is the case, why not be upfront about these fees? There isn't a single mention of the exorbitant fee on your main Entrepreneur Page. Nor do you mention it on the application page. Another simple mistake? Or do you think it is not important? Or perhaps you realize how totally insane this fee is and how much of an outlier you are with this charge? Just glance at this nascent information sheet that I started; you are in the first place and that's not a good place on this sheet.
Considering the scathing coverage you got in Business Insider in 2009, claiming that you forgot to mention the fees on your website is stretching my very flexible imagination beyond its limits.
2. Collision Conference
You say that your website is very clear on the fees with:
“Each week we selected 25 early stage startups from around the world to exhibit for free as part of our Collide Program. The bigger tech companies pay $9,950 to exhibit, meaning exciting, disruptive, early-stage startups can afford to attend no matter what. All they will pay is a discounted price for tickets and Collide registration, and we’ll give them a free exhibition stand.”No, that isn't clear at all. Let me highlight the clear parts to you "Each week we selected 25 early stage startups from around the world to exhibit for free as part of our Collide Program." To me, that says "free." Then you say "The bigger tech companies pay $9,950 to exhibit, meaning exciting, disruptive, early-stage startups can afford to attend no matter what." To me, that again says "free." Then you say "All they will pay is a discounted price for tickets and Collide registration, and we’ll give them a free exhibition stand" and this part is San Francisco fog. I see the "free" in there again. I don't see any clear fees you will charge. How am I supposed to know that this is you saying, "Friend, we have a bargain here - buy this shirt and the sleeves are FREE!"
Your other conference in Asia, Rise has this beautiful image:
And in the fine print underneath, the same text you quote above. No, this isn't how clarity is defined.
I am not a communications major, but you can simplify your messaging and get the pricing across more effectively if you get rid of the misleading "FREE" and instead say, "$1,450 if we invite you and you are selected."
And I need to remind you - I didn't come to you via the website. You reached out and said that you are interested in protocols.io. You had me present, asked questions, and told me that we have a chance to be selected to present because what we are doing is important and unusual. When I asksed how you heard of us, you said, "You were referred. We reach out to companies based on the high quality referrals from our trusted network of advisors." The gullible schmuck in me thought that it may be on the heels of our FREE appearance at LeWeb. Of course, once you "selected" us in your rigorous judging, we got the e-mail letting us know about the great honor of being selected, invited, and having the right to get the free exhibit table if we pay you a mere $1,450 instead of $10K.
In summary, you both practice deceiving and misleading tactics. I have wasted enough time on your organizations, and I have no further plans to engage in a discussion. It is entirely possible that I am an idiot and simply didn't understand your words or didn't look in the right places. Instead of playing "he said, she said," I will just point people to the countless comments about Kieretsu (here, here and here) and Collision Conference (here and here). There are certainly lots of folks out there feeling the exact same way as me.
[UPDATE 4/20/15. There are 34 chapters of Keiretsu. If each one screens 5 companies per month, as does the South California Chapter. That's 5*34*12 = 2,040 companies per year. Let's be conservative and say 1K screened companies. Yet, only 34 companies are listed in the 2014 portfolio. So the startups might have paid 1,000 * $4,500 = $4.5m to Keiretsu with over 90% of them losing time and getting nothing in return.]