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Interview with Samantha Stein, Director of Special Projects & Battlefield at TechCrunch

TechCrunch Disrupt is coming back to New York City very soon and a major highlight each year is their Startup Battlefield. We asked, and got, an explanation of how this works and why it is so compelling. - Interview conducted by Marcos Dinnerstein, Editor of Digital.NYC


Who are you & what do you do?

My name is Samantha Stein and I am the Director of Battlefield & Special Projects at TechCrunch. For Battlefield, I ensure that TechCrunch is continuously showcasing the next biggest disruptors, and that not only are they able to build incredible technology, but that they can also express their ideas and share their story with a large, diverse, international audience.  What does it take? We’re laser focused on sourcing the best applicants, then reviewing, vetting, and selecting the one’s that show the most promise -- our acceptance rate is less than an Ivy league university. I then work to advise and train startups on how to explain, demo and validate their technology in a compelling way in under 6 minutes.  

What did you do prior to working at TechCrunch?

I’ve always worked on solving business and social problems through technology. This work brought me to different corners of the globe: I’ve lived in the Middle East where I helped develop new tech protocols for digital archival in low-resource environments, and, in Silicon Valley, as an early employee of multiple startups working on consumer mobile tech. Most recently, I launched Hacktivision to build communities of technologists globally dedicated to launching new, tech-focused social innovations. At TechCrunch, I’m excited to work with our editorial staff and diverse early stage founders across the world to showcase rising disrupters.

For those who might not know, what is Startup Battlefield?

Startup Battlefield is the preeminent global startup competition where hand-picked early-stage companies pitch their companies to Tier-1 VCs live, on-stage at TechCrunch Disrupt. They compete against other companies in all verticals and across multiple industries. The winner is chosen based on a panel of judges made up of some of the best leaders in tech. The prize is $50,000 and the famous Disrupt Cup!

$50,000 is on the line, not to mention all of the media attention. That must make competition very fierce. What’s it like for a company to go through the Battlefield process?

Once they’ve made the selection cut, they need to master their pitch and demo before they go live. They receive pitch coaching sessions designed to help them explain their technology to both experts and nontechnical folks alike. With sharp questioning from our editorial staff and industry experts, rehearsals are designed to mirror the feeling of presenting live in front of a global live stream and live audience. It requires extreme focus and commitment to pitch in Battlefield, and it is a very fierce competition.

Are there any Battlefield alumni perks?

Yes, Battlefield alumni join an impressive list of companies who, since appearing on the Disrupt stage, have collectively raised over $6.9 billion dollars. Former alumni include Dropbox, Trello, Getaround, Vurb, etc. Acceptance into a vetted network of accomplished alumni translates into attention and traction with VCs. Being a Battlefield alumni also creates a lasting relationship between the company and TechCrunch writers, who are always keeping their ears perked for news on our alums. Alumni also get to attend future Disrupt Conferences for free!

What do you think will stand out the most about Startup Battlefield NY 2017?

Every Battlefield has its own character. Battlefield NY this year presents a talented group of truly diverse founders both personally and professionally. You can look forward to fierce competition of high-powered founders with radically different businesses all competing for the Disrupt Cup. You’ll see new categories pitched in the hardware vertical next to novel consumer-tech focused natural language processing applications.  

What is the one thing you want our readers to know about TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017?

TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017 is the dynamic intersection of innovative stage content, startup launches, and startup exhibitions that explores the inflection point of machine learning, big data. robots, and the newest innovations reshaping our world alongside current events!

After the ferocity of TechCrunch Battlefield, Incubus guitarist Michael Einziger is set to close the show on Wednesday, May 17th with a special musical presentation, featuring Pharrell Williams and Incubus, that will demonstrate the technology developed by his startup, MIXhalo. We’ll dance away while we digest the earlier interviews from Pharrel Williams, to Derek Jeter, and Steve Case to Mignon Clyburn. See you there?

Disrupt always brings something fun to the table. What’s the new fun thing this year?

Incubus guitarist Michael Einziger is set to close the show on Wednesday, May 17th with a special musical presentation, featuring Pharrell Williams and Incubus, that will demonstrate the technology developed by his startup, MIXhalo!

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