TechCrunch Disrupt NY conference kicks off in Red Hook

Brooklyn’s thriving startup scene gets a big boost this week when 2,000 professionals descend on Red Hook to show off their latest ideas and projects at the seventh annual TechCrunch Disrupt NY conference.

The three-day event, being held outside of Manhattan for the first time, includes hackathons, meet-and-greets with investors and special guest lectures from industry leaders such as Danielle Brown of Intel, as well as famous figures like the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony.

“It is a big opportunity. It’s a local stage but it’s a national showcase,” said Allison Kopf, the founder and CEO of the Brooklyn-based company Agrilyst, which won the top award at the San Francisco event last fall.

Anthony Ha, a TechCrunch writer who will moderate several panels, said there are 200 start ups attending Disrupt NYC, a far cry from the first event in 2010. Over that time, the conference, which is held three times a year on both coasts and in Europe, has expanded its appeal to businesses outside the tech sector that have understood the reality that these days, every company needs to be technologically savvy.

“Disrupt feels like a place where a lot of these different groups come together,” he said.

The event is one of the premier tech events in the United States and the shift to Brooklyn can be seen as a validation of the efforts to expand the startup community in the borough, experts said.

“It sends a message to the rest of the country that the tech community is more than just Manhattan,” said Kurt H. Becker, a vice dean at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering.

The most popular event is the Startup Battlefield, where startups compete for the “Disrupt Cup” and a $50,000 prize.

Kopf said her year-old company gained a lot more than capital when it won the Battlefield, because people from all over the country kept reaching out for more information on products and tools to improve indoor farming.

“The biggest thing is you’re telling your story on a global stage. The people who are listening run the gamut,” she said.

Budding Brooklyn companies stand to benefit as hosts, of course.

Sayar Lonial, the chair of Brooklyn’s Community Board 6 who also works at NYU Tandon, said that Disrupt’s success could create new economic opportunities for the neighborhood. He predicted that major companies will plan business trips to the borough.

“For the longest time you came to New York City because you have a convention at the Javits Center but now we’re bringing in people and saying, ‘This is the playing field,’” he said.

As the tech community increasingly takes more and more notice of Brooklyn and all the borough has to offer, the benefits could spread far beyond the businesses attending TechCrunch.

Ha points out the involvement of Red Hook restaurants and food trucks, including Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies, and after parties will span venue boroughs such as The Bell House and Good Room in Greenpoint.

“It won’t feel like we could have had this conference anywhere, it will feel tailored to Brooklyn,” Ha said.