One of the many new features at TechCrunch Disrupt SF (Sept. 5-7) is the addition of another stage, which we’re calling The Next Stage. The goal of The Next Stage is to deliver more insights and wisdom to Disrupt SF attendees, especially founders, to help them navigate the startup odyssey better and faster. The Next Stage is also where much of the programming for the 13 tracks at Disrupt SF will take place.

We’re delighted to announce our first sessions on The Next stage.

Consumer brands take forever to earn consumer confidence, unless you happen to be brands like Casper, AllBirds, Birchbox, Rent-the-Runway and Brandless, which became powerful brand names almost overnight.  What those brands have in common is Red Antler, a Brooklyn-based creative agency that has attained “brand whisperer” status according to Fast Company for its success standing up startup consumer brands. As a part of our New Retail track, Red Antler Co-founder and Chief Strategist Emily Heyward will join founders Tina Sharkey (Brandless) and Philip Krim (Casper) to discuss the promise and perils of early branding efforts.

This session is part of the New Retail track at Disrupt, which includes speakers on both stages as well as early stage exhibiting startups in the New Retail section of Startup Alley. Founders who would like to be a part of the New Retail exhibit area can apply to the TC Top Picks program to win one of five, completely free exhibit spots for New Retail startups. The editors pick the five top startups for each category, who get the exhibition space with special “TC Top Picks” signage, three free Founder passes plus a three-minute interview on our Showcase Stage.

Click here to fill out the application, which should take about five minutes. (Note we have also launched an updated application app, which allows founders to create a single application and use it across all of TechCrunch’s programs — including Startup Battlefield.

TechCrunch will notify the TC Top Picks winners by July 20, but applications close June 29 — so don’t lose any time, apply today.

The biggest “track” of all at Disrupt SF is How Startups Succeed, and two experts will join us on the Next stage to connect the dots.  Eric Ries is author of the 2011 best seller, The Lean Startup, which has sold over a million copies and remains a must-read for aspiring founders who hope to keep the burn to a minimum. The Lean Startup helped familiarize the world with “pivots” and other features of early stage startup life, which in turn also helped investors place investments earlier than ever.  Few understand that better than August Capital General Partner David Hornik, who has 20 years of venture investing experience,  launched the first blog about venture capital, (aptly named Ventureblog), and teaches the Startup Garage class at Stanford Business School (which uses the lean startup methodology). They will discuss what’s changed (and what has not) for founders since The Lean Startup was published in 2011.

All these individuals join a line-up of speakers we’ve already announced, including Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, 23andMe CEO Ann Wojcicki and Roblox CEO David Baszucki, and many more.

This is just the first of many great sessions you’ll get to see at Disrupt SF. Video of all the sessions from The Next Stage will be able available on demand only for Innovator, Insider, Investor and Founder Pass holders. Time to get your pass now and take advantage of early bird pricing!

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