First off, I feel very lucky to have got the chance to be part of the 50 companies from over a thousand selected to demo. Chris Sel, the founder of Radiusly worked extremely hard the past few weeks getting ready for this conference and polishing up his presentation and his startup. He had to go through 3 rounds of selection process and 3 practice rounds in front of Calcanis and the entire Techcrunch team perfecting his presentation. I was present for one of his practice rounds at Sequoia Capital and as much fun as it was to sit back and watch Calcanis give his expert advice on every single thing Chris had to say, it was the most grueling presentation ever.
Here’s my advice for anyone who is going to submit a startup for next year’s Techcrunch50 or any other demo conference:
1. Grow a thick skin. A really really thick skin. Be prepared to hear the worst about your startup - for every 2 people who will tell you you got a great idea, 8 will completely dismiss it. Thankfully for Radiusly, Jason and Arrington saw the potential.
2. Be prepared to take criticism for your presentation and be open to ideas on what to present. For example, you may want to talk about your product and all the high hopes you have for it, but the organizers may ask you to present from a marketing point of view or showcase a section that a judge in your panel may want to hear. If you’re looking for VC money, then you may want to focus your presentation more on how your startup will change the game and how you plan to make money from it. If you’re looking for just free press, then focus your presentation on a “wow” factor and engage the audience and the judges as part of the presentation. Usually the press is seated in the first 4 rows, so try to engage them the most.
3. Perfect your presentation and your pitch. Take all the good advice the organizers have given you in the rehearsal rounds and perfect it. Work on your timing and make sure you have backup plans in case the wifi on stage is a #fail.
4. Have your product ready for launch at the end of your presentation. If you’re product is still in powerpoints or “closed beta” or “invitation only”, don’t bother coming to these conferences. With all the free press you’ll be getting, make sure the product is live and users can login right away so they can start forming opinions… encourage online chatter, either by getting bloggers to rate your app and giving feedback or by using social network channels. Get your friends to be your goodwill ambassadors to spread the word that your startup is now live. Work on building that excitement till your presentation and launch with a bang.
5. Get a press release ready. Due to the large press presence at these conferences, the organizers will most likely email you your best gift – an excel document with over a 100 contacts to all the leading journalist, bloggers, TV and media reps. Email them! Email them just before you go live on stage and send a follow up email as soon as you’re done. Send them details you may have omitted during the presentation – a good press release will almost make up for any of your fumbling on stage. Spend time on it and prefect it. Most of the time, the press will most likely use exact verbatim of what you send them. Wouldn’t you much rather have the press telling the world what YOU want them to tell?
6. And finally, depending on your budget, get creative with your business cards and schwag. For example, one of my favorite cards was of Scobleizer’s, that he got done from Snapily. Get your face on your card. It always helps. I collected over 50 business cards of which I may remember 10.
At the end of the day, remember this is your big break. Enjoy the conference, interact with as many people as you can, smile and take photos and have a good time. Your startup made it this far, so know for granted that you are already above the thousands who didn’t make it.
And finally, go to all the after-parties and try not to get drunk with all the free booze. But, instead, find a VC who is a bit tipsy and sell him your product and make sure he remembers you the next day when you follow up! :-)
And one quick final note - bookmark and watch EVERY SINGLE VIDEO from Andrew Warner’s Mixergy. Learn what others before you had to go through and learn from their ups and downs. Andrew has done a fantastic job capturing these moments on video and making it freely available for everyone.