Startup Camp San Francisco was this past Sunday and Monday. In addition to my Live Feed updates, here are my impressions regarding Monday, which was primarily focused on the Best Startup Competition. When working on building something, you can get deep in the details that you forget how to talk about it with someone who doesn’t know anything about it. This is what the Best Startup Competition was there to help the Startup Founders work out, the kinks of their elevator pitch.
21 startups signed up to pitch their company/product to 21 groups of people, 5 minutes per group. This is where the rubber meets the road. If you can’t explain what you are doing and why someone should care within 5 minutes, you’re not going anywhere. I wanted to be kind to each group and give them their time and due, but eventually, some startups were so painful that I had to start just walking away.
Here are a few hints from someone who has given pitches like this for his living for the past 10 years:
- Look your audience in the eye, at least once in a while! If you give you pitch looking at the floor or off into space, you can’t connect with the audience. (The one gentleman who I walked away from after 2 minutes, this is the biggest reason why….you know who you are…)
- Talk about the Forest, not the Trees. No one cares about the little features your system has. What is the big picture value to me…a potential user? Why should I care, state that first…you have 30 seconds (or less), go…
- If your a technology company doing a presentation, use technology to present! While the guy who did his presentation using old fashion flip charts got retro points, he didn’t get my wooden nickel. (nor did he get my full attention)
- To really capture your audience, tell a story…don’t do a PowerPoint read along. There was one company who had a presentation that was exactly this, a story about the value his solution provides to his target users, then it went into a brief product demo of the key screens you see to use the system. (I don’t know for sure, but I think he was the winner…see below).
Everyone who competed at the competition gets huge points for doing it. It’s not an easy thing to do especially is such a format. I also think everyone who competed would get value out of the books presentation zen and How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less.
Unfortunately, I had to take off before the winners were announced. But based upon the piles of coins that I saw as I was leaving, Lil’ Grams looks like they either won or placed in the top three. This is the only company that had a presentation that was a story. The startups that I think you should watch out for are (in no specific order):
- Lil’ Grams – vertical social network for parents to share their children’s growth with family and friends in a micro-blogging format. And they have a model to make money right away…what a concept!
- Velocious – voice ordering platform for restaurants to enable customers to order food en route for pickup. Think no more long lines and waiting in the morning for your coffee…
- MarkMail – archiving and discover tool for email. Both public email like lists serves and private email for companies. Their presentation needs a lot of focusing, but I could see thru to the value regardless.
- Ultimate Football Network – Another great vertical social/mashup service. All the information you need for making your Fantasy Football picks in a single location…or to just catch up on all the latest details of the football world. Based upon the stickiness factor and size of the market they service, this one is a serious contender.