Earlier this week, DEMO, considered as the launchpad for startups, was held in Santa Clara Convention Center and our company DocSync.Net was selected amongst other 81 vendors to showcase their wares at the show. This blog talks about our experience and an amalgamation of some of the comments heard from other startups along with some comments on what can DEMO do to make this conference even better next year.
For the uninitiated, DEMO is like an American Idol but for entrepreneurs. Unlike American Idol, it only lasts for 2 days and winners only get one chance of 6 minutes to make their pitch along with an opportunity to showcase their products in the exhibit area. Every company comes with certain goals to the conference with launch publicity being number one followed by investor interest and partnership discussions.
The amount of preparation and the amazing efficiency with which this conference operates, I would like to congratulate not just the organizers but everyone else in the team for an excellent conference. Yes sometimes there are schedule delays and long waits for speakers but considering the number of companies doing live presentations, it is still amazing that conference works as well as it does.
For many companies this may be their first public showing of the product and hence it is a great forum to get initial feedback on your product and your pitch. Moreover the preparation that an entrepreneur has to go through to get ready for this including working with a demo coach, doing an on-stage and many off-stage rehearsals really prepares an entrepreneur well.
We also got to meet lot of other entrepreneurs who are also likely to be partners and users of our product. We got a lot of useful feedback from fellow entrepreneurs and managed to sign up a large number of beta customers. In that sense it was a successful event for us and probably for many other companies.
Sages and their feedback
After every six or so presentations, there was a sage panel of 4-5 experts giving their commentary on the pitches of various companies. Comparing it to American Idol, there were a lot of “Simon Cowell wannabes” in the sages and so entrepreneurs needed to have a thick skin while taking in the feedback. Most of the companies in a session were totally unrelated to each other and sometimes companies in pre funding were in the same session as a company in Series D round of funding thereby creating an unwarranted comparison.
The best sage panel, in my opinion, was the last one on Consumer wherein some of the sages looked at what was there and what can be done with the ideas and some sages like James Slavet of Greylock even made an effort to do some due diligence on his smartphone to see the background of the founders and taking that as part of his feedback.
Press and Buzz
Did Demo help companies in creating buzz? Yes it did but as usual the buzz varied from company to company as well as on how well the company leveraged the available resources. We were lucky to get few articles written about us. Was there a lot of press at the show? Compared to last year, I felt that the press presence was somewhat light at the show with lot more press from IDG group of companies and not much from mainstream national media. However, I am hoping that as DEMO content spreads, it will create a more lasting buzz for many companies.
Meeting investors was not my prime goal but it sure was a goal for many entrepreneurs. I did get some interest from investors but I couldn’t guess as to how many investors were at the show and how many of them really made it to the exhibit area to meet with entrepreneurs. May be other entrepreneurs can chime in and share their experiences here especially the ones that came with that goal in mind.
What should be changed?
Rather than putting companies by broad technology categories, the companies should be classified by their stage i.e. Seed vs Series A vs Series B or by the amount of funding they are looking for. For example putting a late stage company like Fusion I-O in the same group as our pre-funded company DocSync was just a wrong fit. DEMO already has an example of that in Alpha Pitches and what I am suggesting is to make the similar changes to the overall agenda. In addition, the sages for each of the sessions should be actual investors who are interested in investing in this stage.