Archive for 'Events'
We’d like to congratulate our favorite social media center company, boxee.tv, for being selected as one of 15 finalists for the CES 2009 I-Stage event. I-Stage is a new event for CES, which they’ve labeled with “Think you’ve got America’s next top gadget? Prove it. “ The event is being judged by Kevin Kelly (Wired), Ryan Block (Engadget/gdgt), Jeff Pulver, and Molly Wood.
The 15 finalists will unveil their products before a live audience on Monday, October 20, at CEA’s 2008 Industry Forum, scheduled October 19-22, 2008, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas, NV.
Good luck Avner and the rest of Team Boxee!
While I’ve blogged about my discomfort with the conflicting startup launch conferences (TechCrunch50 and DEMOfall), I still believe there’s plenty of opportunity on the table for the companies presenting. By now a handful of startups have already begun their presentations, a few on deck, and a bunch prepping themselves. I read a good post by Brian Solis on TechCrunch about “How to Stand Out from the Crowd” and thought I’d add some additional advice.
In no particular priority order:
- Set Realistic Goals: Are you there to meet VCs or to meet press? Or maybe to meet potential business partners? There’s only so many hours in the day, and as you’ve by now noticed, there’s lots of people you could meet. Pick some specific, achievable goals, and put all your energy toward that. It’s easy to get distracted at an event like this, so focus is important.
- Watch Presentations Before Your Own: If you are demoing this afternoon, or tomorrow, you have plenty of time to watch some other presenters. Get a feel for the room and the crowd. See what’s working well, and what’s not. Even if you’ve spent months creating a good demo script, you are getting more useful data right now than you can possibly have prepared for. Be nimble, don’t be rigid.
- Have FUN up there: I’m a natural windbag, so I always enjoy being on a stage. But not everyone feels so comfortable in front of a large audience. That’s understandable, but the only advice I have is: “get over it!” This is the time to shine, not retreat. It’s just a few minutes, and while they may be extremely important minutes, don’t get so serious that you can’t enjoy your time. Your audience will know if you are comfortable or sweating bullets, and if you are trying your best, and smiling and (gasp) joking around, they’ll be on your side. Nothing wrong with being nervous, but people are going to want to like you, just make it easy for them!
- Have your 10 second pitch ready: You only have a few minutes on stage, but you’re going to spend hours in the halls networking. Let’s face it, with all the “power players” around, everybody’s in a rush. You need to give a quick, compelling pitch, and don’t be offended when someone doesn’t want to know more. But if you take 2 minutes just to explain your story, they probably won’t be around to hear it all. Be fast and to the point.
- Share the VIPs: There are some crazy bigwig type folks hanging around at these events. If you are lucky enough to get a few minutes with someone uber-important, please remember they are busy too, and there are many others like yourself who are just trying to meet them at all. There’s nothing more frustrating than standing behind someone giving their life story to a guy you’ve been dying to meet and exchange cards with. Give your pitch, swap cards, be friendly, and then, move on. It’s just good karma
- Plan to Follow-up: This might sound obvious, but if you don’t plan to follow-up, don’t bother taking cards. Your window is 1 week, no more.
- Wear Schwag: Let’s be honest, your goal is some amount of attention-getting. Might as well throw on a shirt (make one at Zazzle if need be), it’ll help people who are trying to find you. It may be gimmicky, but wouldn’t you rather be found than… not found?
- Have a Tie-In: It’s always good to be able to say something like “Yeah, I was the guy on stage with the picture of the 5-foot-tall mouse” (or some other, more relevant idea). You don’t have to go crazy, just something that the audience will remember if you bring it up.
- Don’t Get Drunk: Yes, we’ve all seen it. The people at the launch parties/events that have one too many drinks, and no pal to get them out of sight. Don’t be that guy.
Good luck at the show everyone!
UPDATE: I’m going to add one more from Robert Scoble (paraphrased): Don’t launch at a major conference with a “sucky” Web site!
Exciting news for 12seconds today, they’re announcing their new public alpha. 12seconds is a video status platform for sharing moments from your life. Use a webcam or video-capable cell phone to record and share videos up to twelve seconds long. If you want an invitation to join the alpha, inquire here.
This was an instance where we felt a press release was unnecessary. As many people have discussed, the traditional press release is not the only way to communicate company news. I certainly agree with Brian Solis that “the press release is far from dead,” there are many uses for a well written and carefully thought-out press release. We use them often here at Stage Two Consulting. But some times (and some people) call for non-traditional means of communicating the news. Robert Scoble likes getting pitched on Facebook for instance. For 12seconds, we felt that a company blog post was an ideal medium for a company launch that fit well with the style and flavor of the company (which is totally bootstrapped).
There are several reasons behind this announcement:
- The team wanted to formally announce themselves to the world
- A number of new features were added to the site and service
- They want to increase the size of the user community and test the scalability of their servers and infrastructure
- They want to increase their visibility and work on fund raising
- Using 12seconds is fun, and they want more people to experience the joy
It’s only 8:16 on the West Coast, but coverage has started:
Lastly, how could we pitch the company if we weren’t users ourselves? Check out the Stage Two team on 12seconds:
We’re here at Under the Radar, for a multitude of reasons. Lowell Goss, our friend, client and the CEO of LOUD3R is presenting in the Mercury room today around 11:15. Ellen McGirt from Fast Company is moderating. Should be a great presentation.
We are also here to help our friends from Dealmaker Media promote their show. We will be twittering on their behalf – you can follow us here: http://twitter.com/UTR08
We also have a Ustream up and running – you can follow it here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/utr08
If you like, you can also watch it below, and chat as well.
Tomorrow, Lowell Goss, CEO of LOUD3R, a new client here at Stage Two, is speaking at the Under the Radar Conference. LOUD3R offers a network of enthusiast-oriented Websites to help millions of people find great information about topics they love. It is difficult to find quality Web content for topics that aren’t mainstream – whether it’s just trying to find good sites, or sifting through junk (spam, splogs and dupes) on RSS feeds.
To solve this problem, LOUD3R is launching a network of sites created by a semantic content engine that gathers, ranks and publishes the best content (news, editorial, photos, video) for a given topic, while filtering out all the junk.
It’s an exciting time for the LOUD3R team as they begin wrapping up beta and prepare to launch the network later this month. We are currently setting up interviews and briefings to learn more about LOUD3R, so if you would like to speak with Lowell for a more in depth look at the powerful tools behind the network, give us a call, email, tweet, comment or whistle – whatever works for you.
There’s always more startups launching than any of us can possibly keep up with. Some launch quietly, some launch loudly, there’s so many different ways to launch a company. One oft-recommended path is to use a conference. It’s a bit of a risky proposition, since you have to excel beyond just doing what you do well, you also have to stand out from the crowd, all of whom are trying to stand out from each other. When we launch a company, we evaluate these types of issues all the time, and our approach is to pick the best solution for the company’s needs, regardless of the events around them.
As I’ve blogged about before, there are two mega-startup-launch events occurring this fall (which I still hope will clean itself up, though I know it’s unlikely). But what about all those other companies who are ready with their products/services now, and don’t want to duke it out with 114 others? Enter the Under the Radar conferences, put on thrice annually by Dealmaker Media. I love these events, and now spend so much time there I’m lucky enough to be a “regular” moderator (along with my colleagues Rafe Needleman and Ellen McGirt). The events are well-attended by startup teams, accomplished industry experts, VCs, press, bloggers, and some fairly senior people in the tech industry.
The next event is on June 3rd, and features the following startups:
Jacked MovieSet Verismo Networks Vusion Jygy Nesting Vivaty Xumii Comedy.com Curse Hollywood Interactive Group PluggedIn AudioMicro GumGum Keibi Loud3r 33Across Kontagent MediaForge Sometrics CrowdSPRING ffwd Lil’Grams PutPlace Dizzywood Mochi Media Mytopia Pikum! Animoto Aviary Big Stage Overlay.tv
I’ll bet you don’t know most of them – what a great way to come take a look. The format of the show is highly interactive, with audience-wide topic discussions, text-your-vote-for-a-prize, and, the essential of all conferences, valuable hallway time for essential networking. Not convinced yet? How about $100 off your registration. Also, if I hear from the Dealmaker Media team that we send in more than 10 people, I promise to do my infamous impression of “George Lazenby Performing Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back.”
See you on the 3rd!
While wandering the Web 2.0 Expo show floor yesterday I couldn’t help but notice a chunk of startups trying to pitch ideas and business that seemed awfully familiar. In some cases they were rehashing older ideas trying to pump them back to life with a new fresh look. In others, the companies were tackling areas that are overly saturated with competition today. As I talked to the various booth reps, I was surprised by many of the pitches, as many of them seemed to base their entire “differentiator” story by aspects of their business which are simply insufficient to truly differentiate.
It’s one thing to have a massive amount of differentiation against your competition, and to heavily play up that feature/tech/etc. For example Google grew out of literally nowhere thanks to serving significantly better search results than other offerings at the time. Notice I said “significantly better,” not just “better”. Further, timing was important – Google came to market against products whose offerings were quite poor, so the “significantly better” results were highly noticeable.
Launching a “better than Google” company today, on the other hand, is a much larger challenge (despite numerous attempts). Not only are people NOT dissatisfied with Google’s results, their products now span well beyond just search, and are tightly integrated with a huge amount of Internet users’ lives and services. I’d say Google is more intertwined with the Internet today than Microsoft ever was with integrated Internet Explorer and other products which prompted all the lawsuits. Competing with the big G is going to take a lot more work than even “significantly better” search results would provide.
Another topic that seems to cause confusion in regards to differentiating companies is user interface (UI). I’ve heard countless companies show demos and talk about how they are great because their UI is so amazing and easy to use. One company’s rep even stated that the thing that will make them “stand out from the rest” is their signup process. Baloney. This is a very dangerous ground to play in, because it’s lacking the important tactical element of understanding when UI actually matters.
First, it’s my position that to use UI in this manner requires existing products to have bad UIs (not just average or mediocre, but bad). Second, existing UIs must be bad enough that the consumers who use these products are vocally unhappy and can identify statements such as “it’s too hard to use”. Third, the “better” UI must be easy to absorb instantly – in other words a new potential customer should see your screenshot/web site/gadget interface and instantly see how easy it is to use. Fourth, and of no lesser importance, better UI doesn’t mean “prettier” UI. Fifth, it’s hard to use UI to compete against massively entrenched players, though if its a bunch of startups fighting for attention, having a better UI is good.
TiVo beat ReplayTV with a stick when the two launched, outselling them at over 10:1 ratio from the getgo (although much of this was also due to pricing models, with the ReplayTV units coming in almost double the price of a TiVo, albeit with no monthly service fee). My precious Slingbox sent Sony’s LocationFreeTV packing time and time again. In both cases the products at hand were in new categories with no existing comparative products. Today, however, competing with either is much much harder, and good UI alone isn’t enough to cut it. While my examples here are both physical products, it’s fairly easy to see how they apply to Web services and sites as well.
Whether it’s UI or features, pricing or compatibility, it’s extremely important to understand how you stack up against the crowd. The key challenge startups and even large companies with new products face is to figure out the how and what of demonstrating competitive advantage. Building great products is only the starting point. Understanding how your potential customers will perceive your products is at least as important, and proper timing and positioning is just plain essential.
In a pseudo-related note – please come check out the unconference today!
For most of next week you should expect a deluge of events, panels, conferences, unconferences, camps, meetups, mashups, foos, crunches, gigas, and memes all surrounding the Web 2.0 expo. I’ll be taking part in a few activities, including a panel (hosted by Softech) on how to leverage social media for business (professionals, b2b, etc). The panel is being moderated by my colleague William Gaultier (from e-Storm), and I’ll be joined by Karl Long (Nokia), Adam Metz (theMIX Agency), and Pankaj Parekh (Zmingo Inc).
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
San Rafael Corporate Center
750 Lindaro Street
San Rafael, CA
6:30-7:15 Registration and Networking
7:15-7:20 Welcome and Upcoming Meetings
7:20-8:15 Panel Discussion
8:15-8:45 Audience Q&A
This meeting is free to SofTECH members
Non-members pay $15 to pre-register, or $20 at the door. Register in Advance for Business Social Media- 4/23/2008
Should be an interesting discussion, as we have a variety of experts in the room, and we’ll probably each come at the various topics from different angles. It’ll likely be my last opportunity to talk about how I don’t use Twitter, since it’s seeming rather inevitable that I’ll end up having to use it for something sooner or later. Now now, the sky hasn’t fallen, dogs and cats are still not living together. But twitter is no longer just a neat tool for telling strangers how cool you are while waiting in line to get a sandwich, and I can’t keep my head in the sand forever.
But at least I’ll have tonight, and probably this weekend… Hope to see you next Wednesday!
TechCrunch50 is the sequel to last year’s TC40 conference, which at the time was promoted fairly heavily as a “DEMO 2.0″ event, shifting the cost structure from demo-er to attend-ee. This year, the organizers have planted the event squarely on top of the DEMO conference, thus creating a bit of a conflict. But in any conflict comes some opportunity, which I am sure some folks will figure out between now and then. The other aftereffect is creating sufficient confusion and chaos as to cause people to turn away from having to make any choice.
As marketing consultants, people in our field will have quite the interesting challenge for the next few months. We’ll be asked to advise startups as to whether they should:
- Pick TC50
- Pick DEMO
- Pick *both* (you know someone’s gonna try it!)
- Pick neither
Personally, I don’t exactly know right now, but I will say this: I don’t care *who* you are, I don’t like going up against ~110-160 other startups in an attempt to get attention. I hate those odds, which are nowhere near the 1/x that you’d expect them to be. Quite a few of the attendees will likely have pre-existing connections to various media/bloggers in attendance, who will obviously give them the extra bit of attention (nothing wrong with all this, just stating the facts).
I will give this advice right now: if you are a brand-new startup and have NO marketing department and/or PR firm, don’t do either. You’ll have a devil of a time getting anyone’s attention outside of the 6ish minutes you actually get on stage. You’d be better off launching at some quiet time when you can get people to notice you without all the hoopla.
One other major concern I have is the potential for external disruption. This year’s DEMOspring event was somewhat eclipsed by the Yahoo-Microsoft merger talks. So that was 60 companies all getting a fraction of the publicity they had planned on. There are certainly no guarantees in marketing, and the best planned launches never go quite as you’d expect, but can you imagine what would happen if Apple and Facebook teamed up against Google next September 8th? It wouldn’t be pretty.
My best advice at this stage is to think deeply about your plans and needs. Don’t knee-jerk. Don’t follow the wrong trends. If you have a great product, it’ll always be great. How exactly do either of these events benefit your strategic goals? The true costs of either are well higher than the attendance fees, so think a lot before making a final decision. If you are considering either, this is probably one of the more important decisions you’ll make this year. Make it wisely.
Being a PR and Marketing firm, we typically don’t “fly under the radar.” Our goal is to make a lot of noise (at the right time, and in the right way) and get the word out about our clients’ great products and services. However, today we did fly under the radar. By which I mean, we attended Dealmaker Media’s Under The Radar conference in Mountain View, CA.
The conference was great – the folks at DM have got it down to a science. Speakers, moderators, and judges showed up on time (unless their cars broke down) and all the presenting companies had interesting ideas to pitch. We had several different reasons for attending:
- Two of our clients (DeviceVM and kwiry) presented at UTR
- Jeremy moderated two of the panels (and treated the speakers kindly for the most part)
- networking, networking, networking
We are big advocates of industry networking, and conferences like this one are great for that purpose. Founders and employees from dozens of different startup and large companies were in attendance, all with something new to pitch. Some are great, some are terrible, but it’s good to know what’s new and who’s doing it. There’s a great opportunity for business development at these events, and also a great chance to play matchmaker and connect two people that really ought to talk to one another. We like to help out where we can.
In addition to the presenters and attendees, there were also a good swath of media folk in attendance. Rafe Needleman from Webware was there, though he had some car trouble on the way down (bummer Rafe, that really sucks.) Kara Swisher from the WSJ (and other pubs) was there, judging for Jeremy’s panel. And Brad Stone from the NY Times was there as well, helping to judge some of the other presenters.
Last night Dealmaker Media threw a little party in Palo Alto at a restaurant called Zibibbo. We snapped a couple of pics while we were there.
Here’s a picture of Sol from DeviceVM, Cliff from DocSyncer, and some of our friends from Dealmaker Media:
Here’s a self portrait of Sol and myself:
And this is a picture of Ron from kwiry, hanging out with the lovely ladies of Dealmaker Media:
Under The Radar was a great conference because it had just the right combination of factors. There was a variety of interesting startups, a good supply of industry leaders and important members of the media in attendance. The presentations were generally engaging, and fomented lively discussions with both the judges and the audience.
Events like this are both fun and educationall, and can represent a great opportunity for business networking and business development – especially if you pick the right conference.