… 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… go, go, go… you are on stage !
Last week in San Francisco, there was the Launch Festival, which it describes as “the best place to launch your startup, raise money and learn about starting a company”. But before launching on stage, startups have to go through one month of training.
Let’s take it back to the beginning.
The first time, we thought about attending Launch Festival was back in September 2012. Looking at the calendar, it also appears that it would be a perfect timing to launch our new product (DOZ) in early March 2013. When arrived in San Francisco, Launch Festival became one of our priority. So we applied, and after long week of wait, we finally received an email entitled “Good News”…. that was January 31th.
Now that we were in, we had one month to be prepared. Not that it’s difficult to present in front of several thousands people, the press, the most influential entrepreneurs and investors of the Silicon Valley… but we also had to have our product ready to show.
During February, we met with Jason Calacanis and his team, to start practicing for the big day. Below are some of the insights of this preparation.
RULE 1: GET A 8
You have to get a 8 out of 10 to go on stage, if less, you are out. This is tough, but it’s also a way to guarantee the quality of the 3 days of conference. So I went for my first rehearsal, at the most prestigious Venture Capital offices of all time: Sequoia Capital. Sequoia is one of the oldest and most successful VC firm, with investments in Apple, Cisco, Google, Oracle, Paypal, Yahoo etc. When you arrive at Sequoia, it’s like a museum collection of successful IPO displayed on the walls, just so you know where you are.
I ended my first rehearsal with a 5 / 10… well at least I knew I had to change my pitch. Then I got a 7.5 / 10, almost it, but need some more changes. And finally, I got a 8.5 / 10, “almost 9, you’re ready for the stage” said Jason… so we were definitely in!
RULE 2: LIVE DEMO
One of the things that make Launch so exiting and also hard, is that you have to present a live demo of your product or service on stage. It has to be real, so people are entertained during the show. Live Demo means that you have to practice with a “driver”, someone who will go through the presentation when you talk (big thank to Take from Kicklabs :-). The duo has to be well synchronized, if not the audience would be lost by looking at something that is totally different from what the speaker is talking about.
RULE 3: 20 SECONDS
Launch Festival is made for a general audience, even if a majority are tech people, you need to get their attention in very few seconds. Tyler, the pitch coach, who has done a great job with startups, has found that over the last years, people don’t give more than 20 seconds attention to the startup on stage, before looking back at their computers, phones etc. So we had a rule, no long introduction, even no presentation, go to the point, go to the product in less than 20 seconds. While it can be easy for a consumers focused mobile app, I can say that it’s far from easy for a B2B Marketing service 🙂
RULE 4: BE PREPARED FOR QUESTIONS
Once you are on stage, not only you are being evaluated by the Grand Jury (10 people who vote the winners for several categories) but you are also facing a panel of successful entrepreneurs and investors. I had the privilege to have Dave McClure, Jeff Clavier and Naval Ravikant… Even if, I was ready for any question, I was not ready for everything (watch the video bellow to understand :-).
We didn’t win any of the prizes, but we get a lunch with Dave McClure, which I’m sure will be something memorable.
Launch Festival is not only a great way to get exposure to press, investors and clients. But it’s also an amazing experience where I had the opportunity to meet with other startups founders from all over the US, and even the world. It’s definitely something I would recommend to any founder, and who knows, we might announce a new product at Launch next year!