Lessons Learned From Pitching at the Angel Alley Showdown

While lunching on a Thursday I received an email that our company was a finalist in DEMO Fall 2012’s Angel Alley Showdown to be held in the San Francisco WSGR SOMA office on the following Tuesday. Twenty-six finalists were invited from a pool of over 135 companies to compete for one of ten vendor tables in the main pavilion at DEMO 12 to show off their products. 

Backing up, The NextWomen graciously provided me with a DEMO Fall 2012 pass for the Oct 1st to 3rd event. A week prior, the DEMO newsletter contained a link to enter the Angel Alley competition: bootstrapped startups ready for Angel funding.  At the time I thought, why not throw our name in? 

Our company Traklight is Software as a Service (SaaS) that uses several integrated products to help businesses, entrepreneurs, and consultants identify intellectual property and take action to protect it.  Seemed simple to compete.  Use an existing PowerPoint for 10 minutes and maybe embed video clips of early customers and demos of our two products. 

Wrong. The rules allowed a three minute product demo to show customer validation, working product, and sound business model. Three minutes! No PowerPoint but projectors permitted. 

I went through a process of elimination to prepare. Knowing I could not run the software and talk at the same time; I enlisted help for an onstage demo of product and abandoned the idea of doing video. I also focused on the demo of one product.  

I wrote out what turned out to be 5 minutes of problem, solution, demo comments (coordinated with the software demo), alpha/beta testing, other products, pricing, revenue model, and ask for funds onto note cards.

Forced to pare back, I rewrote and rewrote the cards.  I practiced out-loud and then quietly on the plane. If that list of topics seems like too much, you are correct. 

We presented 19th out of 26 companies and it was a bit of a blur. It started off really well because I made it through the problem and the solution. Then I looked at the time clock and noticed one of the judges was frowning. This was a judge who had grilled each of the previous 18 presenters.  It threw me off track momentarily and although I recovered, I did not finish. I never looked at the timer again but did glance at the demo screen and again was sidetracked.  The three-minute question period was much easier than the presentation. 

Lessons Learned

  • Prepare at a 2/3rd rate. I should have planned 2 minutes of words that I would have then taken 3 minutes to deliver under pressure. I also should have practice in a standing position, complete with hand gestures and the proper pace.  Several of the winners finished in less than 3 minutes.
  • Less is more. I tried to cover too many things.  Some of the best presentations were simple – two were like skits with a software demo.  Entertain and you will stand out.  I should have ignored all topics and only commented on our product demo.
  • If you have to leave something out, leave out the business model. The judges asked questions on the missed topics. I listened to the all the presentations and almost two-thirds missed the monetization portion.  
  • Define the problem, give support for the problem, and be prepared to defend the problem. If you cannot articulate the problem, do not pitch.  One poor company was grilled until everyone was squirming in their seats on this issue. Not fun.
  • Brag. If you have customers, beta testers, sponsors, partnerships, deals then clearly articulate the details, including volume and dollars.
  • Anticipate the questions and if you are lucky enough to go later, pay attention to the judges because they consistently asked the same questions.
  • And one final comment – do not have a spicy lunch. Coupled with nerves, it can lead to a case of dry mouth. 

One of my favorite quotes is from the Canadian hockey player Wayne Gretzky, “you miss 100% of the shots that you never take.”  We did not make the top 10 for Angel Alley but made several excellent contacts and learned some valuable lessons.  Plus the spicy lunch was delicious! 

The DEMO conferences in the United States, China, Brazil and Singapore focus on emerging technologies and new product innovations. The DEMO conferences have earned their reputation for consistently identifying tomorrow's cutting-edge technologies. The DEMO Fall 2012  event is taking place October 1st to October 3rd in Santa Clara, California, with The NextWomen as media partner. Register now to attend. Simply enter “partner” in the Registration Code box on the registration screen to receive a 25% discount on tickets.

This blog was written by Mary Juetten, founder of Traklight.com, a site that provides inventors, creators, and small businesses with software tools to identify, secure, and manage intellectual property. Mary also contributes to thenextwomen.com on Intellectual Property topics in her series Got Intellectual Property?

Traklight’s ID your IP questionnaire is in private closed beta. Beta testers still welcome at http://www.gotintellectualproperty.com

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