DEMOnstrations, DEMOgraphics, and DEMOGODs: Write Up of DEMO Fall 2012
The DEMO Fall 2012 event showcased emerging technologies and new product innovations. Our blogger Mary Juetten attended on behalf of The NextWomen. Here's her review.
DEMO Fall 12: Seventy five six-minute DEMOS in seven categories plus Student Alpha pitches, one People’s Choice DEMO, and one 90 second pitch from Angel Alley. All over 2 days in unseasonably warm San Jose with impressive Sage Judges, One-on-One chats, and Panels. The CIO panel was a personal favorite for candid information about how to approach larger companies with strategic partnership ideas.
Most DEMO presenters were very professional, many spoke from the heart, and some left me thinking 'very cool but why do we need that'? Or 'is it a feature instead of a product'? Or 'why we need another one of those on the market'?
Like the Angel Alley DEMOs, the best presenters told stories. I liked the Barrel of Jobs DEMO because instead of just talking through an onscreen DEMO for their turnkey social recruiting solution, they acted out the process. The DEMO was a complete walkthrough of a job need, posting, and fulfillment complete with multiple characters, and props. In addition, the set of giant checks at the end drove home the point that the money is only paid after the position is filled and is also shared amongst the participants. Showing not telling.
When a DEMO stalled or crashed almost all presenters were nonplussed about the technical difficulties. For the most part, the DEMOS were quite flawless. The most human moment was the simultaneous appearance of four members of the extended Gupta family in split screen when the CEO of Freshtag.me was demonstrating an instant video chat solution.
My favorite DEMO from a product standpoint was TruPhone because it solves a problem near and dear to my heart, roaming charges when traveling.
Easy access to affordable GSM with images of SIM cards; no more turning off or removing SIM cards while traveling if you forget to buy the local SIM or cannot find one. This UK based company is coming to the States next year. That is a problem that needs fixing.
First a brief word about the DEMO fashion. On the whole the women seemed to dress up more than the men. Most women were in office attire, dresses or suits with heels, while other than an occasional blazer with jeans, most men were dressed down with jeans and t-shirts being the norm. One standout was a man in a nice suit and flip-flops. It was California!
The wide range in presenter age was a pleasant surprise. DEMO teams included college age kids up to middle-aged first-time or serial entrepreneurs. Many teams had diversity in gender and age that seemed to produce synergy.
Yet Female Founders were in short supply. Less than two in ten of the companies were founded by women. And much less than half of the companies had female presenters.
In addition to the six-minute DEMOs, Microsoft Bizspark sponsored seven Student Alpha companies who did 90 second pitches and were also given space in the Exhibit Pavilion. It was there that I met Phoebe Farber, the dynamic Founder and CEO of Prospective Plus and a senior at Northeastern University in Boston.
Phoebe’s frustration with a co-op application process that had her filling in different application after application without much hope that the limited information would allow her to stand out amongst other candidates led her to found Prospective Plus. The larger job boards would not allow for anything other than a resume. Phoebe has pulled together a team and created a software as service that includes a Common Job Application, References, and a Culture Fit component to allow job seekers to present more than a standard resume and for employers to receive additional information to better evaluate and screen applicants.
I spoke with Phoebe about her biggest challenge to date and it was pulling together her software development team. That seems to be a theme in the startup community, especially for female, non-technical founders.
After the conference, Phoebe spoke about DEMO, “ It was exciting for us to launch in Silicon Valley of all places and I met some cool start ups (like Barrel of Jobs and Flinja), some potential customers, and potential investors. I'm looking forward to getting back in touch with some key people in the coming months. There was a lot of variety and a great sense of camaraderie and shared purpose by the end of the conference.”
Before discussing the winners, a brief mention of an interesting company in the sustainability area. GreenQloud is a data center located in Iceland and is 100% powered by renewable energy. The Compute Qloud and Storage Qloud is competitively priced and has many US clients.
Five companies won the coveted DEMOGOD award and interestingly females factored into all but one of the winning companies.
Further, three of the five winners had women as part of the founding team. UBE (myube.com) was the People’s Choice winner for a single control mobile app for connected home systems.
Flinja was my favorite amongst the winners because of the energy and teamwork plus the simplicity of their DEMO and product. Flinja is in the same job search market as several other presenters but the niche focus on the individual universities and alum represents brilliant market segmentation. An exclusive, college-centric university hub using .edu email addresses coupled with alumni engagement will assist students in finding jobs and reducing student debt, all in a safe network.
Although DEMO is about launching and networking, follow-up is key as Phoebe Farber observed above. There are many opportunities for connections and collaboration among the DEMO presenters. As CIO panel member Tom Soderstorm of NASA explained, IT no longer stands for Information Technology but rather Innovate Together.
Image courtesy of The DEMO Conference.
This blog was written by Mary Juetten, founder of Traklight.com, a site that provides inventors, creators, and small businesses with integrated 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.
Sign Up to our Newsletter
So you enjoy The NextWomen. Why not sign up to our monthly newsletter?
You get a Letter from the CEO :-), the chance to catch up with the best of our recent articles - and some extra things we throw in once in a while.