Sights and Scenes from #SWDub

Black and white are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected – Robert Frank

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Do look forward to more photos from what’s left of the 54 hours.

Photo credit: Day In Life of Storytelling Photography








Ask An Entrepreneur: What it is really like to raise capital as an early stage startup?

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Answer provided by: Brad Sams, CEO of Tracour.

Past Employment: Consultant at Clark Schaefer Consulting, Staff Auditor at Kendle International

Featured Recently in: TechCrunch — “Tracour Locks Up $335K To Help Uncover The Best Financial Analysts”

 

_____

Do you like bashing your head on the table, being told ‘this wont work’ and having to consistently sell yourself, your idea, and how you will execute this plan 100 times a week? If you answered yes to all of those questions, then you are ready to try and raise money for your idea.

My startup, Tracour, is a project that has been in the works for roughly two years and has taken a considerable amount of time to perfect the model and to get our pitch ready for prime time.

There are few people in this world who can walk into a VC office with an idea and get a check for $10,000,000 to kick start their endeavor…the qualifying statement on that is if you can answer yes to “I sold my previous startup and returned a 10x multiple to our investors”, then you are a special breed.

How we pitched Tracour

Here is the funny thing about Tracour, when we went out pitching, we did not show off Tracour, we showed off Sorsed, a project that we had previously built. Sorsed tracks tech rumors and vets journalists to see who is reliable and is crowd-sourced. We built Sorsed out of fun and it’s a lightweight product from developers’ point of view since it is all crowd sourced.

Tracour ranks financial analysts in real time to see who is generating quality investment advice using automated procedures. Hopefully you can see the comparable here and this began our journey to start pitching.

We got our foot in the door with our one-line pitch, “We rate financial equity advice in real time”, at least, that was our goal at the time of the initial pitch.

When we got face time, we showed off Sorsed and this accomplished two things. 1) It showed that we could build a product 2) It offered talking points about how we can turn Sorsed into our new platform and had easy comparable that investors could see at the time.

Here is what you have to understand; when I finally met with our angel investor and got him to invest he told me something to the degree of:

“I am investing more in you and your ability to execute ideas than I am in concept of Tracour. I like what Tracour will do and I believe you can build a product to deliver on these promises. “

When we pitched to VCs, we had a functioning prototype of Tracour thanks to our angel investment, this made it much easier to show that we were capable of building the platform but required additional funds to reach our goals. At this point, it was “we love the idea and know that you can execute on your promises”.

What it is like to pitch

If you are not willing to be a persistent jerk, you will not survive. You don’t have to be a jerk to the investors (I don’t recommend that) but you have to follow-up, get used to having your calls not answered and most of all, you better be persistent.

Here’s a fun fact for you, Tracour does not have a pitch slide deck; nothing, not a single completed PowerPoint. We always pitched demos, a demo goes so much further than static slides. Our entire pitch was a demo of either Sorsed (angel level) or of the prototype (VC level).

Granted, our financials at that time were pretty simple so we didn’t have customer growth charts so slides would have been boring.

What I learned from this process

1) Be ready to be turned down, a ‘no’ is only part of the process and it only takes one ‘yes’ to complete a deal.

2) If this is your first startup, be prepared to talk about how you are able to be ‘that guy’ who can build this product; They are investing in your ability to execute.

3) You cannot do it all, surround yourself with go-getters and divest the work as needed. Focus on what you are good at (hopefully pitching) and drive that home.

4) Prove that you can build something…Sorsed for us proved that we could build a product and got us our first bit of cash.

Not sure if this will help, but it was our journey to raising money. Build something (anything) to show off that is related to your end goal…let them see what you can do, it helped us out quite a bit.

Follow along with Tracour: Twitter and Facebook








Préparez votre pitch de vendredi

Le vendredi soir, c’est le début du startup weekend. Certains d’entre vous viendront avec une idée qu’ils souhaitent travailler durant les 54h. Il y a plus de propositions que de projets pouvant être retenus. Vous allez donc devoir vous démarquer.

Le protocole est assez simple. Chaque participant dispose d’1 minute chrono avec le micro pour convaincre de la pertinence de son projet. Puis durant une petite heure, vous allez pouvoir recueillir les votes des autres participants (chacun a deux votes).

Votre objectif est donc d’être parmi les 10 à 15 (en fonction des années) idées qui auront fédéré le plus de participants.

Voici quelques conseils pour mettre le plus de chances de votre côté. Et parce que c’est chacun pour sa peau, je vais vous parlez à tous séparément. Commençons par toi, derrière ton écran.

Photo de Pierre MOUILLARD
Photo de Pierre MOUILLARD

Tout d’abord, sache que tu vas devoir t’exprimer devant plus de 100 personnes. Si c’est la première fois pour toi, tu peux essayer de minimiser les effets du stress :

  • écris ton texte, et mieux, apprends le par cœur. Dans le pire des cas, fais toi une petite antisèche. C’est moins charismatique mais un charisme sans message sera moins utile qu’un message sans charisme.

  • Prévois un contact visuel unique. Le mieux est d’avoir un ami dans le public sur lequel tu concentreras ton regard.

Organise ton temps. Tu as devant toi 1 seule minute, c’est vraiment très court. Voici une proposition d’organisation du temps :

  • 5s pour te présenter. Pas la peine de raconter ta vie, dis nous ton nom, ton prénom et ce que tu fais dans la vie si c’est en lien avec le projet.

  • 40s pour présenter ton projet. Il faut être synthétique. Ne présente pas toute ta vision mais uniquement les éléments qui font du sens pour tous.

  • 10s pour expliquer quelles compétences tu cherches pour compléter ton équipe. Ce serait dommage d’être retenu et de ne pas arriver à rassembler les compétences suffisantes.

  • 5s pour résumer ton projet et finir sur une phrase choc pour marquer les esprits

Prévois une tagline, c’est la phrase que retiendront les participants à l’issue de ta minute. Quand les 40 projets sont passés, chaque participant doit se rappeler des deux projets pour lesquels il va voter. La tagline va l’aider à se rappeler de ton projet. Une tagline ça peut être lié à ton projet “Footibus, le service qui amènera toutes les équipes de foot à tous leurs matchs” ou non “Vous aimez les carottes, moi aussi, votez pour mon projet”.

Enfin, pense à te démarquer. Tous les ans, des participants plus ou moins créatifs tentent des choses pour se sortir du lot. Tant que tu restes dans le domaine du raisonnable, tu peux te déguiser, porter un chapeau, montrer un objet lié au projet, etc… L’intérêt est de te reconnaître à la fin des nombreuses présentations. Le Startup Weekend reste un événement qui se fait dans la bonne humeur, et souvent l’humour est un vecteur de cohésion.

Ces conseils ne t’assurent pas d’être retenus, mais ils pourront t’aider à ne pas rater ta minute.








5 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Pitching Ideas

Triangle Startup Weekend Education
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Do you have a brilliant idea for a startup… but the fear of pitching it to an audience holding you back?

This used to be me. Today, I share with you the story of how I overcame my own fears and pitched my idea, and the five tips that will help you nail your pitch at Triangle Startup Weekend: Education.

Startup Weekend: Why I participated

In November 2013, I participated in Triangle Startup Weekend: UNC. At the time, I was looking for a chance to understand how a company is born and thought it would be a good chance to test the waters.

I’m not someone that others would call “shy,” but I’d never pitched an idea in front of an audience before. I’d arrived at the weekend with an idea—but couldn’t bring myself to pitch on Friday night. Instead, I became fascinated with an idea brought forward by Suja Thomas.

Suja’s idea, Mathamagix, sought to engage girls in mathematics through storytelling. We had an incredible team of five, built a great product, and I learned a lot about how a company is born. I fell in love with Startup Weekend.

(Photo: Team Mathamagix at Triangle Startup Weekend: UNC in November 2013. © Jen Riedel)

Five months later, I registered for Triangle Startup Weekend: Makers Edition. I was hooked, and determined to pitch an idea. Here’s how I did it.

Tip #1: Write it down

I had been mulling over an idea for a company for several weeks prior to the event—and I didn’t know if I would have the courage to pitch it.

The morning of the event, I sat at the bar of Cafe de los Muertos sipping on a coffee and scribbling down my pitch on a napkin. I then transferred my notes to my phone. I did all of this just in case the courage to share somehow manifested when I walked into the venue that night.

A few hours later, my feet walked into HQ Raleigh. I met a few folks, make a few great connections, and found a seat as pitches were starting. The line to pitch ideas grew to five, then ten, and then almost two dozen people.

I stopped being able to focus on the pitches on stage. My mind raced, and I began to argue with myself: should I pitch my idea, or not?

I won’t go deep into the process by which I settled on pitching… needless to say, it would have been fitting to have a flower full of petals to assist in making the decision.

So there I am, clutching my iPhone, wondering how I’d be able to fit the whole idea into just 60 seconds. And then I’m in line, and WHAM it’s my turn.

Have you ever had an out-of-body experience? That’s a bit like what I was experiencing. I watched myself take the microphone, look up and out at the crowd, down at my phone. Suddenly, magically, words start to flow out of my mouth.

It was probably the fastest 60 seconds of my life.

In the end, I’d overcome my fears merely by preparing what to say prior to walking on stage. For me, this step was essential. It helped me frame my idea and succinctly present it to the audience. Have an idea? Write it down—even an outline helps.

Tip #2: Tell a personal story

I finished the pitch, thanked the audience, and went to write down my idea on chart paper, and settled in to watch the rest of the participants pitch. A sense of pride and accomplishment accompanied my back to my seat—I’d conquered my fear, the pitch hadn’t flopped, and here I was, with an idea that people liked.

Or so I hoped. When pitches were complete, participants gather to discuss viable ideas. People kept coming up to me and telling me they liked my idea, and that they’d be interested in working on the project over the next 48 hours.

My team shared with me that one of the reasons they wanted to work on my idea was because of the brief story I told during my pitch. I’d shared a personal experience—and an idea on how to solve the challenges I’d faced.

We had a team! We worked incredibly hard to produce our Minimum Viable Product by Sunday afternoon when… I pitched again!

Tip #3: Practice, practice, practice, and then practice

It might seem that five minutes is not that much longer than one minute… but it is an eternity when you’re pitching to judges and an audience. It’s easy to get nervous, so the best thing that you can do is to go into the pitch with a solid plan: what are you communicating, why is your product important, and who is on the team behind the product.

Whether you’re a nervous wreck when speaking in public or not, practicing your pitch out loud will really help the delivery of your idea. I’ve practiced by talking to a wall, staring myself down in a mirror, practicing with a roommate, or sharing with my dog. They’re all great ways to understand how your written words and presentation will play to a live audience.

One of the best things about Startup Weekend is that there are always amazing volunteer coaches that help teams prepare to pitch their idea to the judges—and the audience. I strongly advise teams to schedule blocks of time with these wonderful coaches.

(You can still pitch to your dog, if you’d like!)

Tip #4: Be yourself

One of Startup Weekend’s co-organizers is notorious for “rocking” when speaking in public. It’s not just that he’s nervous, it’s also that he likes to move around. If you’d prefer to walk and talk rather than stand behind the podium, by all means, do it! Be yourself.

You don’t have to use GRE vocabulary or master the thousands of educational acronyms and hashtags that appear on Twitter in order to make a good impression on judges and the audience. No one will remember that you used forty-two four syllable words in your pitch… they’ll remember how passionately you presented your idea and product.

What’s your style? My style was to re-share my personal story, talk about my team, and show lots of visuals to assist. Oh – and we brought props. The audience didn’t remember exactly what I said, but we made sure they could summarize our idea into a Tweet, and that they knew how passionate we were about the concept.

Tip #5: Everyone will support you at Startup Weekend

One of the most inspiring facts about Startup Weekend is that everyone involved enthusiastically supports each other. Volunteers genuinely want to help you on your quest to build a viable product. Coaches take hours out of their weekends to advise you on business modeling, go-to-market strategy, software development, user design issues, and prototyping.

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Organizers invest dozens of hours into ensuring that everyone is well fed, well caffeinated, and 100% supported to pursue a startup idea.

(Photo: The idea we pitched at TSW: Maker Edition in April 2014. © Jen Riedel)

Without pitching, I would have never been able to move the idea from just some far off fantasy to a baby step closer to reality. Now, I have pitched at several different entrepreneurship events and plan to share more ideas as they come along.

If you have an idea in the back of your head or scribbled down in a notebook, tucked away somewhere, I encourage you to dust the cobwebs off now and pitch it this weekend at Triangle Startup Weekend: Education.

You can do this. I’ll probably be in line behind you, working through my next great idea.

More resources from Jen on giving great pitches:

Jen_Riedel
Jen Riedel is a Triangle area yoga instructor, STEM education instructor, start up community contributor, and photographer. To learn more about Jen’s work visit www.jenriedel.com







Throw Away the Script and 3 Other Ways to Nail Your Pitch

This post originally appeared on the Orate blog. Orate (Startup Weekend DC winner) connects event organizers and public speakers, providing access to more opportunities for both with quality & budget in mind. 

Pitches are difficult; they take time and effort. However, there are some tricks that anyone can use to make this daunting process easier.

Orate participated in The Startup Factory’s Fall 2014 accelerator, which culminated on November 12 with Pitch Day (also referred to as Demo Day). If you didn’t already know, it is an event where the founders of accelerated companies present on their business to a room of investors, advisors, and media. It’s stressful, and obviously, the stakes are high. (Check out the pitches here.)

We spent three weeks preparing for what we anticipated to be among the most intimidating 8 minutes of our lives. Writing scripts, scrapping them, re-writing scripts, practicing, refining, tweaking.

We practiced alone, in front of the managing partners, our team and the other companies. We worked on the pitch literally every day for three weeks. In that time, some very important lessons surfaced that stood true for myself, as well as the four other founders pitching that day.

  • Be yourself. The best presentations were given by every single one of us when we let our guard down a bit and added our own flare to the pitch. Whether that was through facial expressions, changes in tone of voice, or impromptu quips. Doing this not only helps you come across more genuine, but will also makes you feel more comfortable. The #1 piece of advice I’d give to you is to let your personality shine through in your presentation.
  • Throw away your script as early as possible. The earlier you toss the script, the less scripted you will sound in the end, and the easier time you’ll have doing #1. This will also help you adjust your presentation to use words and phrases that feel more natural to you, reducing the risk of stumbling over your words come game time. Focus on the message and ideas you want to convey, and remember there are always multiple ways to do that.
  • If you make a mistake, nobody will know except you. Nobody else knows what you’re going to say, so if you change a word or skip something, the audience has no idea. Just stay confident and keep going. At one point during my pitch I completely forgot what came next. I simply paused, smiled, and made sure to breathe while I gathered my thoughts. It felt like ages that I was silent up there, but it was actually only a few seconds and nobody even noticed. Fun Challenge: Watch the video of my pitch below, and see if you can figure out where this happened. (Email your answer toinfo@orate.me, and we will send you something special if you get it right!)
  • Don’t over practice. My best pitches were always the first or second of the day. The other presenters shared a similar experience. One of them told me there was one day he just kept getting worse, but he wanted to keep practicing until he got it right. Eventually he gave up, and it even negatively affected his practice the next day because he was so nervous that he would have a repeat of the day before. The sweet spot seems to be 1-3 times per day.

Want to impress investors with your next pitch?  Grab the The Startup Factory’s pitch training deck here!








Almost time to pitch!

The grand finale of Startup Weekend is in sight. Teams are wrapping up and preparing their 5 minute pitch, the jury members are sharpening their knives…. Just a quick recap of last two and a half day!

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De elf geselecteerde pitches op Startup Weekend Eindhoven

De geslecteerde 11 pitchesOp moment van schrijven zijn 11 teams hard aan de slag op de High Tech Campus Eindhoven om een idee uit te werken tot een Startup. Vrijdagavond zijn deze 11 ideeën gekozen uit maar liefst 32 pitches.

In dit filmpje komen deze concepten in één zin nog een keer voorbij, uit de mond van de bedenker.

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Half Baked: Warming up Startup Weekend Eindhoven

Half Baked: woorden kiezenOnze facilitator Wout Laban wist de energie op vrijdagavond, dag 1 van Startup Weekend Eindhoven, goed op te zwepen. Alvorens de daadwerkelijke pitches aan de beurt waren, verraste hij de zaal met het spel Half Baked. Dat werkt zo:

  • De zaal wordt opgedeeld in tien teams, door simpelweg te tellen. 1, 2, 3, …
  • Elk team moet om beurten in totaal twee woorden roepen.
  • Vervolgens door simpelweg te wijzen kiest elk team een leider
  • Die leider sprint naar voren en probeert zijn teamnummer bij twee toffe woorden te zetten. CHAOS.
  • Elk team heeft uiteindelijk tweemaal zijn nummer bij een woord
  • En mag dan met die twee woorden een startup bedenken.
  • Daarvoor hebben ze vijf minuten de tijd.
  • En in die tijd moet er een logo, naam en strategie bekend zijn.
  • Ook dit moet gepitched worden, in 30 seconden….

Alleen de jurering ontbrak, maar dit is eigenlijk Startup Weekend in een notendop.Het resultaat van dit spel op Startup Weekend Eindhoven 2014 zie je in dit filmpje waarin de 10 Half Baked Startups gepitched worden.

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Dag 1 Startup Weekend Eindhoven: EPIC

Voting on Startup Weekend EindhovenDe start van Startup Weekend Eindhoven 2014 was epic. Een energetische start met het spel ‘Half Baked’, grote diversiteit aan pitches, vaak met een focus op een sociaal aspect, en heel mooi: voor veel deelnemers hun eerste Startup Weekend. In harde cijfers:

  • ruim 65 deelnemers: een perfect aantal.
  • 32 pitches, bijna de helft had een idee. Soms pas in de zaal bedacht…
  • 11 geselecteerde ideeën en dus teams.

Die elf teams zijn na de selectie meteen hard aan de slag gegaan. Wie zit er in ons team, waar zijn we goed in? En hoe gaan we verder? Sommige teams hadden tegen 12 uur ‘s nachts al de grove lijnen uitgezet van hun bedrijfsplan, anderen maakten er nachtwerk van. Filmpje!

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Vandaag start de tweede dag met een ontbijt en potje yoga voor nieuwe energie. ‘s Middags volgen sessies waarin de teams gebruik kunnen maken van mentoren uit diverse vakgebieden. Dat alles moet leiden tot een geweldige presentatie van een startup op zondag.

Om 16:30 starten die eindpresentaties. Daar kun jij ook bij zijn: meer info en gratis aanmelden op de website van Startup Weekend Eindhoven.








Perfecte pitch: Zorg voor een pakkende naam voor je Startup

NametagDaar sta je dan. De pitch bij de start van Startup Weekend Eindhoven. Je hebt een minuutje om je idee over de bühne te brengen en daarmee genoeg mensen enthousiast te krijgen dat ze met jou dat concept willen uitwerken. Alle woorden op je spiekbriefje heb je zorgvuldig gekozen. Zelfs het uitspreken van je eigen naam heb je 42 maal geoefend voor de spiegel. En de naam van je idee? Hoe ga je die noemen?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

De romanticus onder u herkent dit citaat meteen: deze woorden komen uit Romeo & Juliet. Maakt een naam veel uit voor de inhoud? Vanuit communicatie kun je hier nog naar kijken vanuit het Joyce of Juliet principe. Moet je merk meteen duidelijk zijn bij het zeggen van de naam (Joyce) of gebruik je een naam die je door uitleg de juiste associaties (Juliet) meegeeft?

In deze tijd lijkt Joyce voor de hand te liggen. Handig voor je domeinnaam en SEO. Maar ook daar zijn de meningen al over verdeeld. De juiste lading (door content en links) zorgt voor het beste resultaat, ongeacht de naam. Juist een ‘gefantaseerde’ naam kan een mooi gevoel meegeven, waar een inhoudelijk duidelijke naam niet gehele tijdloos is en mogelijk al de verkeerde associaties heeft. En welke taal dan? Maar vooral ook al snel … saaaaaai.

Voorbeelden en een naamgenerator

Voorbeelden zat van (merk)namen die op een van deze principes drijven, en ook de nadelen ondervonden. Waar denk jij aan bij de volgende namen? Joyce, Juliet, positief, negatief, gericht op inhoud of juist emotie?

  • Coca Cola
  • Launchrock
  • Evoluon
  • Microsoft
  • Rockstart
  • Google
  • TU/e
  • NextOEM
  • High Tech Campus
  • Apple
  • Fiat Croma
  • Fontys
  • Usine
  • Startup Weekend

Het blijft een lastige keuze. Gelukkig heeft Mashable twee mooie artikelen gepubliceerd over de afwegingen bij het kiezen van een naam en 16 tips om deze te genereren. Als naamgenerator heb ikzelf Naminum in gebruik. Deze genereert op basis van de ingevoerde woorden een hele reeks aan ideeën. Letters omgewisseld of vervangen, andere voorvoegsels of eindes. Misschien niet perfect, maar kan wel net dat zetje geven om los te komen.