“There is no other event where you’ll have the opportunity to hear 3 minute pitches from 50 startups in a day.” – Startup Riot
Once a year in Atlanta, GA there is gathering of entrepreneurs from around the world itching to tell the anyone with ears about their business ideas. OK, well they really are trying to get the attention of some investors (institutional, corporate VCs, and angels). There is ever room for larger companies looking for fresh ideas to either acquire or work a partnership deal. Unfortunately I personally have not had a chance to attend yet, but I caught up with someone who has. Hear his story about Startup Riot 2010:
RedMaven: Who is Andrew (Andy) Watson?
Andy: I’m a software engineer originally from Orlando. I’ve worked for huge companies like Federal Express and Cox Communications and also at small startups like MindComet. I enjoy creating things and have a knack for solving problems.
RedMaven: Almost everyone thinks they’ve had a great idea for a product or business, but complained that no one would ever take them seriously, let alone give them money for it. What enticed you to attend StartUp Riot?
Andy: I’ve wanted to start a company for a long time. I graduated from the Executive MBA program at Georgia Tech in December 2005. As part of that program we built a business plan around technology developed at Georgia Tech. I found the entire prcess fascinating and it was at that point that I decided I wanted to start my own company. A friend invited me to attend StartupRiot in 2009. While I was sitting in the audience that year I became determined to be a presenter in 2010. This year I was up there on stage.
RedMaven: Were you nervous the first time you attended? How did you get past it?
Andy: The first time I attended StartupRiot I was just in the audience. It was incredibly exciting and I was intensely jealous of the founders who were up on stage. This year I was presenting and I was very nervous. I had spoken at conferences and in front of large crowds before but I never had this much at stake before. Add to that Robert Scoble, Bo Peabody, CNN and 400 people and it’s a little intimidating! The best thing for me was going to Startup Gauntlet the night before. I got great feedback on my pitch and a lot of encouragement from Jeff McConnell, Keith McGreggor and Paul Freet.
RedMaven: Describe the atmosphere at the venue.
Andy: The venue was electric. It was literally buzzing with excitement. At one point in the exhibit hall I had to shout to be heard. You could feel the excitement from people as the met other entrepreneurs and thought of new ways to combine their technologies together. It was frenetic. If it had lasted for 24 hours I would have stayed the whole time. I talked so much that day I almost lost my voice.
RedMaven: What did you do to prepare for the event?
Andy: We printed out lots of business cards. I moved our database to Amazon’s RDS in case we got slammed with traffic. I setup a special phone number to show off our features but I forgot to mention it during my pitch.
RedMaven: If your intentions are to secure funding, beyond the 3 minute presentation, how would you suggest approaching potential investors? What are some of your do’s and don’ts?
Andy: Well, we weren’t trying to raise capital this year but if we had been, I would have tried to network with investors in advance by talking to my advisors at ATDC. Find out what investors have made investments in your space recently. Find a way to get introduced to them before the event. Find out what it takes for them to invest in a company. Find a way to meet those criteria or have a plan to meet them. Be ready to demonstrate either proven experience (successful exit) or traction (paying customers).
RedMaven: Any funny stories that you have come across while at StartUp Riot? Either personal or something you heard about at the event.
Andy: When I showed up at the event I thought I was speaking in the after-lunch group. I planned on having a few beers at lunch to calm my nerves. I thought I would have time to rehearse, practice, re-write, rehearse again. The only problem? I wasn’t in the after-lunch group at all. I was in the first group. I was THIRD. Somehow the lists of people had gotten scrambled. Nobody was in the slot they though they were in. So I was sitting up in the front of the theater going over my outline and I didn’t even realize I was sitting next to Ben Dyer who I’ve wanted to meet in real life for a while. I was a little pre-occupied. I thought I was ready to go. I had even worked in a line that made reference to Bo Peabody’s keynote. Then Ben was done. He started walking off the stage and my mind went BLANK. I did alright though and in retrospect it was good that I went early so I could get it over with.
RedMaven: Haha, wow! Ok, so looking to next year, if you plan to attend again, what, if anything, are you planning to do differently?
Andy: I would definitely invest in signage. We didn’t have any and I think it made us harder to find and we didn’t show up in any of the CNN footage of the event.
We also could have done better about having our demo up and running on my laptop on the table. We’ll get better at the trade show thing over time.
RedMaven: What is the best advice you would give entrepreneurs interested in attending StartUp Riot as a presenter?
Andy: DO IT. Seriously. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re not ready. You’re as ready as you’re ever going to be. Boil your business down to its essentials. Come up with 4 VERY simple slides and apply to attend. What have you got to lose?
RedMaven: Can you tell us about any future projects your are working on?
Andy: We’re currently working on extending OtherNumber into some vertical markets like Real Estate where we can build out special functionality to meet their very specific needs. We’re also working on an integration with Chirbit to allow post audio clips on Twitter by making phone calls.
RedMaven: What is the best way for our readers to get in contact with you, follow you, etc…?
Andy: My twitter handle is @andrewwatson and we post company updates with @othernum. Our company website is http://othernum.com/ and you can find a million ways to contact us on our About Page (http://othernum.com/about/)