One area I’ve been really keen to make the most of, improve and evolve is ensuring our pitching companies have the biggest incentive to apply in the first place and if selected, to put on a great show at the events. I know that if we do that well, our humble little meetup will be known for it’s quality of both the companies and the guests who will come along to see them as a result. And to me, that’s why I’m doing this. Quality wins out at the end of the day.
So, what can you offer to companies as a cash strapped, volunteer supported event? Well, up until now, apart from the exposure and opportunity to pitch to Jason and appear on an episode of TWiST, the answer is very little (unless you also count tickets to Launch for the last meetups success stories).
But things are moving in the right direction and off the back of the event’s success, the buzz around London tech right now and growing popularity of This Week in Startups, I’ve been inundated with sponsorship inquiries and offers of support, which has been really gratifying. While we figure out what to do with them on a local level, this news actually comes from the support we’re now getting from our friends at This Week In. And, more importantly, their headline sponsors!
So, we can all thank, in a Jason monkey stylie “OOooohhh, OOooooOOOhh, Aaaahhhh, Aaahaaah”, our friends at Mailchimp who have donated 50,000 credits to the eventual winner of TWiSTldn #4. Now, I have a feeling it’s not going to stop there and we’ll have some more news on the prize front coming up…
Well, what can I say? What a show, what an event, what a bunch of great people, companies and ideas.
And what a response. It’s fair to say that London’s selected companies did us proud, when Tripbod, YReceipts, GoingGoingBike and Minutebox truly represented a vibrant and growing tech-scene evolving in and around London. I know Jason and Tyler were blown away by the companies and their representatives, to the extent that, if it were feasible, I think Jason would have pulled his cheque book out and invested more than once live on the show. I think everyone thought that was going to happen when Tripbod stepped up first and got an immediate and extremely positive response.
Surprisingly and rather wonderfully, all 7 companies – even the ones that didn’t get to pitch live – Iconic.fm, Adavengers, and UbiCabs (which by the way were also incredibly impressive) – were invited to attend as Jason’s guests at the upcoming Launch Conference, taking place 23/24th February at the San Francisco Design Centre.
Thanks to Taylor Wessing, in particular Guy Morgan, for the AMAZING location, with beautiful views from the 10th floor across the London skyline. Thanks to Mick Coulter once again for his help with the video and still photography.
I’m going to save the full autopsy for the individual pitch videos, so for now, I’ll just leave you to enjoy one of the BEST TWiST Episodes ever!
The winning pitch on the night, as voted by the audience, will then get the opportunity to pitch LIVE to Jason Calacanis, Tyler, the shows guests, and the Global TWiST audience. You’ll be representing London against the winners of the other European Cities.
We’re working on the additional incentives for the pitching companies, but as nothing is confirmed yet, we’ll not over sell it. Even without anything else, you’ll agree this is not to be missed!
This will be a ticket only event – get yours by visiting our Eventbrite page. Hurry, there’s a limited supply.
There’s been quite a bit going on behind the scenes with the TWiST guys, both over in Santa Monica, around Europe and with our small team in London. While out on one of my mind-cleansing runs in the countryside where I live, I was able to step out of the discussions and think a bit more about the overall opportunity that I see forming around the This Week in Startups banner. I must have been getting short of oxygen by this point, because I started to rationalise a comparison or perhaps a competitor to what has become a fast growing industry – startup incubation.
Humour me, if you will.
So, we have This Week in Startups. Most likely if you’re reading this site, then you’ll know what this is, if not, I wont go into detail here – just pop along to This Week In and be prepared to watch one of the most recent shows and then be compelled to go back through the 100+ archive shows until you’ve caught up.
This Week In Startups is the PR engine. An inclusive, highly consumable media format that enables host Jason Calacanis and his core team to get their core passion of helping startups and entrepreneurs to succeed in their efforts. With the help of seasoned pros, recent success stories and people of notable interest, the entrepreneurial community has a fantastic resource at hand, even if the extent of their participation is to sit back, relax and watch the shows.
Not that it ends there. The format of the show itself is highly interactive, whether it be Jason’s “unique” style of in-content advertising, encouraging viewers to “thank the sponsors” via whatever social media tool they have at hand. There is a lively chat room and social media stream throughout the show, via the U-stream channel.
And for those compelled or incentivised to take the first in what will be many available steps, viewers can become callers in either the Ask Jason or Shark Tank segments. Both are geared towards establishing a relationship with Jason and the audience, an opportunity not-to-be missed for entrepreneurs who truly have something to say or ask. Now, the feedback isn’t always what is hoped for, but it is candid, honest and ultimately useful nonetheless – as Jason, Tyler, guests and audience rate the pitch and the idea.
Still in a fairly infantile state, the TWiST-backed meetup groups that are forming around the world, much like our very own TWiSTldn, offer a much more personal and intimate interaction between entrepreneurs, and increasingly, the local investment community. An extension of the in-show “Shark Tank” format, the meetup groups are a combination of informal get together among peers for a pint after work, and the opportunity for early stage startups around the world to take the stage and present their idea, concept or business.
Keeping to the format, companies are rated on idea and pitch by the audience in attendance, via various crude but nonetheless indicative means involving hand raising, post-it notes and other not very inventive means. Then, based on an agreed verdict, the winner from each “real world” event then gets to represent their city in a regional “Pitch-Off” live on a This Week in Startups broadcast.
All pitching companies become part of the TWiST alumni, and as such, will benefit from the on-going relationship with TWiST representatives, attendees, investor friends and advisors. The winning companies from the cities and regions (Europe, USA, Asia Pacific etc.) will be awarded some kind of on-going benefit, as yet undefined. But, with the progression of some of the other areas of the TWiST network, we can hypothesise and start to build a picture.
Events offer at least a quarterly opportunity for companies to present their company among the local startup community, with the potential for more frequent meetups in between to build a closer and more regular dialogue to aid the progression of idea to alpha…
Open Angel Forum
The Open Angel Forum started as a war against the un-ethical practises of charging entrepreneurs for access to (questionably) qualified investors, in order for them to pitch their business and raise money. Jason was fairly vocal about his rationale (culminating in a fascinating TWiST episode here) but the end result was a rival event that would right the wrongs. The Open Angel Forum is an event for invited investors and any entrepreneurs that apply. The resulting party is a bunch of people brought together solely on merit. The Investors are pre-qualified and selected. There is a high chance that if you do your thing, and you crush the event, then you will get funded to some extent, by someone. Therefore, Open Angel Forum companies are usually a little further down the line than the one’s you’ll see on the Shark Tank or taking the stage at a local TWiSTldn event, but not far enough away that there isn’t a logical progression between them as part of the evolutionary process.
Typically the Open Angel Forum will only visit a city once or twice a year, especially outside of the USA. Cities visited in 2010 included San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, London, Seattle & Boulder.
OK, so we’ve seen the shows, we established ourselves in our local entrepreneurial scene, we’ve maybe even raised a few quid from some fairly impressive Angels through the OAF or our local investor network. But, how do we get to market in the best way possible? A way that will generate buzz, build momentum and provide the shot in the arm that will give your business a platform to build from in its early months and years? How do we LAUNCH?
You may not have heard of LAUNCH. You may have heard of the Techrunch 50 Conference. You may have heard of companies like Mint.com, Local Bacon, Red Beacon, AnyClip, ODesk, Swype, Causecast, Yammer, Powerset, Flock, DocStoc to name a few, who have appeared in or in some cases, actually won the event.
So Techcrunch 50 is no more (we won’t go into that) but what is now taking its place is LAUNCH.
Located at the San Francisco Design Centre, 23rd/24th February 2011 LAUNCH is set to be the platform for many more of the next generation of companies to be released on the world. The question is, should that be your company?
Coming back to my original train of thought, if you are an entrepreneur, if you live it every day, then you’ll be watching and taking part in This Week in Startups. If you are real about your idea and your intentions towards success, then you’ll be seeking every opportunity to reach out among your local community of like minded people. If you have something to show, something to talk about, something to promote in order to attract a team, get feedback and advice (which is a great way to attract the following), get investment, then the TWiST local meetup groups are not to be missed. If you have built something that you want to get to the next level, then through the OAF, you have access to some of the highest quality and well qualified investors around to present to. If you’ve built something awesome and you’re looking to hit the ground running, no need to look further than LAUNCH.
So what part of that doesn’t sound like an interesting rival concept to a Y!Combinator, Techstars, Seedcamp or whatever…?
So, 2010 was a pretty interesting year, given the state everything economic and political – but we wont get into that else we’ll be here all night and well, it’s not our place. So long as we’re focussed on our businesses, our ideas, our teams and our opportunities, actually the decisions made by others which are beyond our control (or rational, objective thinking – OK couldn’t resist a small dig) will actually have a much lesser effect on our outcomes.
So 2011 lies ahead. And what do we make of that?
Well, as far as TWiSTldn is concerned, 2011 could be big. But before I get into that, let’s just quickly whistlestop 2010′s events and learnings.
TWiSTldn #1 – The first meetup was a last minute, hurriedly pulled together, but nonetheless successful get together orchestrated by James Kennedy. The bar was set pretty high from the off by the standard of the pitching companies, most noteably by the eventual winner and Live Show representative GnuTrade (check out the upcoming update about GnuTrade’s progress), but also HipSnip, Ovia, PureCause and AllJoinOn. It was great to see everyone who turned out, including This Week in Tech regular Wil Harris.
TWiSTldn #2 – Moving venue, change of organiser, and 4 new pitching companies, TWiSTldn episode two could’ve easily gone horribly wrong. Moving to trendy Camden Town’s “The Collective”, our pitching companies really picked up where the last bunch left off. Winner on the night Sally Broom from Tripbod left a lasting impression, especially with one TWiSTldn attendee (read about that here) and I’m proud to announce, a new member of the TWiSTldn organising team, Colin Hayhurst. Also giving their all were This is Open, Teamly and CampingNinja. With no live show appearance on offer, it was very humbling to see the effort given by the pitching companies and those who made the effort to attend.
TWiSTldn #3 – The one that never happened. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, we found that unlucky number 3 was the first casualty of an optimistic attempt to hold monthly meetups straight off the bat. Disappointingly, I had to take the regrettable decision to postpone the meetup. Well, not regrettable because it just wasn’t going to happen, but you know what I mean.
But, we have kept in touch with many of the attendees and the companies from the other events and the UK contingent who watch the live show continues to represent. So well thought of is the London tech scene, that Jason and Tyler made their way over for an Open Angel Forum event in October, coinciding with an appearance at FOWA (Future of Web Apps).
And the mood has been lightened and the competitive juices stoked further with a regular dose of startups poker, hosted by the OVIA guys. The last event, which took place at TechHub in Shoreditch was well worth the visit, raised a bit of cheddar for charity and gave the lucky winner an enviable opportunity to luncheon with Techcrunch Europe‘s Mike Butcher. Something tells me he was pitched to a frenzy on that one…
Well, I can tell you, that we are really optimistic that this trend will continue into 2011 and beyond. And so we have decided to knuckle down, huddle up and get organised to make TWiSTldn an even better networking event and soapbox opportunity for startups around the UK. As I said earlier, joining me to make this happen is South East Business Innovation & Growth‘s Colin Hayhurst and fellow entrepreneur and former TWiSTldn pitcher, Dimitar Stanimiroff from OVIA.me (keep tuned in for an OVIA update shortly aswell). With Colin’s connections between entrepreneurs and investors, and Dimitar’s on the ground support, we’ve got a crack team.
Better than that, we are aiming for some pan European co-operation, to form an empowered TWiST Europe alliance. I can’t give too many details right now, but check back regularly to find out how the pan-European meetups are going to take over the This Week in Startups live show in 2011! Such is the weight of this alliance, that the guys at This Week In have sat up and taken notice.
We’ve got the go ahead from Jason himself to schedule at least a quarterly European meetup with Live show hook up. We are in talks about how we can best incentivise and inspire a continued quality of entrepreneur and startup to get involved, put their best foot forward and benefit from the TWiST European and Global network – which includes This Week In Startups Show, TWiST meetups, Open Angel Forum and the LAUNCH conference. But in the meantime, I am working closely with Kirsten Winkler from TWiST Paris and the other city’s organisers, including Hamburg, Berlin, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Brussels and others to properly co-ordinate our efforts and build a network we can be proud of.
So enough of the teaser, as I’m aware there are no committed details here, purely hype and speculation, though I assure you efforts are afoot. All I ask is that you keep in touch through Twitter @TWiSTldn and spread the word.
Happy new year. Best wishes for all of your entrepreneurial activities this year.
It feels like only yesterday we were congratulating Sally Broom from Tripbod for her outstanding performance and should we add, winning performance at our last TWiSTldn meetup. Such was the warm reaction to both Sally’s business idea and execution to that date, it was clear that it Sally herself – the bright and wonderfully cheerful character who was equally as passionate, resourceful and intensely focussed on her product and captured a lot of people’s attention.
Sally Broom Presents Tripbod
Well, it appears non more-so than another TWiSTldn attendee and sounding board for the entrepreneurial community, Colin Hayhurst. For those of you who do not know Colin, he is a Portfolio Director for the South East Business Innovation and Growth Team and a successful entrepreneur in his own right with at least one notable exit under his belt (Century Dynamics, sold in 2005 to ANSYS (NASDAQ: ANSS)). In his current role, Colin has talked about how he is in somewhat of a conflict between his passion for advising & helping entrepreneurs and his personal interest & acknowledgement of the opportunity in actually investing in them.
So it was a very pleasing surprise to hear that we at TWiSTldn, in our early days of cupidesque match-making of investors and entrepreneurs, having plunged our startup arrow into the heart & head of two particularly worthy people; Colin Hayhurst, investor, and Sally Broom (and her business partner and co-Founder Liz), entrepreneur, are in some humble way to thank (of which Colin has graciously done). Colin announced on his blog this week that he had invested in Tripbod, Sally and Liz’s travel company following their initial meetup and after a period of informal consultation. The nature of the deal was not disclosed. In fact, Colin’s post on this subject is well worth a read, for two reasons – 1) if you’re interested in how this deal came about and tips for entrepreneurs looking for investment partners, with one pretty clear message “If you need money, ask for advice” and 2) if you’re interested in finding out what Tripbod is and why he as an investor took the leap and has determined that he can add the value that Sally and Liz need to grow their business.
Colin Hayhurst, investor in Tripbod
So we’ll take a second to don our caps to Colin, Sally and Liz and wish them all the best with their venture together, and we look forward to updates on their progress which we have no doubt, will prove a success.
We’ll be checking in with some of the other previous TWiSTldn companies, such as Meetup 1 winners Gnu Trade, OVIA.me, HipSnip and PureCause, over the coming weeks to see how they’ve progressed since our Summer events and we’ll be getting back on the case with planning more TWiSTldn meetup events in 2011.