“Get to the product demo faster.”
“No one cares where you used to work or what you’ve built before.”
“Save the business model part for the Q&A with the judges.”
The secret to making a great startup competition is the rehearsals. I’ve seen some poor presentations from startups at industry events. Event producers figure they can shove a bunch of startup CEOs on stage and magic will happen. It doesn’t work that way. The reason TechCrunch50 companies — including mine — were interesting was that Jason and Tyler went through several rounds of preparation with all of us. I gave the same advice when I co-hosted the NYC Open Angel Forum and I’ve watched Jason groom hundreds of new companies at his LAUNCH Festivals. As a judge or even as an audience member, it’s great that 100% of the presentations are solid. No one is wasting your time.
The biggest surprise at the LAUNCH Festival was that Jason had applied the same rules to his hackathon. The vetting process was strict. Companies couldn’t just send their HR team into the hackathon to buy everyone beer and do recruiting — unless their HR team had been really active on GitHub!
The end result was that all of the hackathon winners were clearly polished enough to share the stage with more mature first and second generation startups, in spite of only being built 48 hours ago.
One of my favorites was the WizzyWig team, now called Designly. These three kids from Pittsburgh built a visual site editing tool and took not only the original hackathon prize money, but additional money from more investors on the spot before they even left the stage.
Their local news covered the big win, including the part where I told them that they should steer clear of the brutal, competitive CMS marketplace. Because I wanted to hire them. I specifically told them that I wanted them to abandon their dreams and come help me follow mine.
It sounds like a joke, but I wasn’t kidding!
The first standalone LAUNCH Hackathon is coming soon. It has a gargantuan $1.6M prize fund. That’s insane. It has to be a record.
I will be there as a mentor, a judge and a talent scout.
I just hope no one checks my GitHub activity.