Of all the DemoDay’s and similar events for Internet tech startups, investors, and influencers, I’ve been to in Canada, I think it’s safe to say that Incubes’ latest can be said to be a true innovator in terms of community engagement.
As the man behind the directing of the stage show and coaching of the startups; I’m biased!
If you’ve seen the buzz around the event, you’ll see that I’m not boasting much, but the secret to our success was actually, our incredible team, and network. It’s about people. The key is having the right people, in their place, with ownership over their roles, focused and inspired. An event like this takes long hours, endless energy, and sweat. People need to believe in what the purpose of the event is to create a success like we did, and everyone involved needs to benefit. Creating win-win scenarios for all mentors, volunteers, sponsors, and supporters is part of the engine behind what we did. You need to create incentive far beyond money. We were all doing something good for our community and for our future.
INcubes is an internet business accelerator which takes promising startups through a three month structured program, towards their first big product launch, which usually involves the raising of the startup’s first round of seed capital. We have twelve companies in our portfolio now, three of which we graduated last DemoDay. We’ve held two DemoDays in the past. This third was at a new level of community response and participation.
The event was private INvite only, and it was difficult for us to turn people away, but we managed to fit three hundred key INvestors, and INfluencers, into the packed venue of the Arcadian loft, downtown Toronto, overlooking city hall for several hours, while a real Canadian snow blizzard raged outside, delaying our keynote speaker Brad Feld’s arrival, until almost the last minute. Brad arrived, rock-star style, just as he was to go on stage.
The engagement was truly INcredible.
What did we do right? Here’s what I think:
We brought in a big-name speaker from outside the Toronto community that people in our circles wanted to meet personally. Brad Feld was a personal contact of Ben’s (Ben Zlotnick, INcubes CEO). Ben and Brad had been chatting on and off since the beginning of INcubes. Brad had successfully built startup communities South of the border, due to his role in Techstars, and he was an inspiration for us in creating the thriving community of startups, investors, mentors, and influencers, that we at Incubes have managed to build here in Toronto over the last year.
An INcredible team
Ben Zlotnick at the helm of it all; with a relentless focus on one-on-one personal investor Relations, I think, is really the reason that this DemoDay had such a targeted turnout and was such a success. Ben’s energy, contacts, and connections are what filled the event. Plus; our latest edition to Incubes management team, Bryan Watson, stepped into the fold just in time to bring his rolodex to bear down on the event and the investor follow-ups afterwards. Admin is key in an event like this, and Robin Whittall kept all from turning to chaos! An event of this proportion, that is a closed invite, with so many strong-willed characters involved… needs patient administration, and someone like Robin to keep on top of the organizing of loose ends and to wrap up the messaging into the community in communications via tweets, blogposts and ridiculously long spreadsheets of contacts.
We kept it INvite Only
This way, the crowd of 300 plus, mostly investors… actually wanted to meet each other as well as the companies. As an investor going to such an event, it does sometimes take more than three potential investments to draw you out. Creating a quality crowd is something we really focused on and it paid off.
The startup pitches were Energetic and Entertaining
Much of my time with each of the startups of Incubes third cohort was spent on their investor presentations. I aligned specialized mentors in to work hands-on with each company and help them, not only fill in any missing pieces, but to really take their presentations and plans to the highest possible level, lead by industry experts and through a relentless due diligence process. There’s nothing like being a young startup team, and having an experienced mentor push you beyond your comfort zone. It’s frustrating, challenging, and very rewarding. The resulting friction, passion, and results, can be seen on stage in the presentations.
The pitches were infused with the Founders True Personalities
Unlike some other accelerators, we did not hire a PR and design agency to create our startup’s presentations. We believe that is not in the best interest of our investors. Investors want to know what a startup team is actually capable of. Being able to execute on a great presentation, is a strong signal of competence. Investors in the space of tech startups, choose to invest, for reasons that are as much around the team itself, as are around the technology or even the market opportunity. They want to see the team for what it is on stage. Our startups, create their presentations themselves, mentored by Incubes Mentor Network.
A fantastic Video kicked off the show
With an inside look at Incubes thanks to No Rules Media and Sanzhar Sultanov. Entertainment is usually the most effective form of marketing. We kept that in mind and put some of the budget for DemoDay towards a video look inside how we reached DemoDay. I have noticed how much people have remembered that, and people are still constantly mentioning it to me, even a month afterwards.
A special note of thanks should go to Brian J. Jackson of ITBusiness.ca for his live broadcast coverage of the event. Online live coverage really helped this DemoDay reach far beyond the walls in which it was held and also provided a venue of engagement for those who could not attend.
If you didn’t attend or watch the live broadcast, here’s a run-down:
TopThat Have you ever been in a situation where you and a friend are trying to one up each other and it turns into a full-blown competition? TopThat allows participants to upload and tag their best images and videos capturing life’s random moments, crazy stunts and top performances and pit them against others to see who can “top that.”
L4NP.com Leaders For Non Profits certifies volunteers for non-profit boards, develops web-based tools that facilitate training, and matches organizations with highly skilled volunteers. Organizations benefit by accessing pools of talented volunteers capable of taking on leadership roles. Volunteers benefit from L4NP through its leadership development certification.
Videogami.co The web-based app is a tool that converts how-to YouTube videos into fully interactive lessons that teach hands-on skills. We provide the tools that content creators can use to produce better online learning experiences.
INcubes is now accepting startup applicants to INtake04 via the website INcubes.ca. We’ll be having another DemoDay this Autumn. If you’d like to be considered for an INvite, contact us closer to the date to be announced shortly.
My advice to those attempting to hold an event like we did around tech startups is to…
Focus On The People involved.
Above-all make sure to have a mechanism in-place to keep the crowd targeted so everyone experiences optimum networking and the most valuable time possible.
It’s about the people!
Feel free to reach out to me personally on this topic in the comments below, and let me know what other INside INformation you’d like me to write about in future posts for ITbuisness.