Pitching at the Global Tech Symposium at Stanford
Last week, March 25-27, we had the opportunity to present at the Pitch Competition of the Global Technology Symposium at Stanford. We were chosen as one of 6 pre-screened/selected start-ups to present our respective companies. This was perhaps our 5th or 6th stat-up beauty contest that we appeared at, and though experience should have made me calm, I was actually quite nervous. The Global Tech Symposium was quite different from other conferences like TechCrunch50 in that it drew an older, more serious, global crowd (maybe that’s why I was a little more anxious).
The first company to present was Befunky, an Istanbul (Turkey) start-up that “develops applications that empowers everyday people with the ability to breathe new life into their photos and videos, become instant artists in one click, share their creations with the world, do it all without any technical knowhow and complicated software”. Although I wasn’t too impressed with their application, their numbers were quite amazing. The VC panelists thought the same.
The second company was Coda, from the Czech Republic. They were innovating technologies for Self-Inflating Tires. Quite interesting, but the VC’s thought that they needed yet to be proven and to first pass regulatory muster.
I was starting to think that all the companies were from overseas, and was getting some funny line ready to fit in (e.g. “we may not be based overseas, but we are of Korean background, I grew up in Spain, and I used to work at the UN), but fortunately the next company was based in Menlo Park, CA.
Crystal Clear Technologies was a water-purifying tech development company packed with Ph.D.’s. Howard Hartenbaum (August Capital, Skype’s first investor) picked on them for this fact alone, mentioning that companies with many Ph.D’s in the management were not likely to succeed because if they had the patience to go through a Ph.D. program it also might mean that they are too patient to succeed and become big/profitable. Another funny episode from this presentation was when the CEO was showing their financial projections in a slide, but the conversion of the file to Mac (the computer we were using was a Mac) made all the numbers go blurry, and the title on the top was “Crystal Clear Financials” with totally unreadable numbers everywhere.
Next it was us, and once on stage, surprisingly, my nervousness disappeared and I was able to deliver our demo & presentation in a straight-forward fashion. The feedback we received from the judges was that we should have bragged about our numbers/stats a little more (I told them I’d send them the stats later by email) and that I should have given a live demo (instead of showing the Youtube demo, with which I had some technical trouble due to my unfamiliarity with the Mac).
The two remaining start-ups were Sputnik Ecommerce, from San Francisco, providing storefronts and production management web tools for print vendors (neither the judges nor I understood very well the business), and Visuvi, a search engine for images (which seemed to have grander plans than they could swallow).
Many in the crowd came afterward to tell us they thought ours was the best presentation, but at this competition, unlike in American Idol, the crowd’s opinion didn’t matter. In the end, the VC judges deliberated, and they picked Crystal Clear Technologies. I had the chance to talk to some of the judges – 2 of them were already friends, and 2 others I became friends during and after the conference. The sort of inside story was that while Phonevite was one of the favorites, Crystal Clear elicited enough curiosity (i.e. the VC’s didn’t understand the industry well enough to judge it as a potential winner/failure) to become the less controversial and agreeable pick. Oh well…