A Mobile Enthusiast’s Recap of DEMOfall 09 & Presentation Tips for Start-ups

October 1, 2009 by Lisa Oshima | Consulting, Events, Financing, Mobile, Social Media

I was excited to be the eyes and ears for Wireless Internet Partnerships (WIP) at DEMOfall 09 in San Diego last week – especially since WIP has been a DEMO marketing partner for years. Below, I recap my thoughts on the latest DEMO from a mobile enthusiast’s perspective and offer a few presentation tips for start-ups based on what I saw at the show…

It was the 25th and final DEMO conference produced by Chris Shipley, but it was the first of many to come for co-producer Matt Marshall, editor and CEO of VentureBeat. The change in leadership brought with it format changes – including the addition of 90-second “AlphaPitches” by early-stage start-ups, which complimented the longer, 6-minute pitches from more mature start-ups.

Over the past 13 years, many technology start-ups have debuted products at DEMO including Palm, Inc., VMware, WebEx, iRobot, Salesforce.com, Danger Research, Adobe Systems, SixApart, and others. DEMO alumni from 15 such companies were honored at DEMOfall 09 with “Lifetime Achievement Awards,” and the conference was buzzing until the end with guest appearances.

Expectations for new products at DEMOfall 09 were high, and the event didn’t disappoint. Of the nearly sixty companies that debuted new products, seven received “DEMO God” awards. Five were traditional start-ups, and two were “AlphaPitch,” early stage start-ups:

  • Emo Labs: Edge Motion speaker technology with ‘zero-footprint’.
  • Intelius’ DateCheck: iPhone app that lets you screen your date – do a criminal check and more – just with a phone number.
  • Zorap: Live video chat with drag and drop sharing of photos, music, etc.
  • Hevva’s Local Dirt: a buyers and sellers marketplace that allows you to find local food vendors
  • Twirl TV: A Hulu-esque competitor. See what TV your friends have watched and get recommendations on what to watch next online!
  • Pinyadda (AlphaPitch): “personalized and social content aggregation”
  • ShareGrove (AlphaPitch): Real-time real conversations with your real friends over the web. Enjoy seamless inline sharing of personal and media content.

Two companies also received “People’s Choice” awards, including up to $500,000 in free advertising from IDG:

  • Liaise, Inc. which “automates the capture and management of tasks, issues, dates and priorities buried inside emails” was voted “Best Business Product”
  • Emo Labs (mentioned above).

Surprisingly, only one of the winners of any of the formal awards was a mobile app. – DateCheck From Intelius.  Though a handful of interesting mobile start-ups pitched including:

  • waze, crowd-sourced maps and traffic navigation
  • OrganIP from Digitrad Communications, which includes a mobile address book application that can initiate a VOIP call online with your ‘friends’ on social networks – even when you don’t have their mobile number.
  • CallSpark!, which is focused on improving your mobile dialling experience. CallSpark! vastly improves your address book, so, if you don’t have a number for someone listed in your phone book, CallSpark! searches across the Internet to find matches for your address book search from the Internet (Whitepages, Gmail, Salesforce.com, Facebook, twitter, and more).
  • rseven, which keeps a time line of your mobile activity.

If you’re a start-up thinking of launching your product at a future DEMO, there’s a lot you can learn from this year’s presenters.  As I watched dozens of companies pitch – some expertly and others somewhat naively – the most effective presentations – the ones with impact – shared the following common characteristics:

  • A confident, articulate, and well-practiced presenter.
    • There were a few presenters that ran into technical glitches on stage… I recommend testing everything multiple times before your preso and using your own computer on stage to avoid the risk of encountering changed display settings from previous presenters.
    • If you’re not a native English speaker, don’t be discouraged! Just make sure to practice your pitch repeatedly with a native speaker who can offer feedback and help on your cadence and pronunciation to ensure the crowd will understand you and how great your product is.
  • A compelling value proposition that solves a real problem and an end-to-end solution that makes life easier for the user.
  • A catchy tagline / “30-second elevator pitch” that articulates product value quickly and effectively and makes people feel like your product is solving a real problem.
    • You should have heard the crowd erupt in laughter and applause when Intelius talked about DateCheck’s “sleaze detector.”)
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