Our Experience at Techcrunch 52 — Hangout Industries

If you are thinking of submitting your company next year at Techcrunch, here are some learnings that you might incorporate.

  1. Timing is everything
    The key challenge is to still be a stealth company until TC next year. Unless your timing is near perfect, it might not make any sense to wait until TC to launch your company. We could afford to wait and launch since we already had our funding and saw TC as a convenient way to get the word out about the company. Your company may need funding sooner.
  2. Be prepared for lots of chaos
    Both Mike and Jason have day jobs — and it showed. Try as they might, a lot of information was not available until usually the day before or day of the requirement. That is to be expected and if you are not prepared for this level of uncertainty, don’t bother to submit. Every stage from the interviews down through the actual presentation required guts and patience to see it all come together — which it did. Right before we presented Hangout, there was no internet service at all in the building — wired or wireless. It would have been real tough to do a demo without it.
  3. If you are not based on the West Coast, be prepared to fly back and forth a few times to secure a spot.
    West Coast firms have the advantage that they can get down to the Valley on a moment’s notice. Its not so easy with East Coast or overseas firms. But do it anyway. Its worth it.
  4. Read Jason’s tips on presenting
    They are accurate and useful. I would add two more things.

    (1) Make sure your screen can be viewed many rows away. Way too many companies had the equivalent of eye charts for user interfaces, forcing people to squint or just listen with no visuals. Make the visuals work for your presentation  and make them big.

    (2) Say less and say it often in your presentation. Repeat your core message at least 3 times throughout the presentation so that there is no confusion of what you do, the problem you solve and who you solve it for. You want the judges to give you constructive feedback of your product, not feedback on your presentation style (as in “I don’t get what you do!!).

  5. Have a backup demo ready
    We had a video that we actually used in the presentation. If we had to, I could have walked through the video slowly to show what we do.
  6. Wear your company’s t-shirt or logo the day of your presentation.
    Even if you are still very young, people at the show won’t recognize your face, but they will recognize the company name — wear it. We got tons of great interactions from folks who ran into us, because they could see it was us.
  7. Stay on the stage after the presentation
    Again because we were the first panel, there were no instructions as to what to do when the panel finished. Ashton and I both walked off behind the stage, while a bunch of journalists came up looking for each of us. Fortunately, I had a PR guy there who handled the CNET interview, which ended up on CBS Evening News. Very cool.
  8. Do it for the discipline alone
    If you don’t need the money and you don’t really care about launching, do it anyway. Its a great discipline to go through. The process refines your message, gets everyone in the company focused on the same thing. If you can present to TC, you can present anywhere.

Yeah there were glitches and yeah it would have been helpful to know stuff in advance to plan and keep everyone abreast of our status, but it was all worth it. And getting picked up on the CBS evening news was a very cool bonus.

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