Three ways large tech conferences could be a gamechanger for your startup

… And how to make the most of them!

October is upon us and with the end of the year approaching quickly, as a startup founder now is the time to kick your goals! Summer may be over but that doesn’t mean the good vibes are; in the next few months some of the largest Tech conferences for Startups will take place including SaaStock in Dublin, Unleash in Amsterdam, Web Summit in Lisbon, Slush in Helsinki, MWC in Barcelona; the list is endless!

With tickets and exhibition spots usually sold at steep prices, you’ll probably think twice – and read our other post first – as a startup founder before forking out the money of your scrappy startup budget to attend one of these events. And if you do, odds are you’ll lose focus in the sea of people, presentations and activities. So how can you use these conferences to turbocharge your startup journey and how do you prepare to make the most of them?

Connect at Tech Conferences

With a mixed audience consisting of startups, investors, blue chip companies, tech pioneers and media outlets these large conferences have got you covered, no matter where you are in your startup journey. Looking to learn about best startup practices and figure out how to get your idea off the ground? Head over to the exhibition area and learn from the hottest startups on the planet and how they turned their idea into a reality.

Are you an established startup looking to pilot or partner with leading brands and get feedback on your product? With many blue-chip companies attending these events in search of the latest trends and technologies this is the place to make your move. And once you’ve sealed the deal, don’t forget to get the word out! With an abundance of journalists, bloggers and media seeking for their next startup hero story, large tech conferences are the place to share your story with the world.

Oh, and in case you want to connect with investors to secure your next round of funding; big names like Sequoia, High Tech Gründer Fond (Germany), BPI France, SOS Ventures, Accel Partners and Andreessen Horowitz are returning visitors at several of these events and always on the lookout for the next unicorn, just sayin’.

Our advice? Create a list and reach out to people and companies that could be gamechangers for your business BEFORE the conference, and schedule your meetings to take place during the event. These events are huge, so you’ll want to avoid time wasting and having to find the right people whilst the conference is in full swing. Also, make sure you have your Gaddie pitch practised and ready to go; it’s by far one of the most effective ways to get people interested in your idea.

Discover

However, don’t over-plan and make sure to leave ample time to discover and be inspired! Jet lag tools used by astronauts, educational curricula based on neuroscience and AI, and a social platform integrating AR/VR to enhance brand experiences and consumer engagement; the future is here, and it’s right at these conferences! Like Stephen Hawking said “We stand on the threshold of a brave new world. It is an exciting, if precarious, place to be. And you are the pioneers”. As a startup founder, prepare to discover mind-blowing technologies, get the inside scoop on global trends in innovation and walk away with a ton of inspiration for your own business.

Needless to say; come with an open mind and bring your business cards (for the cool cats a fully charged phone will do) to make the most of random interactions and capture amazing tools and technologies that are relevant to your startup.

Learn

And last but not least, Tech conferences for Startups are the ultimate spot to learn anything about tech (duh!) and innovation. A quick glance over the programming of a few of these events teaches us that this year’s events and speaker line-ups are bigger and better than ever.

Are you looking to disrupt the HR industry and shape the Future of Work with your tech solution? Head over to Unleash to hear from experts in HR, including Margareth Greenleaf from Roche, Carolanne Minashi from UBS and Dominik Hahn from Allianz. Want to learn more about sales and connecting to your customers? Hear from David Gerhardt, VP Marketing of Drift or Martin Afshari-Mehr, Director of Salesforce at SaaStock, a conference focused on SaaS businesses. Operating in the travel business?

Join Web Summit to hear from Gilian Tans, CEO of Booking.com, on how artificial intelligence and machine learning is improving their service and transforming the industry. Looking to learn from the best in venture capital?

At Slush, you can learn from Arlan Hamilton, a remarkable entrepreneur who built a venture capital fund from the ground up, while homeless. Or maybe you would like to hear Cyan Banister, Partner at Founders Fund, who’ll speak at Web Summit. She has made dozens of angel investments over the years, including in Space X, Uber, Niantic, and DeepMind Technologies, which was acquired by Google for more than $500 million. And whilst you’re at it, don’t miss the opportunity to hear from some more unconventional speakers, including one of the greatest soccer players of all time, Ronaldinho, and Buddhist Monk, Author and Humanitarian Matthieu Ricard.

Again, make sure to plan ahead to learn from brilliant minds in your industry but also don’t forget to check out speakers working in completely different fields; they might just share some unexpected gems of wisdom that change your perspective and outlook.

All in all, plenty of reasons to check out our startup events overview , do your research and take your pick… You never know where it might take your startup rocketship!

Check-out also our detailed posts on Commercial Growth:

By Liz Derks

Which events are right for startups?

As a young Entrepreneur, you know that getting out of the office is key to building a relevant network. You know that a the right events for Startups can propel your business where it can thrive and achieve its business goals more efficiently. However, we are always amazed at how much time Entrepreneurs waste attending the wrong events. Are you also tired of not getting what you expect from events?

Why attend an Event in the first place?

Motivation and goals to participate in an event can be diverse but mostly fall into one or several of these categories.

  • Scouting for new ideas, market intelligence and competition
  • Reputation marketing to build credibility as opinion leader & employer in your field
  • Raising funds for your venture and increasing your visibility to Investors
  • Accelerate Customer acquisition and connect with relevant decision makers
  • Influence key policies and decisions within your industry
  • Have fun, combining team building with business related discovery

As with any business decision, in a resources constraint environment, it is foremost important to ensure you have clear goals regarding event participation.

What types of events can you attend?

Of course there are many different types of events available to startups depending on time, resources and costs of participation.

  • Networking & Apero & Meetups
  • Pitching competitions
  • Startup event e.g. Pioneers Festival
  • Hackathon: 1/ 2 or 3 days of rapid prototyping (coding) for project sponsors
  • Tech show: horizontal events covering multiple markets, typically focused on selected technology solutions e.g. Mobile World Congress, CES Las Vegas
  • Trade show: Vertical events covering multiple technologies but focused on targeted market segments e.g. HannoverMesse
  • Accelerator: 2-3-month programs e.g. Kickstart Accelerator, IKEA Rainmaker
  • Incubator: 6-12-18-month program often with co-working spaces

You can check some selected upcoming events for startups here.

Some things to watch-out when picking Events

Whether with customers, investors or partners, it is great to try out some various events formats. However, below are some pitfalls you should be aware of to select the right events for Startups.

  • Being in the spotlight: as Founder, you put yourself in front of your business; you use the venture as a vehicle for you to get visibility and positive reinforcement; this syndrome is likely to appear in pure-play startup events, remote from market challenges
  • Comfort zone: some Entrepreneurs tend to select those events where they know they have an edge; remember that for a deep tech start-up, pitching and winning at tech events might feel great but does not solve key business questions
  • The Booth: getting a booth at an event can be a curse for a startup; A booth is great for established companies to gather partners or customers efficiently. Generally understaffed, startups are better off walking the floor and talking to people
  • If it is Free… you are the Product: many events are popping up financed mainly through corporate sponsors; they are scouting for innovation & ideas but not always with a clear purchasing mandate
  • Vision vs. Market: as you engage on the growth path for your business, you will encounter many challenges along the way. As you do this, be prepared to call “bullshit” on pitch focusing only on “vision”, “paradigm shift”, “disruption”. As your talks shift away from talking about markets, customer and sales so are your chances of building a sustainable business.
  • Selling vs. Discovering: as you start facing commercial challenges, watch out for being stuck in “discovery” event mode; early on you should shape your ideas and technology into a product + pricing proposal you can bring to potential customers
  • Escaping reality: as the business challenges increase, attending Events can become a place of comfort away from the tough reality of the business

Making the most out of your event

  • Selection: take a bit more time to challenge the need to join specific events; look for qualitative assessments and peer recommendation to meet your objectives
  • Priorities: stay focused on key business questions you are trying to answer? Key challenges? Resist the temptation of going to events just because it is free or you “won” a pitching slot! (Remember: if it is free…)
  • Liquidity: most likely you are better off not renting a booth and walking the show; as needed, booking a demo room nearby a larger event can be a great alternative to renting out expensive space on event premises
  • Time: you might leverage the event platform to connect with speakers or participants but decide not to attend in person; this might prove a great compromise to not participating to the event at all
  • Impact: prepare extensively before attending time-intensive events and particularly when you have a targeted audience in mind e.g. Investors or customers; review their specific strategy, focus and priorities so you can be razor sharp in your message
  • Value: a thorough and timely post-event follow-up is critical to getting real value from an event and send a clear execution-focused signal
  • Focus: Events should only be a means to an end; make sure you do a candid post-event lessons learned to inform your business decisions and challenge further event participation.

To execute the right events for Startups, given the lack of transparency, information and reviews, identifying and leveraging the most out of the right events can be a challenge for most Entrepreneurs. The need for exposure to peers, customer, partners or investors should force a sound judgment on to the few events, which a Startup must attend.

To simplify this task for you, sparksense.co provides you with a platform for start-up events here. We would appreciate your suggestions and feedback !

Pricing for Value… not Price

You have spend nights, tears and money to develop a fantastic new Product. Excited, now getting ready to launch it to the market, but there is a big unknown: PRICE! Establishing the right pricing is one of the most critical step for your Venture. Unfortunately, many innovative Startups fail to capture their true value potential because of inadequate pricing.

Avoid common Pricing pitfalls

  • Lowest bid wins it all

    Confronted with uncertainty, many Entrepreneurs are looking for ways to undercut the “market”. It is a common misconception that a low price will increase the likelyhood of success. In reality offering the right Value is key to sustainable success.

  • Do not blindly follow the pricing herd

    There is a large wave of solutions which are being priced through a monthly subscription fee model. While this brings many advantages, your customer group might be used to a very different model e.g. one-time fixed price.

  • Free “Proof of Concept”

    Winning a first customer is a challenge for most new Ventures. Getting a track record has often priority to first revenues. However, offering a Free solution does not demonstrate if you provide true customer value, or confirm Readiness to Pay.

  • Project consulting temptation

    Selling a new solution often requires some pre and post sales consulting. While these consulting revenues help pay the bills, they are not scalable, non-recurring, postpone price discovery and distract valuable resources away from building a great product.

Maximise customer perceived value

Being aware of the pitfalls, implementing Value based pricing for startups is primarly about customer perception.

  1. Anchoring value through a high price point

    It is key to position the Value point for your product as high as possible. This provides an “anchor” for any future reference of value. It also pushes you to offer true benefits. Second it is very difficult to “work your way up” from a low price point.

  2. Match customer value points

    Remember that customer perceived value extends way beyond pricing. This augmented value includes reputation, brand, leadtime or quality. It is an opportunity to revise your Product delivery, Make vs Buy to best match key customer value.

  3. Maximise value from product Features

    Acknowledging that each customer within the defined segment will have different needs, you should take the opportunity to establish a feature-based pricing model. This will further guide your product roadmap towards the most valued features.

  4. Simple pricing to optimise readiness to pay

    From day one, your pricing should support customer readiness to pay. A subscription, % or unit based pricing can enhance the stickiness of your product and bind customers over a longer period of time. Sometimes pricing simplicity can increase customer value.

Implement a successful Value Based Pricing

  1. Define your target customer

    Pricing is a reflection of perceived customer value and hence highly depends upon your target customer base. One helpful framework for this is to use a user Persona.

  2. Assess market value

    Survey and evaluate the customer perceived value for each persona and the product being offered. This includes evaluating the pain points, product features, and eventually readiness to pay.

  3. Validate customer benefits

    Understand how you create value for each customer. It is important to quantify specific process-level benefits derived from cost reduction, higher efficiency or increased quality .

  4. Setting the Price

    Your price will be reflect additional value creation, price of competing solutions or products and value capture strategy e.g. Premium pricing. You might include feature-based or subscription based pricing as appropriate.

  5. Lean Pricing method

    Continuously gather specific pricing feedback and market intelligence to narrow down which features ‘ideal customer profiles’ will value the most. This will also allow to fine tune the value capture and pricing, particularly important in rapidly evolving Software markets.

A Quick Guide to Value-Based Pricing, Harvard Business Review

What is Value-Based Pricing?

I like to use this definition: “Value-based pricing is the method of setting a price by which a company calculates and tries to earn the differentiated worth of its product for a particular customer segment when compared to its competitor.” Read along

In essence, shifting to a Value-based pricing model will not only maximize profits but more importantly foster an on-going understanding of your customer value proposition. For some it might come as a surprise on what customers truly value, focusing on product features you didn’t know were important .

We are curious to hear back from you and your specific experience as you implement this value-based pricing for your business!

Smart fundraising for Tech Startups

We receive many investment requests from Technology Startups, Impact investing to even ICO’s. Some have great businesses to share; others underestimate the trap of fundraising for Tech Startups Seed or Series A financing.

We talk with Balz Roth, a professional Business Angel, investor and board member for SMEs and technology startups. Various successful exits of technology startups to companies like Intel (Lemoptix), Monolithic Power Systems (Sensima) and Everyware (Safe Swiss Cloud). Balz is also a Venture Partner at Go Beyond, an international business Angel Network.

This podcast provides hands-on, practical insights and tools towards a successful Fundraising for Tech Startups:

  • Do I really need 3rd party money to achieve my goals?
  • Which Investors are most likely to be a good fit for my Business and development stage?
  • Key steps towards a great first Investor meeting and the first Term Sheet
  • Critical ways how to take the relationship further and get through Closing

He draws from his broad investment,Venture Capital and Entrepreneurship experience to provide exciting insights, practical examples and answer live questions.

A good Fundraising for Tech Startups takes following aspects into account:

  • Typical company profile for a 3rd party equity investment
  • Achievements and track record for Seed vs. Series A
  • When is a good time to talk valuation?
  • When do convertible loans make sense?
  • Product vs. Licensing business model Timing
  • Risk & Return expectations

Further key items to bear in mind include:

  • How much Bootstrapping is good for business?
  • Customer-driven funding
  • Non-dilutive sources and grants
  • Business Angels vs. VC sweet spots?
  • How / when to engage with a Strategic investor? Sources of funding
Customer Cash to Finance Your Start-Up, Harvard Business Review

Airbnb is one of the most celebrated start-ups of the past decade, and its creation story is well-known: In 2007 two design school graduates dusted off some air mattresses and rented out space in their San Francisco apartment to conference attendees who couldn’t find hotel rooms, netting $1,000. A year later they made national headlines by helping people find lodging during the Democratic National Convention in Denver. By 2012 Airbnb had raised $120 million in venture funding and was valued at more than $1 billion. But familiar as this story may be, an often-overlooked fact is essential to understanding the company’s success: The business model is structured so that advance customer cash helps finance growth, making Airbnb less dependent than many other start-ups on early outside funding. Read along here.

Check-out also our detailed posts on Fundraising and Commercial Growth:

Investment Teaser Startup guide for Venture Capital

How to put together a great Investment presentation for your Startup!

We receive many investment requests. Some from B2B Technology Startups, others for Impact investing. Some with great businesses to share while others underestimating the trap of Seed or Series A financing.

Indeed, Fundraising can be a substantial distraction from getting your business off the ground. Check out also experience from a Business Angel.

Hence, we put together this Investment Teaser Startup Guide to increase your Equity Fundraising success.

Why spend time on your Teaser?

Your “Teaser” is the first document to share with an Investor. Hence, it should be concise and cover key business aspects. It can be packaged in a traditional PowerPoint, a 2-pager or sometimes a Video.

A Teaser is a great way for a new business to have its stuff together, paraphrasing Marc Andreessen in his Essay – It’s time to Build.

It includes market, products, value proposition, business model and funding needs. This forces your team to put down on paper its Venture snapshot.

Wait ! Can you be a Customer-funded business?

First, remember that most companies created each year do NOT get any Venture Capital funding. Second, John Mullins customer-funding strategy can be extremely successful for many Ventures. Are you one of these?

Else, download your copy of our Investment Teaser Startup guide below.

Investment Teaser startup guide

The Power of your Investment Teaser

Dig deeper ? some great perspectives and insights

We have seen a lot of guidance produced on Fundraising for Startups. From our experience, we recommend the following reads:

Entrepreneur | Your Startup Can Thrive Without VC
Guy Kawasaki | The Only 10 slides you need in your pitch
John Mullins| The Customer-funded Business
Gust | Accelerator Report 2016
Pitchbook | Venture Capital Europe Report