It's been a crazy few months since Trustev climbed out from behind the curtain in January and eventually launched at Techcrunch Disrupt NYC in May but one of the questions that we're frequently asked is where do we find the time to attend events, enter competitions and make appearances to promote Trustev and why we do it.
LIke everything else to do with a startup, if its important, you find the time and to us it's incredibly important. It's about the opportunity to take our product out from the office and development floor and into the public. Its about getting decent feedback from the public, from potential customers, potential investors and generally getting a feel for whether we're heading in the right direction.
Preparing to present about your product has one massive plus - it forces you to make decisions. When you start in a startup you have multiple roads you could travel to solve the problem and arrive at the destination. When you sit in your office bubble there's a danger that you over think or, worse still under think your solutions. Once you're happy with the basics, get it out there. It's often said that if the first iteration of your product doesn't embarrass you in public, then you've gone too far!
It's also about giving the various members of the team the confidence to be able to stand up and speak about Trustev and our product. We spread out the sort of events we attend to ensure that whether you're part of our business team or part of the technical side of the office, you get enough of a rounded view of the product to be able to comfortably speak about Trustev.
Getting maximum value from events is the key and that requires forward planning. Its not about showing up for a trophy and a free beer, its about leveraging the exposure and access the event can give you and using it to benefit the goals of the business at that time.
Just like every thing else you apply for in life application forms for events and competitions in the startup can be incredibly boring. Sometimes you get lucky and can see that whoever wrote them understands the startup business model and the questions make sense, sometimes its just hard slog writing with essay style answers - if you survived college you can survive this. Of course after the first couple a certain amount of repetition comes into play and it becomes faster to complete applications, but never be tempted to go generic with your application! Always spend the time to answer the questions you're asked; in a lot of cases the judges are briefed in particular ways to score so just like those college exams don't give generic answers, give them answers based on your brand and your way of doing things.
Plan in Advance
We've been lucky enough to have the opportunity to compete in London, Berlin, New York and San Francisco at various events since we started up and there's one constant; making the best of whatever limited time we have on the ground whenever we travel. The second that we confirm that we have to be somewhere we start to reach out and set meetings. If there's one constant in life, its that every city in the world has some strong Irish movers and shakers there and a few quick emails can do wonders in terms of setting up introduction meetings with potential customers, partners and investors. That's the strength of the Irish community overseas, they are natural networkers and always glad to help out; so long as you respect their time and don't abuse it.
Make the most of success/failure/just being there
Don't just show up and pitch. Spend time watching the other pitches, see how other startups get their point and their business models across. Connect with the event organisers, the other competitors and once the judging is done, the judges. Win, lose or draw get as much feedback on your presentation as possible. Do your part to promote the overall event by using the official hashtag in all your communications, helping the organisers with their publicity efforts means they'll be more likely to invite you back or help with connecting you with people post-event .
Final important point to note - awards, press, media and acknowledgements mean nothing if your product isn't delivering to customers so don't be tempted to drink the Cool Aid and imagine that you're successful just because the media tells you so; thats called politics and it's a different career choice. Good marketing adds to an existing great product, but all the marketing in the world can't sell a bad product over time. Most of all make sure that the disruption caused by this sort of activity is limited and planned for in term of product sprints.