Company and Product Launch Events

Startup companies with finished products need publicity, media and blogger coverage, and analysts and reviewers to take note of what they are doing. They also often need investor interest. Since investors often flock to the same hot deals, it can be good to have a large number of investors exposed to your deal at the same time.

Some launch events give startups a chance to reach all these audiences at the same time.

DEMO is a semi-annual event that has featured pitches from some of the remarkable technology companies of our time. Investors and the media pay a lot of attention to the companies that get selected to present at DEMO. At every DEMO, conference organizer Chris Shipley chooses a number of DEMOgods that are worthy of special attention.

Yesterday and today, about 70 hot companies have been introducing their products at DEMOfall 2006, including Pluggd, a Seattle startup with a podcast search engine that I am very interested in, whose video presentation you can watch here.

At Demo, your presentation will be recorded and stored in the Demo Video Archives permanently. So there will be a long tail of publicity and potential interest in your company.

I wish I were at DEMO, but at least I get to watch videos on all the companies that I’m interested in.

Besides DEMO, what other launch events are possible for high tech startups?

Someone ought to do a directory or Wiki of launch events, if one doesn’t exist already. I know of a few.

FundingUniverse.com offers speedpitching events in several states. They aren’t so much a public launch event, but they are a great way to reach local angel investors.

Where can you find a way to reach a group of early stage VCs all at once, rather than making the trek to Sandhill Road in the heart of Silicon Valley or hanging out at Buck’s Woodside Restaurant, where more venture deals have been done than anywhere else on earth?

The VC Forum brings a number of Silicon Valley venture firms to cities around the country to meet local entrepreneurs and look at potential deals. One Provo Labs company is actually presenting on September 28th at VC Forum in Salt Lake City.

Another option is the Silcon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs. I received an email yesterday from Jennifer, who represents SVASE, and she asked me to publicize one of their upcoming events. So here it is:

SVASE is hosting an event called Launch: Silicon Valley (www.launchsiliconvalley.org) occurring on November 8, 2006 at the Microsoft Campus in Mountain View, CA. The event will bring together the Top 30 best and brightest A and B round startups and will provide these start ups with a chance to showcase their products in front of an audience of leading Silicon Valley VCs looking for their next investment, and companies seeking to leverage business models and technologies as customers, strategic partnerships and potentially acquirers.

As an advocate for entrepreneurs I was hoping you could spread the word about this great opportunity that many of your readers might appreciate. If so here

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Multiple topics

TOPIC 1.
Marty Fahncke, an outstanding direct-response marketer, finally convinced me to join with him as he launches www.learnfrompaulallen.com. I guess he really couldn’t have done it without me. Our first conference call, where I will answer questions from listeners about internet marketing and other entrepreneurial topics, will be held on Thursday, September 7th at 1 pm MST. This is a free conference call, so register now for one of the limited spaces.

Please don’t think because I’m doing this that I know everything or that I wouldn’t rather be learning from someone else. I view this whole conference call experience as a group learning experience. Like my brainstorm lunches, I love the questions entrepreneurs ask and the answers that everyone else at the lunches give. We all can learn from one another.

TOPIC 2.
In the last week, I’ve been promoting the Provo Labs Academy, where we provide office space and internet marketing training to startup companies for as little as $200 per month.

We’ve had nearly 30 inquiries so far, and two individuals who want to promote the Academy for commission. A large local newspaper wants to do a story about the Academy. And the city has been showing a lot of support. Economic development activity, according to Governor Huntsman, drives everything else by providing funds for education and transportation. Provo City really supports entrepreneurial activity. I am thankful for all they are doing to support the Academy.

Before we spend tens of thousands of dollars on furniture, equipment, and phones, I decided to create a little online survey for all of our possible tenants. It took me about 20 minutes to write 4 survey questions after signing up for freeonlinesurveys.com. It’s an okay tool. Does anyone out there use something else that they like even more?

Once we get feedback from the possible tenants on their phone and computer needs, then we’ll make the necessary purchases. It is so nice to have email and the web to attract customers and then find out when they want.

My favorite experience in finding out customer needs was at MyFamily.com where as VP Marketing I wrote many surveys every week (sometimes several in a single day) and got thousands of responses every day from our active users. I loved finding out what my customers liked, disliked, and wanted us to do next.

TOPIC 3.
The FundingUtah.com speedpitching event at Thanksgiving Point yesterday was superb. Out of the 10 companies that pitched, Simplifile was rated the best pitch by the investors there. But there were several other excellent ones as well, including more than one company that was profitable. One of my favorites is a company that had its first profitable month in August after 18 months in business. None of the six founders have ever been paid. They are all working to create future equity value. Hopefully they’ll get funding so they can eventually pay themselves, but I am very inspired by a team of entrepreneurs who can build a great company simply because they don’t take any salaries.

If all startups did that, I bet nearly 100% of them would survive.

TOPIC 4.
I’m speaking at the Provo Orem Chamber of Commerce lunch on Friday. I think I’ll talk a lot about how startups can become worth a lot if the founding team will defer all of their compensation.

I’m listening to an audio book called the Portable MBA or something like that. It claims that companies that incorporate stay in business for at least 8 years 50% of the time. 25% of them are still run by the original entrepreneur. 25% of them are run by someone else.

I guess the really bad statistics about business failure might take into account companies that never incorporate. Maybe they were never really a serious business in the first place.

The author also says that 4 of 5 venture funded companies are still alive after 5 years.

TOPIC 5.
I accidentally posted this blog without a title. Makes me wonder how all the RSS readers out there will handle it? And how will it show up in MyYahoo, which usually links from the title of a blog post to the blog site.

So I’ve updated the post and it now has a (lame) title. But does anyone know what happens out there if people post without titles?

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Inspiring Conference for Social Entrepreneurs Planned in Utah

I just heard about a great full-day conference on October 6th that will be well worth attending. (I think it will be in Layton, Utah.) I know several of the speakers and they are outstanding, world-changing individuals. I can’t imagine not coming away very motivated and inspired by these entrepreneurs.

Please check it out.

I dare you to read every bio and then tell me you aren’t super interested in hearing what these speakers will be talking about. Greg Warnock is a star. Hearing Hal Wing (his company sells the Little Giant Ladder systems all over the world) alone would be a great treat. But the rest will be exciting as well. Tim Hunt’s Lingotek is very cool. And my family spends a ton of money on Shade Clothing (thanks a lot, Chelsea!)

Also, in my view, entrepreneurs who start out philanthropically minded before they make their money are far more likely to make it. I heard that Jon Huntsman, Sr, one of Utah’s billionaires, used to give away $50 of his $250 per week (or month?) Navy salary when he lived in California decades ago. He did it quietly and anonymously–even back when he didn’t make any money, per se.

I think it is a law of the universe that those who have giving hearts are more likely to get into a position to give. Selfish, greedy people won’t have the same good fortune as those who are kind and generous, even when they have little means.

People didn’t believe Bill Gates when he said years ago that he was going to do great good with his money. Now look at what his foundation is going to do for the world. And of course, there’s Warren Buffett and Pierre Omidyar too.

So come to this conference and figure out what you can do to bless the world, whether or not the world rewards you later. It’s the right way to live, whether or not it leads to prosperity.

The conference web site is pretty poor, though. I hate sites where all the information is hiding in PDF files. To the conference organizers: please make the web site more friendly and information rich. Give us dates, name of speakers, make it easy to navigate. Start a blog to tell us more about the speakers and the conference as the date approaches. Generate some excitement here! This conference will be incredible!

For convenience, I grabbed the bios of some of the speakers (they are apparently adding more later), and here they are:

Greg Warnock (Keynote Speaker)

Greg Warnock is one of the most active private equity investors in Utah, having invested in 18 companies during the 12 years preceding the formation of vSpring Capital. He was previously the founder of Precision Data Link, which he sold to Profit Recovery Group (PRGX) in 1998. He was an angel investor in Knowlix, a successful software company that was acquired by Peregrine Systems. He syndicated and participated in the seed financing of Advion BioSciences, a successful company later funded by Skyline Ventures, Perseus-Soros BioPharmaceutical Fund and Polaris Venture Partners. He was principle in more than 20 M&A transactions prior to vSpring. These experiences have given Greg a deep understanding of the ingredients of successful private equity investing. Greg is a judge of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year contest and a repeat VC selection committee member for the Investors’ Choice West conference. Greg received a BS in Computer Science and a MBA from the University of Utah. Greg is on the board of directors of AVinti, BioMicro Systems, Cymphonix and MediConnect. Greg is also actively involved in the Junto program, a program that targets fresh, young minds and gives them the training and resources necessary to be successful entrepreneurs, which he started in 2004. In addition to Junto, Greg acts as Managing Director to the Utah Student Investment Program Development Committee, a committee formed through encouragement from the State of Utah to form student run venture capital firms, similar to Salt Lake

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Microsoft Considers Moving HQ to Utah

Okay, not really…

But in a big vote of confidence for all of us Utah guys, here’s the real news. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will be the keynote speaker at the October 27th Utah Technology Council Hall of Fame dinner at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City. I didn’t believe the email I got until I confirmed the truth of this in the Deseret News article.

This UTC Hall of Fame dinner is my favorite event in Utah every year. This one will be especially exciting, especially if Ballmer gives a rousing keynote. (He’s a great performer, from what I’ve seen on TV and some web videos of him.)

I’m totally stoked for this event, can’t wait to see Steve Ballmer in person, and I’ll definitely put this on my calendar right now.

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Getting out of the current and into pools

This week I spent two days at the Corporate Alliance Summit with 50 business leaders and managers. We learned about the powerful relationship-building principles that Corporate Alliance teaches, and had a lot of time to make personal connections with each other.

My first Summit was last September. It was incredible.

Corporate Alliances teaches that almost all of us swim each day in the “business current,” where we are very busy and focused on day to day business. While we are in that current, we rarely form deep relationships with people. We are focusing on transactions and operations.

Where lasting relationships are formed is in “pools,” which are places where you connect with other people in a non-business setting, and where you really get to know one another. A lot of business people golf because it is a great pool for connecting. Some of the pools that I belong to are the Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum, a few non profits, including the Academy for Creating Enterprise, and various groups at BYU and within my church. Geek dinners and Entrepreneur breakfasts are also good pools, as our Phil Windley’s CTO Breakfasts (I keep planning to go to those) and Genus Breakfasts, the Business Ignitor Series from Connect Magazine, and other local networking events.

But some pools are much better than others for forming relationships.

My favorite pool of all is the Corporate Alliance Summit itself, where the entire focus is on learning about each others needs (both business and personal), serving each other (as we share possible answers to each others problems) and then developing lasting relationships with each other.

I’ve never experienced anything else where I connected so deeply and so quickly with so many other wonderful people. And now it has happened twice.

I’m a huge fan of Jared Stewart, the visionary behind Corporate Alliance, and his wonderful team. I have joined the board of directors and am now an investor in the company (through Provo Labs.)

I am paying full price to send key people from all the Provo Labs companies to Summit. We all need to learn this culture and these principles. They are very similar to the wonderful concepts found in the book, “Love is the Killer App,” my all-time favorite business book by Tim Sanders.

I think Corporate Alliance has the potential to be the next generation Covey Leadership center, teaching millions of business leaders around the world how to recognize that relationships matter most in business and that there are powerful ways to develop lasting relationships with others, both within and without your company.

So here is a question for my readers: what seminar or conference is the best one you’ve ever attended and why?

I go to conferences all the time and would really love to know which ones you like the most.

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FundingUtah Speedpitching Event Feb. 2nd

If you are an angel investor and want a fun experience, join me and a couple dozen other angel investors for FundingUtah.com’s first Salt Lake City entrepreneur speedpitching event Thursday, February 2nd.

The staff at FundingUtah.com have selected 10 promising entrepreneurs for the event. They have been coached on how to deliver informative and energetic pitches. It promises to be an exciting day.

Last November the first ever FundingUtah speedpitching event attracted journalists, photographers, and even KSL news, which broadcast a 2 minute report of the event on the evening news. Check it out. This is fun stuff.

Visit the FundingUtah web site for more information or call them at 801-805-4847.

Last September I blogged when FundingUniverse had 421 investors nationwide signed up, now it’s up to 797 angel investors and 5702 entrepreneurs.

I think that speedpitching events are being planned for other states. If you want to see one in your area let me know. I’m a board member and investor in FundingUniverse.com and am excited to see the company generating interest all over the country.

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2006 CES keynote transcripts

If you weren’t lucky enough to get to CES, or if you missed some of the keynote speeches, you’ve got to spend an hour or two reading the transcripts. Here are the links:

Bill Gates 2006 CES transcript
Howard Stringer, Sony CEO, 2006 CES transcript
Paul Otellini, Intel CEO, 2006 CES transcript (PDF format)
Terry Semel, Yahoo CEO, 2006 CES podcast
Larry Page, Google co-founder, 2006 CES transcript

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November Connect Magazine Column

Check out my latest article in Connect Magazine that gives my impressions of the Shop.org event in Las Vegas earlier this year. Let me know what you think of the article.

And please, tell me topics you would like me to cover next time? Remember, at Connect you are the “editor-in-chief” so let me know what you want to see.

In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I got this Connect writing gig because of my blog. I’ve written before about the myriad benefits of blogging.

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When 2.0

Phil Burns, aka Phil801, COO of Provo Labs (which will be announced soon), flew to San Jose last night to attend Esther Dyson’s When 2.0 seminar at Stanford University.

Sometimes you look at the list of speakers and attendees at a conference and you think it would be worth any price and any sacrifice to be there. In this case you’ve got Ray Ozzie (running Microsoft’s strategy for Windows Live and Office Live), Mitch Kapor, and key people from Technorati and Riya among others.

Today’s I’m lecturing at BYU to Phil Windley’s class and my students are all doing their team project reports this afternoon, so I had to forgo the When 2.0 event on time and timing.

I’m hoping someone at When 2.0 figures out how to do real-world time shifting, so, Tivo-like, we can attend more than one event at a time.

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Josh Coates: Disruptive Entrepreneur Speaks

If you are in Utah Thursday, you have to pay $10 to hear Silicon Valley transplant Josh Coates speak about how to start a company
and raise money. He is an incredible technologist with a disruptive
business model and he knows how to raise capital. He likes to challenge
the way the Utah angel and VC community fund startups. Josh likes the
Silicon Valley way. The event will be at Los Hermanos in Lindon at 3:30
pm. Don’t miss this.

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