Why IBM and LAUNCH are Partnering for IBM SmartCamp

Show Note Summary

[at 00:43] How did we do last year?

  • 3000 startups interested in SmartCamp last year
    • Accepted 1000 applications
  • The quality of companies around the world was surprisingly high

[at 1:48] Yoly Avalos of Bquate

  • One of the three finalists
  • Based out of Peru
  • A music distribution and monetization channel for independent artists

[at 2:37] Mike Holt of Gridcomm

  • One of the three finalists
  • Based out of Singapore
  • IoT company for creating a network of smart street lamps on city grids
  • Went public on the Australian stock market right after the 2016 LAUNCH Festival

[at 3:36] Jessika Lora of CarForce

  • The winner of SmartCamp 2015
  • Based out of Houston, Texas
  • A smart system for diagnostics in connected cars
  • Won one of seven slots in Jason's LAUNCH Incubator
  • Since finishing SmartCamp, she has signed a large deal with BMW

[at 5:08] Why is it so important for IBM to get to Startups early?

  • What is next?
    • IBM recognizes that the innovation of the future begins with startups in the early stages
  • People are developing incredible products with small teams
    • IBM wants to find these products and founders in their early stages and help nurture them to maturity

Who Should Apply to SmartCamp?

Show Note Summary

[at 00:34] The difference between 'Build' and 'Scale'

  • SmartCamp Build is the traditional program
    • Founders who are new to IBM
    • Two to three years old
      • Definitely no more than five years
    • Small teams of two to ten members
    • Less than $1M USD in revenue
  • SmartCamp Scale
    • Founders who are already a part of the IBM Global Entrepreneur program
    • Have attained product-market fit
    • Have attained customers
    • Are now looking to scale

[at 1:56] The stakes and opportunities for the startups

  • Ten companies out of the Build segment will qualify to attend LAUNCH Festival in March, 2017
    • Top three companies will get to pitch on stage in front of some of the biggest names in the tech industry
    • The winner will get a $25K investment from Jason, as well as an invitation to attend his 12 week incubator in San Francisco
  • Six companies out of the Scale segment will qualify to present at the Scale Conference in November, 2016

[at 3:34] How do you find the 'Diamond in the Rough'?

  • Look for founders who have something unique
  • They may have issues, but that's what we're here for!
  • They may need to tweak their product along the way
    • They may even pivot
  • Be encouraging
    • They're in their "awkward" stage
    • We'll help them mature

[at 5:44] Polishing the product for early stage companies

  • Often, they know they have a product, but may not really know their market
  • It's not uncommon for early stage companies to find out that their customer base is completely different from what they thought it would be
  • They may be a team of brilliant engineers who have no experience with marketing, distribution channels, or even building a business model
    • SmartCamp aims to fill in the gaps for these founders

Getting Startups to Apply

Show Note Summary

[at 00:48] What's worked in the past?

  • Working your network
    • Talk to your local VCs
    • Talk to your local professors
  • Go back to the startups that applied last year, but were declined
    • Often, many of them can gain traction over the time in between
    • They may have made some key changes, matured their business model, or polished their product

[at 1:46] Email your network

  • "Do you know anyone doing something interesting?"
  • The value of the prizes involved in the program are motivation enough to attract interest

[at 3:16] Working your network

  • Recruit prople through the IBM Global Entrepreneur network
  • Search with CrunchBase, Mattermark, or any of the other databases available
    • Send a cold email

[at 8:12} Hit people with this again and again

  • Don't be afraid to email people three or four times
  • Create short, concise emails
  • Be enthusiastic
  • Show interest in what they are doing as well as in the SmartCamp program

[at 9:43] It's fun!

  • Watching the startups that you've been working with launch on stage in the competition finals is exciting!
  • The events are a blast for everyone involved
    • So get excited, and get your local startups excited too!

Coaching Startups

Show Note Summary

[at 00:44] The transformation from beginning to end

  • Pitching their idea
    • Jason likes to give them a score on how tight their pitch is
    • Almost all of them start out with low scores
      • They make the improvements they need and come out of the program with a solid deck, and an enthralling presentation of their product

[at 2:34] Jason's rules for pitching

  • Rule #1
    • Show the product within 15 seconds
  • Rule #2
    • Show, don't tell
      • Don't read us the product label
  • Rule #3
    • Examples matter
      • Tell us a story
      • What is the most compelling application of your product?
  • Rule #4
    • Syncronicity
      • Make sure your slides are showing the same thing that you are saying
      • Don't make the audience choose between reading and listening
      • Keep you talk and your slides in sync

[at 6:02] Be present if you are judging

  • Keep your phone in your pocket
  • Keep your laptop closed
  • Listen intently
  • Keep a pen and paper to take notes
    • Think of tough questions

[at 7:29] Help them anticipate the difficult questions

  • They will undoubtedly get hit with tough questions at the big events and they confront investors
    • Prepare them for that

[at 8:39] Why now for that market?

  • Going into business in the US can be very different from going into business in China, France, or Australia
    • It's important to know why timing is poor in one geography, but great in another

How to Pick a Winner

Show Note Summary

[at 00:45] How to pick a winner

  • Pick the right judges
    • VCs, angel investors, experts from incubators and accelerators, professors, etc.
  • Know the criteria

[at 1:26] What the startups will be judged on

  • The four qualifications that the startups will be judged on:
    • The market and the business model
      • Does the business model fit the market that they are entering?
      • Do they understand their market?
    • The team
      • What does the team look like?
        • Do they have the right roles filled with the right people?
        • Who are their advisors?
    • Technology
      • Do they have the right "goods"?
      • Can they show a real product?
    • Design
      • The product needs to be both beautiful and functional

[at 3:06] Pick two winners

  • Every city in SmartCamp Build selects two winners
  • We suggest that your judges panel selects on winner
    • Let the audience pick the second winner
      • An "audience favorite"

[at 3:27] At the global level

  • IBM, in conjunction with Jason and the LAUNCH team, will take all of the individual city winners and select the short-list of 10 finalists
    • Those 10 finalists will be mentored by Jason and come to the events in San Francisco
      • The top three will get to pitch on stage at the LAUNCH Festival
      • The winner of the overall competition will be accepted into Jason's incubator, along with a $25K investment

[at 5:15] The top startups often do not come from Silicon Valley

  • The top three finalists from last year came from:
    • Singapore (Gridcomm)
    • Peru (Bquate)
    • Texas (CarForce)

Running a Successful SmartCamp Event

[at 00:36] Keep it casual; nothing fancy

  • Make it an accessible environment
  • Pick the right people
    • Not only the applicants
    • Pick the right mentors
    • Pick the right judges
  • Make sure the founders feel safe in the space that they're pitching

[at 1:32] The timer

  • They get four minutes to pitch
    • Make sure it is visible and obvious for the founders to see exactly how much time they have left while pitching
      • The audience and judges need to be able to see the timer as well
    • As soon as the alarm goes off, the pitch is over, and Q&A begins

[at 1:56] Who do founders most want to hear from?

  • Investors, investors, and more investors
    • Almost all of the founders involved in this competition are going to want to raise funding
      • It is extremely valuable for them to get real feedback from real investors
    • VCs and angel investors are going to be the most valuable judges and mentors to hear from
  • They also want to hear from people who are "in the know" in their local markets
    • Professors involved in the local innovation sectors can be extremely helpful, although may be difficult to come by
    • Local tech journalists can also offer beneficial contributions

[at 3:52] Coach your judges

  • We want the judges to be candid, but not mean-spirited
  • Utilize the "Sandwich Technique"
    • Start with positive feedback
      • "Here's what you did well."
    • Then, let them know the two or three things that they could improve on
      • Not as criticism, but as coaching
    • Finish off with encouragement
      • Let them know that they are on to something
      • Leave them feeling motivated and energized, not defeated
  • Make sure the judges don't ramble
    • Ask concise questions
    • Keep feedback brief and to the point

[at 7:42] Audience questions? Good or bad idea?

  • It depends on the size of the audience
    • If the room is big, definitely no
    • If it is a smaller room, and there was some networking going on beforehand where audience members, judges, and founders were able to establish some rapport, then maybe audience questions would be permissable
  • However, in general, we do not recommend audience questions

[at 8:41] Keep a clock; stick to a timed format on stage

  • Four minutes for the presentation
  • Six minutes for Q&A
  • While Q&A is happening for one presenter, have the next founder set up their laptop so that they are ready to begin their pitch as soon as Q&A wraps up for the previous presenter
    • This will save a ton of time and will make your event run much more smoothly

[at 9:31] Make sure the pitches are ready before the event starts

  • Anticipate the issues
  • Line up every presenter and test each slide deck to make sure everything is working properly

[at 10:40] Build in networking time

  • It can put the founders at ease if you have them networking beforehand
    • It can make them feel more comfortable on stage if they have the opportunity to get to know the people they will be pitching in front of
  • All entrepreneurs need a network
    • If nothing else, founders will find value in the event if there is networking involved