The third StartupYard Demo Day was held Tuesday night at the übercool Meet Factory in Prague. Six startups fresh from the three-month mentoring phase with the accelerator went head to head to be the best from the class of 2013.
StartitUp went first with co-founder Edward Liu doing the honours as he pitched his step by step tutorial for creating a successful StartUp, impressing upon the judges that they already had access to 1200 startups working through the system.
Boasting 342 registered and background-checked babysitters so far was Hlidacky.cz. Founders David Hrachovy, Petr Sigut and Vaclav Kuna created their platform to match parents with babysitters.
Valentin Dombrovsky from Travelatus tried to convince judges that their all-in-one booking system to deliver a complete travel solution for concert goers was a goer.
The analytics solution Aircharts.co showed how their solution interacts with a webpage to display data as an overlay. Lukas Haraga (see our profile of the entrepreneur) pivoted significantly throughout the three-month mentorship period from his original idea to this clever little solution instead.
www.yummyfood.cz tried to bring home the bacon by showing judges how they will provide a solution for hard working stomachs in Prague. Founder Kristina Sediva pitched, while former Masterchef contestant and partner Vasek Riha provided delicious food for the hungry hordes.
Finally, works.io had a quick and slick offer pitching their solution for struggling artists. Abe Han and Patrick Urwyler combining LinkedIn and Etsy to create a platform for creative types to document, present, network, promote and sell their art, somewhat similar to recently launched and also Prague-based Toadsquare.
All founders took to the stage well but they didn’t set the stage alight and engage the crowd. They are all very passionate people but that passion just didn’t hit the audience. The pitch is when the geekneeds to become the ringmaster and really get excited and sell the product. Perhaps the fact that most presenters weren’t speaking in their native language really hindered their performance at the pitch.
All six pitches contained one thing that the judges didn’t like – cheesy stories – with all judges in agreement that the pitch needs to focus on the product. Only Aircharts.co showed us their startup in action and it would have been nice to see all founders interacting with their business as a user. The quality of the works.io pitch was probably the soundest in that they covered all the basics – what they were doing, what it solved, what was next, what money they wanted, what they would do with and their current plan.
The most glaring omission from the pitch was the inability of startups to answer questions from the judges. 90% of the questions asked were ignored, unanswered or dodged, a fact that was noted by judges and the audience alike. All startups knew there was going to be Q&A so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. None of the presenters were fully prepared and inadequately defended their startup against some basic questions, which weakened the pitch and left it on a bit of downer.
The big winner of the night was Hlidacky.cz with the judges almost unanimous in their decision. Ultimately it all came down to certainty – the certainty that what Hlidacky.cz seeks to do solves a real problem. The major prize for the babysitters club are two tickets to TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin in October and the opportunity to exhibit there. Aircharts.co took out the People’s Choice award and with it two tickets to the Pioneers Festival in Vienna.
Four judges presided over the pitches – Peter Fabian, Amit Paunikar, Michael Schuster and Michal Truban. Webhosting guru Michael Truban was quite pragmatic in his appraisal of Demo Day, “the quality of pitches was good for here”, referring to the Czech Republic and his native Slovakia. He made it clear that Hlidacky was not his first choice because he didn’t believe it was scalable; he also thought some bias from the other judges swayed their vote, “they all have kids!”. Amit Paunikar was pleasantly surprised with the enthusiasm exhibited by the startups. His criteria when critiquing the pitches was threefold – Are they solving a real problem? Do they have plans? Do they have passion? Speedinvest’s Michael Schuster (see his article series on the WTF’s of a Business Angel on inventures.eu) was the most critical of the pitches saying he wouldn’t invest in any of them and that the pitches needed to show off more of the product.
Small technical glitches marred the pitches. The vignettes of each team played before their pitch was a great idea, however the audio quality was poor and they lost impact. There was dead space between pitches while presumably someone did something and the inevitable videos and music that didn’t play – this is the night of nights for StartupYard and getting basic media to play on cue is elementary stuff.
The biggest let down, however, came from 25% of the audience, who decided to use the event to just network rather than actually be engaged by the startup pitches. One organiser tried to blame it on cultural issues, I blame it on bad manners – they only had to pay attention for 90 minutes. The rabble also had the effect that the announcement of the winners was drowned out. So much work went into Demo Day from every angle only to be let down by the very people it tries to support.
Judge Amit Paunikar summed up the evening nicely, “it was a reflection of where StartUpYard and Demo Day is in its lifecycle.” It is a very good accelerator, the organisers put on an interesting event and it is only going to get a whole lot better!