Wine, Startups, and VCs—A Report from DEMO

Opinion

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Coupled with the overall economic news that day, it was good to get to cocktail hour. Meeting a friend in the bar later, I had my first major DEMO disappointment: no Don Julio at the bar. C’mon DEMO, don’t skip the details next time.

Day 3: Demo Day

Got up way too early on Tuesday, to rehearse and get ready. Of course, the disaster occurs—we have our first site outage around 6:20 AM. And we have to do our final check at 7:15. Yikes. Douglas Adams’s advice is still good in these cases, so I didn’t panic, and all was better in a short time. There’s that kick-ass team again.

The team meets near the “green room.” Keith is looking a little green, Deep is his usual buddha self. We run through the talk multiple times—never twice the same way—but we’re pretty spot on at six minutes. I am a machine with my intro, hitting my one-minute target flawlessly. It’s quite beautiful. We get mic’ed up with the other morning presenters, including Ensembli, who go on first. People are pacing around, reciting their speeches to themselves—it’s pretty comical.

Show time now. After Ensembli goes on, we queue up to go next. They finish, come off. Chris does a really nice intro, and we’re on. It all goes well, I think—though I haven’t seen the video yet. I add a line during Keith’s two minutes, causing him to run over. At the end, that forces me to cut my 30 second closing remark to 5 seconds—I really want to finish on time—but I am an East Coast native and we were born fast-talkers so I almost make it…Then we’re off.

Lot’s of congratulations, nice tweets from tweeps back at the office and elsewhere. After winding down a bit, I watch some other demos, then we go back to our booth, to good crowds and feedback.

Back Home

To answer what might be the first question, “Was it worth it?” —the answer is yes, and that was the general feeling I got from the other presenters. I asked about a dozen directly, and 10 of the 12 were an unqualified yes—the other two being more “wait and see,” but not negative. Now, the mood was a bit somber at the start—smaller attendance than recent DEMO conferences (down about 30 percent from last DEMO) and some of the press didn’t make it. But, the nice thing about the smaller set of presenters was more focus. The companies showing were almost all really solid I thought, and almost all of the demos went pretty well. The staff is super helpful to the companies—and Chris does a great job of understanding and introducing each presenter. I liked that the conference seems less ego-driven than its “competitors”—it really does seem much more about the companies than the personalities putting on the showcase. Now, the nice thing about the personality-driven shows is that people show up for just that reason, so there’s a tradeoff, I guess.

But, you should have reasonable expectations if presenting at any of these shows. A single demo won’t make or break you—only your product will. Particularly for us, and the members of our presenting group, we need tens of millions of users to succeed, so a show like this can provide momentum, but it’s unrealistic to expect it to make instant success. We had a worthwhile DEMO experience, but now it’s back to focusing on what’s most important for us, user experience.

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Neil Roseman is the founder and CEO of Seattle-based Evri. Previously, he was vice president of technology at Amazon.com. Follow @

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2 responses to “Wine, Startups, and VCs—A Report from DEMO”

  1. Competitors, not because I’d choose one over the other for the very same task, but in the sense that you and Ensembli are very different approaches to the same problem; using context, categorization, semantic analysis and ontology to make sense of the mass of online information and present it more comprehensibly. I’m thinking about the Primal Fusion and even Xmarks in the same way.