startup camp

55 Startup Pitches + 900 Attendees + Great Food = Success at Plug and Play Expo March 27, 2014

A well-known fact about the current US financial recovery is that without the Silicon Valley’s tech industry, the lackluster recovery wouldn’t be a recovery. One thing is for sure, there is anything but lackluster opportunity in the Silicon Valley, especially if the pitches of 55 startup companies at Plug and Play’s Expo on March 27, 2014 indicate where things are going.


The 55 companies that presented deserve congratulations for the guts to do all that entrepreneurs do to turn ideas into value propositions worthy of presenting to an audience of venture capitalists, media, industry peers, competitors, fellow entrepreneurs and supportive friends, family and fools. The judges voted and selected winners from the sessions of the day, two from Brand & Retail (Tulip Retail and runner up Mashgin) and three from Startup Camp, Portfolio & International (Shippo, Goji and Altitude). Ultimately, the real winners are those that secured funding sufficient to take their ideas to market and perhaps become the next eBay, Facebook, Twitter or Amazon.

I leave it to others to focus on the successes of the winners and share here some thoughts for those who did not win in votes or dollars. Among other things, you face the challenges of demonstrating value to entice investment, of pivoting to new opportunities or of running to insolvency to start again at some future time on a new idea.

Demonstrate Value

Did you present a true value proposition? Whatever you are engaged in, remember the primal objective is to create value, value for your customers, value for your investors and value for yourselves; this isn’t just about the experience culminating with drinks and tasty BBQ chicken strips. Reasons abound for why investors do not understand a value proposition, the most obvious being you have not figured out or understood what a value proposition really is. Another less obvious reason involves some introspection. The idea may not have presented well due to incomplete information on slides, poor presentation skills, language barriers and even holding the microphone too far away so the audience cannot hear. These things and others get in the way of people understanding your results.


If at first you don’t succeed, pivot! A shout out to Redtroops who, in the six weeks since I first met them, has pivoted to their pitch at the event and is now positioned as an eBay for in app advertising. For those not familiar with pivoting, take a look at the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and get ready for exciting changes of direction based on insight gained from hypothesis testing.


Value propositions cannot be found and presented well, hypothesis testing on pivot options yields no better options, all other efforts are expended and the cash runs out. Battle wounds result and every successful entrepreneur has them. Even the entrepreneurs that appear to strike gold on their first attempt made some mistakes. Enjoy the failure.  Look internally for what went wrong.  Learn from what you discover.  Continue to find ways to use technology to solve the world’s problems.