The second day was our turn in the bear pit – or meat market. This meant that we were one of the Alpha exhibitors with a small 1-meter area on a bank of about 12 startups. Given that the Alpha package included 4 attendees per company, having everyone at the stand quickly meant it was unworkable.
The start was slow, with most of the exhibitors in each area coming over to introduce themselves and politely pitching each other on their different business ideas. The set up – with two banks of exhibitors – meant that anyone wanting to look at the startups had to commit themselves to a fairly intimidating walk down a lane of hungry eyed teams, eager to make the most of any pitch opportunity.
The experience might be compared to having 24 packs of hyenas inviting various antelope to walk through a narrow gorge valley.
In the world of WebSummit, the chest height name/ company badge became the most obvious qualification criteria for speaking to someone – Alphas were ‘just another one of us’, ‘Media’ were interesting but typically flying between meetings, ‘Investors’ were the holy grail (and most hid their badges) and ‘Attendees’ were the ‘pot luck’.
Our strategy was to have two people on the stand, whilst our sales machine walked the floors and did his magic. This actually seemed to play out pretty well for us and we spoke to a great mix of Alphas (with their infectious enthusiasm and keen support) and Investors (who guardedly produced their own contact details after listening to our pitch and challenging us on our thinking).
It was also interesting to see how different the Alpha startups (and even Beta startups) were in terms of business readiness. Many were still at the idea stage and comments like ‘pre-revenue’ were common. A few of the investors we spoke to operate tech accelerators, but told us that we were already 90% through what they could help us with – the only outstanding (but hugely important) item was access to investors.
We stayed on the booth from about 8:50am through to around 5pm when most of the people had left the venue. In total we had about 8 solid investor leads, about a dozen interested partnership contacts and lots of great feedback and support from other startup companies.
After the first day I did not feel like the money justified attending the event. This position has improved somewhat, but the ratio of investors to startups is still very unbalanced. There is also a strong feeling amongst attendees that WebSummit has drifted into a ‘money making for Paddy‘ event, more than a ‘let’s help startups have a voice’.
Today is our last day and we’ll be taking it a little easier. We’ll cover off a final review towards the end of our visit with a scorecard to help others evaluate whether WebSummit would be useful to them.