The LAUNCH experience was incredible for both me, personally, and for Screener.co. The entire LAUNCH team was incredibly supportive throughout the application and preparation process and they were very generous with their time and, as a result, had an enormous positive impact on the company pitch and product well beyond the exposure received from presenting at the conference.
I was very excited when I heard back at the middle of January that the LAUNCH team wanted a Skype demo of the product. There were three participants on the call from LAUNCH and they were armed with well informed questions and constructive feedback despite having only received a short application and a brief product demo. Given the highly specialized financial focus of our company, it was clear that they did their homework. Among the things they suggested during the demo were community features that would allow users to share screens and have discussions about the companies returned by and performance of those screens. After the call, I immediately wrote to the developers that were working on the new website that we launched today to add those features to the site--they would obviously benefit users, encourage more active participation with the site, and provide some content to educate users about how to use our complex product. Even though those features could not be ready in time for the conference, I am incredibly pleased with how they came out and it was a direct result of the LAUNCH feedback. At the end of the Skype session, I was told that we would have the opportunity to demo again in ~10 days for the next round.
Those 10 days were probably the most intense of the entire product development cycle. In parallel, I was coordinating with the offshore team in the hope the new website would be ready in time in case we were selected (alas, it was not...), continuing to build the core functionality of the tool, and negotiating with data providers about providing the data for the tool. It was not until the morning of the second demo with Jason Krute that we had a countersigned contract from a data provider and I was still building functionality and fixing bugs right up until day 8! A couple weeks later, I got the e-mail that we had been accepted to present at LAUNCH. When I heard back about the time for the second demo, we did not yet have access to the data feed for the tool and I really appreciate the LAUNCH team's faith in us and our vendor that we would be able to pull everything together in time for the conference.
What surprised me most about the LAUNCH process was how much time the LAUNCH team was willing to invest in helping companies get ready to present. The first step was a 15 minute call with Tyler Crowley on the presentation and messaging. 5 minutes into the call, I had a completely different perspective on how to frame our pitch. By the end of the 15 minutes, I tossed out the entire presentation I had prepared earlier--the new version was many times better.
When I arrived in California for the first rehearsal session, I first had the opportunity to meet a number of the other startups that would be presenting. It was a bit intimidating to have been part of such an impressive group...and they hadn't even demoed their products yet. I have attended startup and venture conferences before, during my previous life as a VC, but this group of companies really stood out right away. During the prep session, itself, Jason Calacanis was awesome! He clearly has a passion for working with entrepreneurs and also has a lot of experience with these types of events. His feedback really helped me with the Screener.co pitch and the overall marketing messaging for the company.
Our launch was picked up by VentureBeat and syndicated to NYTimes.com through their partnership. We also got great coverage after the fact from Xconomy Boston, who ran a two page onilne feature on Screener.co that generated a lot of interest in the company. LAUNCH also helped us get on the radar of potential strategic partners and led to hundreds of direct sign-ups on our website in under a month. In addition, Xconomy Boston ran a full feature on the company. The company is much further along than it would have been if not for the conference and it is thanks to the hard work of the LAUNCH team and how supportive they were throughout the entire process.