Five newly launched startups have exactly five minutes to impress a crowd of 500 at the Technori pitch hosted at the Chase Auditorium. As the clock ticks down, the pressure is only a tip of the iceberg in the startup game.
Last Tuesday marked the 50th event of Technori, a monthly event, that provides a stage for startups to showcase their ideas and market their products. Over the last three years, 250 startups have presented at the Technori pitch. Founder Seth Kraitz noted while many have failed, some others such as the first ever presenter SpotHero have gone to succeed.
“I wish I have one chance…that’s going to make me bigger than where I am in my life,” said Mark Morales. Like many startup enthusiasts, 21-year-old Morales came to the event with the vision of becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg, holding a big binder that consisted of what he said is a plan that’s bigger than Facebook.
The challenge faced by startup enthusiasts like Morales: protecting the ideas.
“Never show your full ideas,” said Morales. While looking for investors and developers at the event, Morales said one of the very first things he did to protect his idea was to file a patent, which cost him over $900.
According to David Tiemeier, Senior Director of Innovation and New Venture Office at Northwestern University, “a patent gives the [owner] the legal right to sue somebody who tries to use what [they] have patented.” However, in a world where software is constantly evolving, patents become unnecessary and almost useless because people can easily modify the code and develop a similar product.
“You can’t patent tech,” said Pardeep Athwal, Co-founder of healthcare startup Orunje. Athwal said the barrier for entry in tech is very low, so there will always be competition.
“You have to make sure you are an early company with early adaptor, and you have to put out a good product, make sure your product and your brand is recognized,” Athwal added.
The challenge faced by startup entrepreneurs like Athwal: filling in the gap.
“What’s missing between you and the product?” asked Tiemeier. He said startup entrepreneurs need to fill two types of gaps to succeed in the market. First, they need to fill in the gap from the idea to the product by hiring the right experts to develop the product. Second, they need to minimize the gap between the product and the audience through strategies like advertising and marketing.
According to the Startup Genome Report by researchers from UC Berkeley and Stanford University released in 2011, more than 90 percent of startups fail primarily due to self-destruction rather than competition. The report also stated that 74 percent of high growth internet startups fail due to premature scaling, which means spending money on marketing and hiring.
“It’s not just creating the app, it’s how you do on marketing and selling it to the audience,” Tiemeier stressed.
Back to the Technori stage, the five minutes are crucial for some of the newly launched startups because they have to clearly present their ideas and entertain the audience.
“The reality is when you put it out, nobody is going to come right away,” said speaker Charles Alder, Kickstarter Co-founder and Center for Lost Arts founder. In addition to the intense preparation prior to the launch date, Alder said even when a company is launched, it is still a “teddy bear in a tiny boat” with lots of rooms to grow.