Singapore startup Socialwok recently emerged as a Demopit winner to present at last month’s TechCrunch50 Conference 2009, the massive showcase of the latest cutting-edge technology startups in San Francisco. I took the opportunity to ask Socialwok CEO Yong Ming Guang of their experience there.
1. Describe for us the whole process of applying for, and being selected, as one of the startups to present at TC50.
The original aim of Socialwok‘s USA trip in September was not TechCrunch50, but meetings at Google that we have arranged for. Hence, we did not plan to apply to TC50 till the last few weeks when the application was due. As Socialwok was not in stealth mode (we did a version 1 launch in May at Unconference 2009 in Singapore), our application was turned down but we were offered a place at the TC50 Demopit.
TC50 is a two-day conference and each day there are over 50 Demopit companies. Each TC50 attendee is given two poker chips to vote for their favorite TC50 Demopit company out of a total of 100 companies over the two conference days. The Demopit winners chosen by the audience would then go onstage to pitch to the audience. There would be 2 Demopit companies chosen for each day of TC50 conference.
2. Describe to us your feelings when they made the announcement that SocialWok was selected as a Demopit winner..
It was quite the whirlwind of emotions in a short amount of time. The Demopit event ended at 2:30pm where they counted the chips from each of the Demopit companies of the day. We knew about the win at around 3pm and went backstage to prepare around 4pm. When the results was announced, we were very excited and happy about getting the opportunity to present on stage.
3. How did you prepare for the presentation? Any mentors, good advice you received?
We did not know that we were going on-stage till only 2 hours in advance. We were notified that Socialwok won the TC50 Demopit for Day Two around 3pm, and by 3:30pm we were backtage where we did a few run through of our presentation with (CTO) Nik Cubrilovic of Techcrunch.
4. What was the key point about SocialWok you wanted to drive to the judges?
Our key aim for the onstage pitch was to deliver a clear message of the pain that the Socialwok service is trying to address.
(Here’s the video for Socialwok’s TC50 onstage pitch.)
5. Which judge was the scariest? Who gave the best feedback?
Honestly, things were happening so quickly that we did not really even know who the judges were on the panel. We were too busy on the second day with trying to win the Demopit award! It was quite the blur even on stage. As we did not have much time to prepare going on stage, Vikram and I literally practiced just 3 times during the 1 hour before our actual pitch. I was focused on trying to be on sequence handling the demo and Vikram was trying his best to deliver the message while following my lead.
6. OK, that was a politically-correct answer. How do you rate the experience? Would you do it again?
TC50 has definitely helped Socialwok in terms of publicity and raising our profile in the Valley. We saw our web traffic increased tremendously after winning TC50 demopit and it helped open quite a few doors for us. We met Robert Scoble, the renowned tech blogger in the Valley, at TC50. Scoble wrote a review of Socialwok “How Microsoft Office 2010 will be locked out of my toolbag?”.
Winning the TC50 Demopit also helped us be credible and get meetings with different seed VCs and angels in the Valley.
7. What advice would you give to other startups who want to present at TC50? Words of caution?
Make sure you are in stealth mode before you apply to TC50. You cannot have much public information of your product or service before the TC50 event. Otherwise, they will not consider you for TC50. If you want to be at TC50, plan in advance your product roadmap so that your launch date will coincide with TC50 that occurs annually during middle-to-end of September. If you get successful at TC50, there will be a tremendous spike in web traffic to your website, make sure your service is highly scalable. To increase the effect of publicity for your service, do follow up meetings with tech bloggers who have shown interest in your product or service.
8. Final words – Do you have anybody to thank for this whole experience?
We would like to thank Nik Cubrilovic for the tips he gave in preparing us for the pitch on stage as well as Lux and Kal of iTwin for the support they gave us during the conference. I would also like to thank Mohan Belani of e27, Bernard Leong of SGEntrepreneurs, James Chan and all the Singaporean folks in the tech community for their kind tweets and referrals.
You can also see more photos of TechCrunch50 here.