Bear with me, guys, this is a long one. There's a lot to cover, and with 10 companies pitching, they all deserve some space!
A couple of nights ago, I was in a nightclub. I was standing on a balcony, chatting with friends, holding a drink and looking out at an overflowing crowd glowing green under tinted lighting. There was a waiting line out the door, the temperature was rising as people packed in, and the sound was deafening.
Okay, so it was 6 o'clock at night. On a Thursday. For a startup event. With one drink ticket. But still.
Hello, TechCrunch Meetup + Pitch-Off. We missed you!
Hosted at Prive in Midtown ATL (a location choice we'll talk more about in a minute...), and sponsored by Apriva, Total Server Solutions, Sticker Mule and WeWork, TC Meetup + Pitch-Off is a self-described "battle to the death to see which entrepreneurs can dazzle and excite the judges in under 60 seconds." They select 10 startups to showcase their companies and defend them to a panel of VCs and TechCrunch editors. The prize (aside from general bragging rights and industry visibility — never something to discount) is the chance to attend the "flagship event," TechCrunch Disrupt in NYC.
That's actually not just a chance to attend, but a little more: First place gets a table in "Startup Alley" at TC Disrupt NY, which is kind of a big deal and often results in seed and Series A funding. Second place and the Audience Choice Winner don't do too badly, either, still garnering two tickets and one ticket to NYC, respectively.
If you haven't made it to TC Meetup in years past, the big thing you should know is that it can be pretty terrifying to get up in front of the panel and audience and try to pitch your company. The judges don't pull any punches, asking about current competitors and picking apart weak spots, and there's a tough crowd waiting in the wings who will take to Twitter en masse and publicly rage about anything they feel the judges missed.
The judges were, of course, a Who's Who list from the venture capital and startup world: K.P. Reddy(managing partner at Change The World Venture Partners), Edwin Marcial (CTO at ICE), Marc Gorlin(founder and CEO at Roadie), Jonathan Shieber (Senior Editor at CrunchBase/TechCrunch), and Sig Mosley (president of Imlay Investments, managing partner at Mosley Ventures, and the "unwitting godfather of Atlanta angel investing." Side note: if you haven't seen his website, you should take a quick look sometime). These people have forgotten more than most of us will ever learn about startups, and they definitely asked the hard questions onstage.
Not to mention Jordan Crook, the sassy, blunt senior writer at TechCrunch who acted as the event's host while doubling as a sort of verbal bouncer to an increasingly unruly crowd. She also calls out recalcitrant presenters, as a few were unlucky enough to discover, and she WILL bring the pain to people who talk through the pitches!
<Side note>: Let's veryveryquickly chat about locale, shall we? Prive is a nightclub. Which, fine. That sounds cool, in theory. But the reality is, it is really, really, really loud! This isn't exactly a fault —nightclubs aren't made to hear people talk, they're made to hear music. They're made to hear crowd noise. But if you're pitching? You want to hear what people have to say; that's what everyone is there for! Last year, I didn't say anything about it. Events are hard to plan and logistics are a nightmare. I don't want to be the judge-y person. But this being the second year in a row held at Prive, the second year in a row that's the equivalent of holding a seashell to your ear and hearing the roar of the ocean and not much else, I have to say something about it. I am not the one having to plan it, I know, I get it. But I feel like there are a lot better options in ATL than an echoing nightclub, to do something that's such a pivotal moment in a career, in a company, in lives, like these pitch-offs are to the startups involved. Seriously, Atlanta Startup Village hosts 500+ people every month with pitches and Q&A and I've never seen it devolve to the level of chaos TC Meetup does. I'm not sure of the right answer here, but I don't think it's Prive. Sorry, Prive! I really do think you're great, in the right setting! </Side Note Ended>
So okay, let's talk about what you're really here for — the intrepid entrepreneurs and their pitches!
THE PITCH RECAPS: see full article for all the recaps
ReKindness: Swap to Shop. ReKindness makes it easy and fun to give away clothes you don't wear to get clothes you will wear. | ReKindness works on a sort of greater-good-in-everyone concept: You post a pic of an item you are willing to give away, you choose a credit value for your item (1 is less than $100, 2 is more than $100), and when someone else chooses your item, they pay shipping and you receive the credits, which you then use to take any other item from the community closet.
My friend Allie (who also has an Allie-in-Atlanta motif ... I know. We're the same person with parallel lives. We didn't plan this, it just happened), who was attending her first TC Meetup, catchily called it "crowd-sourced Goodwill." And yes, it is. It's a community-sharing platform for clothing.
ReKindness is also working on the theory that selfies are breeding a "wear-it-once" culture, and social media has prompted people not to wear outfits more than three times. (Y'all. Seriously. Who has this many clothes, and this much space for them? ... I know, I digress.) Anyway, the judges wanted to know more. A lot more: How do they acquire customers (localized and social approaches), how long have they been in business (private beta = social network effect with 250 members and 1,000 items), how do they get the items to the next person (the company emails prepaid, pre-addressed shipping labels and is trialling local porch pickup), what's the most compelling revenue stream in the model (the plan is to move large transactions through the system, and add accessories to purchase to complete the outfits), and how, if they were so inclined, would one go about getting such items as Jonathan Shieber's "Early American Hobo" scarf (there wasn't an exact answer for this one, thankfully, but you do have a list of preferences in the platform).
It was a good pitch, with plenty of research and attention to detail. My favorite part was a smooth cross-sell with Marc Gorlin and Roadie, but even without the puns on Jon's scarf and connection to the judges, there was some serious buzz amongst women nearby. Taking the friction out of the negotiation process while getting rid of old outfits and acquiring new ones sounded like a winner to me!