Monday 27 May 2013

Big China, Little Startup

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to head out to Beijing to be part of the Global Mobile Internet Conference. After having the startup I'm working on be nominated as one of the best early stage startups, I was given a stand and an opportunity to pitch in front of some of the biggest angel investors and VCs in China.

Meeting an angel
I had never been to China before, and I'm not really much of a traveller, but I figured as long as I had my laptop and WIFI I'd be able to figure it out. When I arrived at the airport, one of the cool things that caught me out was the rogue taxi cab drivers. Well actually two things caught me out. Firstly, I didn't take down the number of the hotel I was staying at, and no one had heard of it before. Secondly, the line for the taxis start at the pavement, however as soon as you get to the front of the line (just before the pavement line), taxi cab drivers offer to help you get to your destination. Once you accept, they tell you to follow them round the back for 10x the regular fare.

Ok, so two problems, where is the hotel and learning about rogue taxi cab drivers. Firstly, lucky for me the rogue taxi cab drivers had no idea where the place was, or the english spelling of the address. I asked for help at the help desk, but no one knew how to get there. I tried logging into the airport WIFI however it seemed out of range from the Taxi section, so I sat down kinda stranded, contemplating what to do next, when... This amazing Chinese girl came and sat down next to me, she asked me for the name of the hotel I was looking for in her broken English accent, then frantically searched on her iPhone for clues. She found the hotel, phoned them up, arranged a meeting point, wrote down the name in Mandarin, hollered a taxi for me (taught me how to ignore the rogue ones), told the driver exactly where to go and to even phone up the reception desk for me when I got there. I wish I took a picture of her, she was a true angel.

Practice makes per... powerpoint slides
As a nominated startup, I had to attended the pre-day pitch practice meeting where we was given a stand to demo our product on and practice the pitch. The China National Convention Center was huge, and the directions given to the meeting point was pretty vague. Lucky for me, after asking a few guys if they spoke English, I bumped into the main guy from TapLinker, who is bilingual, so problem solved.

Preparing for the practice pitch was fun, I had prepared some slides the night before, and the practice pitch seemed to go alright. Some good feedback I got was to mention more about the potential sub-products we can sell and show those typical hockey stick revenue projection charts.

After the pitching I bumped into another startup founder Eric from LifeBit; which is a really beautiful mobile-first gamified blogging platform. Eric is an awesome friendly down to earth guy. He was joking about how awesome the salary rates for developers in the Philippines was. He was also pretty kitted out with a huge impressive banner stand for his product. We both didn't have posters for our actual exhibition stand though, so we teamed up and negotiated (he negotiated, I was cool with whatever) a knocked down price (half the original quote) for one of the helpers there to get a poster printed out for us.

Also got to befriend the guys from MNECreations; who are working on an awesome gamified learn Manderin app which I really could of used for this trip!

In the evening we were invited to a VIP dinner, in which I managed to crash the stage to give a quick talk on the benefits of localization, make some more business contacts, get invited to speak at an upcoming conference in Shanghai, and eat some free food (best part).

Exhibiting is hard work
Day one of the actual exhibition was hard work, in the morning we were massed with people checking out our stand asking for product demos. Meeting some amazing people from corporations like Intel, Samsung, Unilever, Sailfish, to VC's and Angels, to Universities and other Startups.

The guys from Visualead modelling for us.

As usual I was pretty nervous for the pitch, walking up and down backstage shadowboxing. But once I put on my magic jacket and got on stage to present, I seemed to be ok.

Feedback and advice
Day two was more relaxed as I had gotten a handle of the demoing structure. I did get to meet some more amazing people and I even managed to interview a few.

Mark van der Maas being awesome.

The best part however was getting everyone's feedback on our pitch and product. I received some great advice from Mark, Eric (LifeBit) and Ben (MNECreations) on how to better introduce our startup. The main problem identified was trying to present the journey from the startup's perspective rather than the end user. Which was taken in and executed at the next pitch at Lion's Cage (blog post coming soon).

The grass is smiling at you
The last day was nice and peaceful, I met up with Dave Cooper who is a local indie games designer, professor, rockstar and comedian (yes, he's super talented). We co-worked at Cafe Zarah which was a really nice experience because I got to hands on test and give feedback on the upcoming game he's working on. Plus, the soup was nice and there was free WIFI.


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