It was our first major event as a startup and we definitely had a blast! Here are some of the things we learns along the way.
1. It’s always good to meet your peers
Over the course of my (short) marketing career, I have attended to several events like Web Summit a few years ago, Traffic & Conversions and other smaller networking events, and I can safely say all of these definitely helped me put things in perspective and realize how many people were dealing with the same challenges I had.
Riseconf was no exception. The event was packed with thousands of startups and technology enthusiasts, and we were able to discuss in lenght user acquisition strategy, fundraising and the latest tools and apps to make our businesses run smoother.
2. The fun happens at night
During tech events like these, I found that they are really two crowds. The “day” crowd which attends the day events, which you’ll find exhibiting, networking and generally happily talking about their products.
Then there is the “night” crowd. Obviously a subset of the day crowd (Id say about 10% of it at most) that goes out drinking after the main day events. I found that networking with the night crowd is incredibly easy, so if you are attending these kind of events heading out is pretty much a must.
3. You gotta get your hustle on
I guess the first thing before heading to an event like this is to be clear about your objectives. Are you here to get user feedback on a new product? Or to network with peers? Maybe your plan is to get as many sign ups as possible, raise awaraness or find an investor? These are very different objectives, and will require different behaviors at the event itself.
In our case, the objective was to meet up with investors to eventually get an investment deal. After exhibiting at the Youzign booth for the first day, I quickly realized that investors seldomly visited the booths, and although we got plenty of attention from visitors and attendees we were not hitting our main objectives.
So for the second day of the event we decided to open shop (meaning start camping) right in front of the investors lounge, all day long. And every single investors that would come in or leave the lounge we would arrest and pitch.
Surprisingly enough, there were not that many startups following the same approach. I visited a few booths and was surprised to see that a lot of founders were a bit shy to approach investors, even if they badly needed the funds.
I guess at some point, you got to step it up and get your hustle on. We only got one life to live so there is little place to regret. Like the ancient said, “carpe diem“.
4. Teams perform better in events
I realized that when I attended Dublin Beta a few months ago on my own. I had a little booth there, but I really struggled to get attention simply because I was on my own. The startup in front of me has like a 5 people team, and they were able to gather much more attention and pretty much multiply their efforts.
So for the Rise event, I brought with me my CFO (Seb) and Tech Evangelist (Nico) to the party. This allowed us to do a lot of things simultaneously. For instance at some point I was pitching by the investor lounge while Nico was demoing Youzign at the booth and Seb distributing some flyers at the event. This really helped us get the most of the event, and it’s certainly a strategy we will replicate at future events.
5. Tech investors are easy-going
As someone who bootstrapped his company and grew without any kind of external financial help, my experience with investors has been (very) limited so far. One month ago, we decided to start seeking investment to bring the vision we had of Youzign to reality, but so far we only had a handful of contacts with investors.
At Rise Hong Kong there were about 200 investors, and we made direct contact with and pitched about 30 of them in total. What we found was that investors were generally a friendly bunch of people who are surprisingly approachable.
Top tip: if you pitch at such international events always make sure to start by letting the investor know in which country you are based and what industry/niche you are in. In fact some investors may focus on hardware companies or only invest in chinese company for instance, so it will be a waste of your time and his/her time if you don’t fit the basic industry and geographical requirements.
6. Hong Kong is (still) very cool
It was my second visit to Hong Kong, and I can safely say it’s one of my favourite city in the world, arguably my favourite in Asia. Behind its ultrapolis (is that a real word?) appearance, Hong Kong has some of the nicest sceneries and people I have ever come accross.
And if you are a startup HK has a very lively tech environment which is conductive to growing a business. There are several tech meetups pretty much every week, plus the low taxes and flexible employment laws make it a great place to set up shop.
7. A blog can be a startup
Going through the 500 or so startups presenting at Rise, I realized that to be a startup you really just have to call yourself one… In fact I recall checking out a couple of blogs which actually had their own booths at the conference, and who were pitching for investors. And while most of the startups had pretty amazing offerings, I also saw a handful of average apps which did not really impress with their presentation or technologies.
This to say that if you have an innovative product you definitely have your place in the startup world. Internet marketers tend to keep themselves out of these kind of events, but I think there is scope to see a lot more IM grown products turning into big startups.
8. Paddy Cosgrave is the man
I am really impressed by the event organizer, Paddy Cosgrave from Ireland who in 4 years turned the original web summit in Dublin from a couple hundred attendees to a global network of conferences (he now runs similar conferences in Las Vegas, New Orleans, Hong Kong and more). The original Dublin web summit now boasts more than 20,000 attendees too. Quite a feat in such a short time frame.
9. IMers are welcomed too
I am always amazed at the divide there is between “internet marketing” (which I refer to as “IM”) and “startuping”… In fact when we mentioned at the conference that we grossed $100,000 in the first day of launching Youzign the most common reaction is “how the hell did you do it”.. Now these kind of numbers are reasonably common in the internet marketing space, but for most startupers I have came accross things like the “Product Launch Formula” (the Jeff Walker devised strategy we used for launching pretty much all our products) seem like a foreign concept (this is a generalization of course, and I did indeed find a few people who knew about it).
It goes the other way round too… Internet marketers were not present at this event by large, in fact we were pretty much the only company with an IM/Warrior Forum background. I think it’s a shame because both worlds would have a lot to learn from each others. The IMers are great at marketing and generating fast cash flow, while the startups usually excell in scaling and building solid companies. I hope and I encourage any IMers to attend these kind of events, and startupers to enquire and learn more about some of the marketing strategies we use in IM.
10. We’ll be at Dublin Web Summit
All in all, Rise Hong Kong has been an awesome event, and we’ll definitely carry on attending these peer meetups. The next one in November is Dublin Web Summit, and as a Dublin based startup Youzign will be exhibiting at the summit too if we manage to secure a booth this time too.
If you are in the area make sure to come give us a shout, it’s always great to connect face to face with fellow digital independents : )
Until then enjoy the day,