It is coming to the end of the year which means a good portion of you will be scrambling to get your Webstock tickets together for next February. But while you may be super excited about the lineup of speakers like Stefan Sagmeister and Genevieve Bell but if you are a startup you might also be excited about BNZ Startup Alley, a startup comp that takes place as part of Webstock. For the uninitiated, the competition allows startups to pitch for their chance to win cash, legal advice and a return trip for 2 to the states! We cornered Webstock Co-founder Mike Brown to talk startup, BNZ Startup Alley and why you should enter.
First things first, come on and give us the pitch for BNZ Startup Alley!
BNZ Start-up Alley is a chance to get your start-up in front of the Webstock audience. 6 finalists get to pitch before our panel of judges, with prizes including cash and flights to the USA. Many finalists and winners have used Start-up Alley as a jumping-off point to greater things.
Why did you guys get interested in crafting a startup competition as a part of Webstock
It’s always been a joint venture in conjunction with our sponsor, BNZ. We were talking about how their sponsorship might work and what we could offer at Webstock and came up with the idea of Start-up Alley. Originally, in our previous venue for Webstock, it was literally an alley where the start-ups had stands to promote themselves during the conference, but space constraints as our current venue make that impractical.
We wanted to use Webstock as a chance to offer start-ups something that would make a difference to them. We think both the prizes and the opportunities from being at Webstock allow us to do that.
What makes BNZ Startup Alley different from other pitching competitions out there?
We had the idea that it would take some influence from the TV series, ‘Dragon’s Den’, but it became clear that that wasn’t quite right for us. We weren’t so much about entertaining an audience, sometimes at the expense of the start-ups, as about providing exposure and help to the start-ups. Our judges and MC have now been involved for a number of years and this continuity has allowed them to not only judge the start-ups, but to offer practical and specialist advice to them. Each start-up meets with the judging panel the day before Webstock and this has proved invaluable.
Can you tell us about some of the businesses that have won Startup Alley?
We’ve had a wide variety of start-ups that have been finalists and winners. One thing I do want to stress, is that while winning is great, in a real sense, every finalist is a winner through the exposure and experience they get taking part.
Some of the finalist and winners have gone on to receive investment, overseas opportunities and doors opening for them that would not have happened otherwise. These include
Timely, SpeedCurve, Thankyou Payroll, Banqer, Syngency, and Little Yellow Bird .
You have kept the entry requirements for Startup Alley quite broad, why is that?
I think mostly because Webstock, as a conference, has quite a broad focus. We’re about design and development, culture and business, commentary, delight and inspiration. It made sense to us to encourage a wide range of entrants into Start-up Alley. They must, broadly-speaking, have a technology focus, but aside from that, we’re pretty open. We encourage social enterprise businesses to enter and also, this year, businesses that may be slightly beyond the initial start-up phase.
So I am a startup, looking to enter – what should I be thinking about when i put together my entry?
Think about telling us a story about what you do and why. Think about whether there’s a sustainable business model – are you making money, how will you make money etc. We don’t want to hear about how you’re going to change the world, because we’re a little cynical about that, but we do want to hear about who your audience is and how you can meet their needs. Don’t use buzzwords to try and impress us – tell us your story in your words.
Why should startups be thinking about coming along to webstock?
Because it’s not just about building your product and start-up. It’s also about being part of a wider environment. It’s about meeting your peers and colleagues, it’s about hearing and learning from some of the most inspiring people working in the web today, and it’s about being delighted anew with what the web means and can do. You’ll find all of that at Webstock – it really is a conference like no other.
And lastly, what is the best thing you have seen on the internet recently?
This is Patti Smith performing Bob Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ at the recent Nobel Prize ceremony where Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Two minutes in, she falters, forgetting the words due to nervousness, before carrying on and finishing. It’s a lovely, beautiful, human and moving performance of a song that seems pretty relevant right at the moment.