i've had more than a month to chew-on and digest Demo 2006. And for the last two weeks I've tried to find one company that illustrates of what makes for an outstanding launch.
Up front disclosure statement: I am not a paid blogger, nor am I an employee of IDG, the company that owns the parent group that produces Demo along with the GuideWireGroup. This blog entry represents my own views, not those of Demo’s executive producer, or employees of IDG. My insight into Demo comes from producing Demo branded events, writing DemoLetter and interviewing thousands of companies for spots at the shows. I had a debilitating stroke about two hours before I was to have opened Demo 2002 and am now retired. I offer no excuses for my partisan views of Demo. The show produces results and offers and unparalleled snapshot of the technology industry and its entrepreneurs.
Speaking to a group of business students at a college in Southern California recently, I was asked how show selection decisions were made, and what a company had to do to make the cut. What follows is my answer as well as my idea of what makes a good Demo company.
After looking at some of the online coverage of Demo 2006 and reading and watching the company presentations from this year's show at Demo.com, I picked one company to use as a snapshot of a good Demo company
The company I picked is Blurb Inc., which launched a publishing system called Blurb BookSmart in the Demo2006’s initial segment.
Blurb has everything I like in a Demo company.
+they had remained under the radar since founding. About the only people who were familiar with Blurb were its investors and very small handful of strategic partners and beta testers.
+Blurb’s Book Smart publishing system has a very wide appeal and is readily understood by consumers and technical professionals alike. It’s also extremely cost effective when compared to other self-publishing solutions and provides user examples that are as innovative as they are powerful. You shouldn’t have to be a desktop publishing wizard to publish great looking material and Blurb BookSmart is a shortcut I think a lot of people in business, at home and in colleges will quickly adopt.
+The product both creates a new category (online self-publishing) and redefines conventional segments of computer-based document production.
+Blurb’s BookSmart was almost ready for market. As this is written, Blurb is preparing to “go live,” less than two months after its February launch. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of delivering a product that’s been launched at Demo and attracted a great deal of attention.
+Blurb investigated various launch scenarios and decided that Demo was strategic to its business plan (which includes seeking more venture financing. Blurb’s executive team and its contract public relations agency took the time to plan how they would position BookSMart to Demo’s executive producer, Chris Shipley, The decision to launch at Demo had been planned in advance, the company’s management team actively promoted the company and its technology to the show's producer and kept her abreast of important milestones in the run-up to the event in February.
+Blurb took advantage of pre-show Demonstrator meetings to manage their own expectations and to show Ms Shipley that they were preparing a first rate demonstration.
+The company thoroughly read and understood Demo’s Demonstratator Handbook, (perhaps most of all the sections on how to deal with press at the event). Blurb’s founder, Eillen Gittens, says she studied and dissected company presentations made at previous shows in an effort to master her demonstration and to better understand the event.
+Blurb’s PR agency (Voce Communications in Palo Alto) took the time to learn about Demo and was an integral part of preparing its client for Demo 2006 and the selection process. Kudos to Voce for its work with Blurb Inc.
+ I also really like Blurb's Internet site. It’s focused on the technology, and how users can put Blurb BookSmart immediately to work, not who the company is funded by or what Internet implosion its founders emerged unsinged from.
In summary, Blurb is almost the antithesis of Web 2.0. This company was close to delivering a product at Demo 2006 and chose to launch at an event where they had access to relevant press, potential partners and investors. Its management team had a clear set of goals and it closely defines what I think makes a great company to participate in the opening segment of a show like Demo.
Blurb’s Ms. Gittens used Demo to hit her most important goals, she says they generated “about 20 bonafide partner leads, and as many VCs who are candidates for their next round of financing.
It’s important to note that Blurb wasn’t the only company at Demo. I chose them as an example because they have the qualities that make for a great lead-off demonstration and also exemplify the value of understanding their own expectations and then artfully managing a producer to those same expectations.
This probably won’t be the last blog entry I write about Blurb. I believe that if the web-based services really do take off, this member of the Demo Class of 2006 could make very big news. And that’s good for Demo.--Jim Forbes, from Escondido, CA