Pitch Perfect: Is a Startup Competition Right for Your Next Event?

More associations are using their conferences to discover the industry’s next great program, product, or service. Is there room for a startup competition at one of your meetings?

I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “A little friendly competition never hurt anybody.”

The Accelerator Pitch contest helped us move our business to a new level by providing instant credibility and exposure to our target audience.

Well, association meetings are beginning to become more familiar with it, too, as many are beginning to hold startup competitions during their conferences to give individuals and companies the opportunity to pitch their new products or services to those in the industry who are in attendance.

Not only do these competitions help the startups, they also benefit the industries in the long run and paint the association sponsoring the competition as being future-thinking and as anticipating member needs.

Find Solutions to Problems

Say, for example, your industry is going through some upheaval like the newspaper business. Most publications are facing declining advertising revenue, increased competition from other print and digital products, and readers with different content-consumption habits that requires different strategy. These were just some of the issues addressed during last week’s Newspaper Association of America’s mediaXchange 2015 meeting.

But NAA took the next step and also helped members find potential solutions to some of these problems by bringing back its Accelerator Pitch program once again. The program gave seven preselected startups the opportunity to pitch the industry executives in attendance about how their products and services can fulfill their print, digital, mobile, or advertising needs.

One of the 2015 startups—Hatchback—is a software-development kit that works along with a publication’s mobile app to increase user engagement. It gathers information about users’ travel patterns to understand their tendencies, whereabouts, and habits as consumers to determine what content they’re most likely to consume.

The hope is to allow collaboration between these newspaper execs and the new companies. “The Accelerator Pitch contest helped us move our business to a new level by providing instant credibility and exposure to our target audience,” said Matt Voigt, founder and CEO of saambaa, an Accelerator Pitch 2014 winner, in a statement. “After the pitch we received significant interest from publishers, which helped us advance business development.”

Gear Up for Growth

Sometimes your association may represent an industry that is undergoing significant growth, and you may want to help companies find their place in that environment. That’s the case for the American Telemedicine Association (ATA). A 2013 study from business information provider IHS predicted the U.S. telehealth market will grow from $240 million in revenue in 2013 to $1.9 billion in 2018. That’s an annual growth rate of more than 50 percent.

This forecasted growth will mean that more companies and services will be needed to fill the demand. To encourage this, ATA will hold its third Telemedicine Investor & Strategic Summit—with cohost Jones Day law firm—at its 2015 Annual Meeting and Tradeshow.

The summit includes three parts:

  • An invitation-only roundtable session for selected later-stage emerging companies and invited mentors (representing various private equity, strategic, and other industry stakeholders) to discuss shared experiences and industry hurdles while forming strategic relationships;
  • A “Shark Tank” style series of lightning-round quick presentations by startups during the afternoon portion of the event;
  • A series of educational panels and keynotes by industry experts covering current industry trends, hurdles faced by emerging companies specific to this sector, and lessons from venture and strategic partners.

“On the heels of 2014’s 300 percent plus growth in telehealth sector investment, the timing couldn’t be better to gather in a unique event focused specifically on strategic opportunities for telemedicine and mobile health,” said Alexis Gilroy, a partner with Jones Day, in a press release. “This Venture Summit is undoubtedly a valuable opportunity for emerging companies to gain exposure and industry insight while also providing investors and strategics with access to the leading rising stars in this quickly evolving industry.”

And, for all you readers wondering: Yes, the meetings industry has at least one startup competition of its own. For the second year, IMEX and Event Manager blog are teaming up for a  competition at IMEX 2015 in Frankfurt, Germany. After applying, 10 companies that have been around for two years or less will be chosen to pitch their ideas to global meeting execs.

Have you tried a startup competition or something similar at one of your events? Please share how it went in the comments.

Matt Voigt, whose company saambaa won the Newspaper Association of America’s Accelerator Pitch competition in 2014. (Handout photo)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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