To begin our recap of last week’s winter TZ Spotlight, we’d like to say our list of thank yous. Thank you to the supporters who told their colleagues and friends about the event, to our attendees for the attention towards the center of the room, to our supporting sponsors, our Spotlight judges, and to Bill Gross, our inspirational keynote speaker for the evening. Building a strong tech industry to rival that of Silicon Valley is definitely no easy feat, but the overall feeling within Cal Tech’s Baxter Hall at last week’s event certainly bodes well for the year. With a room full of investors, founders, media, and tech enthusiasts; and a hilariously dramatic orchestral soundtrack that would show up from time to time (Cal Tech Symphony practice happening on the first floor), there was definitely a strong air of excitement through our different stages of the evening.
After some pre-game mingling, we began our evening with demos from companies that had been picked from months of company submissions. The intent of our Spotlight events is always simple: to provide a live platform to showcase the very companies that our driving our tech/start up industry, to show our hometown investors a handful of worthwhile companies, and to give other founders some inspiration and innovation for their own companies.
Crowd Seats came up first to give their two minute breakdown of the company. They provide discounted tickets (50-90%) directly to sports fans but with a slight twist from the age-old ticket brokering system. Developing their business directly through partnerships with sports teams, Crowd Seats has the ability to get larger discounts on potentially unused ticket sales to provide value for the fans, teams, and venues.
The next company up was Storitz, operating as an online reservation system for storage units (think Orbitz), the company helps consumers not only search for available listings, but also make reservations with real time feedback on availability and customer reviews. With a scale-able platform ready to expand to different industries (utilities and maintenance services, etc.) and web plug-in capabilities (Yelp), Storitz definitely gave the biggest eye opener of the evening with their revelation that Storage Units is astonishingly, a $20 billion/yr industry.
Next was Mobile Web America‘s ultra impressive display of their patent-pending web application that converts most websites into a mobile friendly format. Bridging the gap (and the high development costs) between web to mobile, MWA’s services allows for an easy conversion (no programming knowledge required) with end users being able to view the reformatted websites on any mobile device platform they choose. Simple, but simply awe-inspiring stuff as they took Cal Tech’s school website, and within a matter of seconds parsed it out into a mobile ready view on their website’s test function. They also gave a quick tour of the dashboard that clients would be using to customize their now mobile ready sites.
Our next company to present was Danger Room Gaming and their Rapid Fire Trivia games. With all games designed and developed in house, they also work with companies and campaigns to develop specific trivia game applications. With a database of millions of questions in stock, they provide entertainment and generate revenue in two manners: by having users put money on the line to play, or by allowing users to play free with non-obtrusive ads. Their presentation ended in a quick trivia round about science, a category which (of course), the techy audience chose.
Leftronic, our final company to present demo’d their impressive data visualization platform that displays information in real time and within browser windows, meaning, no software to download. Developed with aesthetics and ease of use in mind, the impressive interface and their display of the system’s dashboard functions showed us just how simple it is for their users to customize their own data feeds. Looking for twitter trends on #TZSpotlight? Simple; simply launch a new widget style box with the information you need. Great for looking up Facebook and traffic statistics, Leftronic’s product offering definitely has the Startup client in mind.
To close off the evening we had an especially inspirational super demo from Idealab’s Bill Gross. Bill took us on a narrative journey of his own experiences with stories on both successes and failures along his entrepreneurial path. In addition to serving as director and founder to multiple successful companies, he is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the California Institute of Technology and of the Art Center College of Design. Bill received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology. Honestly, when someone like Bill gives you advice, you listen. I particularly enjoyed the flow of his demo as he took the captivated audience step by step from his earliest successes as an entrepreneurial minded high school student, to where he is now, with Idealab’s especially long list of successfully incubated companies. Building a strong sense of interest before presenting his lesson, this format really kept the audience engaged as they waited to hear each of his 12 points of success (as follows):
- Market Power Rules – Utilizing the momentum of a rapidly developing industry to serve as your tail wind to success
- Master The Demo – Presenting the mission of your company and instilling excitement in potential supporters
- Pursue Your Passion – The only way to truly stay motivated on the arduous path of an entrepreneur
- Focus, Focus, Focus – Specializing your product when things get too diluted and unclear
- Recognize Your Strengths – And utilize the strengths of others to work as a team
- Don’t Overbuild – Preparing for too much success can easily be as dangerous as not preparing enough
- Survive Until the Market is Ready – Streamlining your operations and staying true to rough out tough times
- Test, Test, Test – The importance of feedback on your product
- Stick With It – The importance of perseverance on especially rough patches
- Rind Essential Partners – Leveraging the value of others to build something greater than individual sums
- Harness Your Users’ Passion – The significance of getting users involved and engaged
And finally, the lesson to end the evening
12. “All Truth Passes Through 3 Stages” by Arthur Schopenhauer
- First, it is ridiculed
- Second, it is violently opposed
- Third, it is accepted as being self evident
Some sound advice for a room of people looking to shape LA’s business culture.
Full Spotlight Video