Two Pitches In and Preparing for More

This is it… the big trip west to Denver Startup Week! I’ve been looking forward to this trip for quite a while – I know I’ve talked about it enough. I make the trip to Denver each year to visit friends and to connect with the startup community, and to enjoy a few beverages not available in Iowa, and it’s one of the highlights of my year. The trip is slightly different each year, which is an added bonus. Last year, instead of attending Denver Startup Week, I attended the Global Accelerator Network Rally. Two years ago, instead of checking out breweries in Denver, my friends and I made the drive to Fort Collins and visited New Belgium’s facility. This year, they have a new baby, so we probably won’t be out and about too much.

Any way you cut it, I end up having a great time and connect with amazing people in a great community. I’m eagerly anticipating some of the sessions this week, and I think I finally have my schedule finalized. The Denver Startup Week organizers have added new events since they opened registration, and I’ve made changes to my schedule at least once a week for the last couple of months.

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Monday at 8 am, I’ll be attending the Kickoff Breakfast. I actually managed to snag a ticket to this event, which sold out in less than five minutes. Also, I couldn’t say no to breakfast with 499 other entrepreneurs.
  • Monday at 4 pm, TiE Rockies Pitch Championship and Investor Networking. This event is going to feature the top graduates from the TiE Rockies Accelerator and will feature investors associated with that program. I thought it would be an educational experience getting a glimpse into the world of some of the best startups in the country, and possibly make some connections with the investors in attendance.
  • Monday at 6 pm, Denver Startup Week Opening Bash at Union Station. Yet another huge networking opportunity with over 1000 people expected. This is why I have the entire container of BondingBox business cards in my backpack.
  • Wednesday at 8 am, 1 Million Cups Denver. It’s Wednesday morning, and 1 Million Cups is basically a requirement for entrepreneurs on Wednesday mornings. They are doing an extra-long 1MC with 3 pitches from “maker startups.” I really enjoyed attending Des Moines’ version of 1 Million Cups and seeing the difference between what they do with their program and what we do in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. This should be an excellent chance to see another version of the program, and take what I learn there back to our local organizers.
  • Wednesday at 2 pm, Going Up? The chance to do an elevator pitch in an actual elevator – up and down 32 floors each direction. I haven’t had to do an elevator-style pitch since we rebranded Sexy Life to BondingBox and the elevator pitch competition at the Young Entrepreneur Convention. Plus, it’s another opportunity to connect with movers and shakers in a much larger startup community from my own.
  • Wednesday at 4 pm, Miller Lite Tap the Future Presents Business and Beer. More free food and drinks? Of course! Also, a panel of entrepreneurs who have won the Tap the Future contest in the past. This event was one of the latecomers to the schedule, but it looks like a great opportunity to connect with some folks who have turned their ideas into reality.
  • Wednesday at 6 pm, Pitch Lab: Battle of the Startups. From the description of the event, this thing looks like Startup Weekend’s Half-Baked on steroids. If the line isn’t too long, I may get up and give this thing a whirl. It should be a great way to finish out Wednesday.

During the week, I’ll also be learning about seed investments, patent applications, finding customers, networking, Google analytics, and connecting with mentors. I’m also going to be finding some time to relax a bit and possibly get a little bit of work done in between session. I didn’t bring a ton of stuff to do, because I don’t think there is going to be too much down time. Plus, there are plenty of ways to fill the time during the week, including paying a visit to two to Basecamp with plenty of free food and hopefully a good Internet connection.

But, wait! It’s been about three weeks since I’ve written a blog post. What have I been doing since then? Funny you should ask.

BondingBox is now open for business! We finished building out the new Web site and flipped the switch to make it public just over a week ago. We’ve set the trap, and now we wait. While we wait, I’ve been busy advertising the heck out of our product and our service. Just before turning the new Web site on, I presented at 1 Million Cups in Des Moines. The following Wednesday, after we turned on the new site, I presented to 1 Million Cups in Cedar Rapids. David and I received a ton of great feedback, both on our business and on our presentation at both locations. Also, I made an appearance at the Innovation Expo and wandered around the startup showcase connecting with other entrepreneurs and spreading the word about BondingBox.

Startup Showcase at this year’s Innovation Expo

The folks in Rockford finally scheduled us at their 1 Million Cups location. I’ll be making the drive to northern Illinois on October 11 to pitch BondingBox and give a last-minute invitation to the startup and business community there about Startup Weekend Iowa City. I’m still waiting to hear from the 1 Million Cups organizers in Cedar Falls, Peoria, and Bloomington. David and I are also in talks with the folks who run the Venture School Surge Summit about how we can contribute to that event at the beginning of December. I’ll have more news on that when I get it.

Startup Weekend Iowa City planning is also in full swing, with the event only a few weeks away. Almost the entire committee was able to meet this past Thursday, and we were able to divide up the remaining tasks. Our biggest tasks right now are fundraising and promotion. I have some loose notes for emails to promote the weekend, but I have had almost no time to actually turn those notes into e-mails. Luckily, once I get the first form e-mail done, the rest should fall into place. Also, I got the posters printed, and they should be hung up all over Iowa City in the following days and sent out to coworking spaces throughout Iowa when I return from Denver.

I’m in Denver… let’s get this started!

Before Startup Weekend Iowa City, there is Startup Weekend Fairfield. It will be fun coming back from Denver Startup Week and going directly into a Startup Weekend in a new community. I promised the wife I wouldn’t start any new businesses while I’m on this trip, and I plan to keep my word… even I were to pitch something and win a prize at Startup Weekend Fairfield. Speaking of, I’m looking forward to hearing what the prizes are… they are guaranteed to be good!

There are several other events on the horizon, but I’ll cover those more after this week. If you want to keep up with what I’m doing in Denver this week or Fairfield next weekend, follow my Twitter feed. I have quite a bit of homework to do before some of the sessions this week, and I definitely need to get some sleep if I’m going to be mingling with this many people over the next few days.