Entrepreneur

How one startup hacked Founder Showcase with 4 hours and $500

Arie is the CEO of WisePricer, a real-time repricing engine for online retailers. He has extensive experience business development with a focus on eCommerce (eBay and Amazon), as well as social media optimization, marketing strategy and multi-channel platforms.

Like most startups, WisePricer is nimble, fast, and flexible. Also like most, we’ll do almost anything to meet and find new clients.

Even attend a conference with just four hours of notice …

Since moving to San Francisco a month ago, we’ve encountered many challenges, such as finding coworking space, cheap food, a place to stay, and the best networking events. And we’ve executed many things on the go, from our website redesign, to presentations, to finishing last-minute code.

Sometimes, meeting those challenges brings out the best in our team and test our ability to get stuff done quickly — just like Founder Showcase, which was an amazing event for our team … even though it was completely unplanned.

Here’s how we made it happen it with just four hours and $500.

11:43 AM
Izzy, our newly hired biz dev guy gets an email mentioning a great pitching event called Founder Showcase. Organized by Founder Institute, this event was brimming with investors, angels, startups and high-powered content sites like VentureBeat, TechCrunch, The Next Web and Pando Daily.

We knew we had to jump on it, ASAP.

Above: The car we rented

12:03 PM: The clock starts ticking
We reached out to Jonathan, the event organizer from Founders Institute. To our amazement and luck, one last demo table is available, but there are only 35 minutes to register, and only four hours until the start of the event.

12:07 PM
Within one minute after finishing our conversation, we were on it. Next step, registering a demo table. There is only one problem, there are 4 of us and only 3 tickets are available. After one phone call, some positivity and a little luck, we got the fourth ticket for free. Tickets, check. Demo table, check. From this point on, it’s all hustle.

12:18 PM
Now it was time for us to get some wheels. Zipcar is probably the fastest and easiest method, so within 2 minutes we booked a jazzy red Mazda. It was big enough to carry the whole team plus all of the things we now needed to procure. Total cost: $76.

12:40 PM
Next was getting some swag.We had no giveaways for our demo table or networking efforts, but we needed a solution, quick. All we had was our WiseGuy t-shirts that we ordered a week ago. (Sidenote: The shirts were free in exchange for some website coding.) Although we were planning to use them for new client/partner giveaways, we decided to repurpose for great conference swag.

1:34 PM: No promotional materials, no problem
We had no time to print paper flyers, but then realized that no one uses paper flyers, so we scratched that idea. However, we couldn’t convince ourselves that stickers and biz cards were unneeded. Within minutes, we had our UX Director on the phone via Google Voice (at 11PM in Tel Aviv) to have him send us updated sticker files.

Then we called every printing shop in the Bay area to find out who could get the job done in under four hours. We begged, pleaded, and bargained.

1:45 PM
Finally, the guys at Arc Shop agreed to try. But of course not before the guy on the phone said, “He’s not sure if they will be able to make it on time.” We took that as a yes, sending the file and heading out for the printing shop.

2:15 PM
We only hired our biz bev guy 3 days ago, and he had no business cards. Just our luck.

So, we called our UX Director again, waking him up for the second time. For some reason, he was expecting us to call again (he knows us too well). He sends over new graphics for the business cards. At this point, we invaded the printing shop, convincing them to add business cards to our order on the fly.

2:25 PM: On to the demo equipment
Where are we going to get two LCD monitors, HDMI cables, a wireless mouse and keyboard for nothing?

Now, we were feeling lucky. We decided to test the return policy of a large electronic retailer, the day after we told them that the founder’s wife didn’t give him permission to buy various items.

(Lie #1: none of us are married).

However, we did keep the HDMI cable (that would be the last time we hustle that hard for an HDMI cable, I mean, those things are consistently useful).

With 30 min left on the clock, we’re all set. Except for picking up the cards in 2 hours, when I find my fifth-grade cousin could have done a better job cutting, but the stickers are great.

3:02 PM
We wanted our table to look professional, so we stopped by HengeDocks to grab one of those sexy air docks (and a macbook, we were short one. Big thanks to HengeDocks.com. Total cost: Zilch.

At this point, we are getting things done so quickly it seems surreal. Murphy is nowhere in sight.

Above: That site is down!

3:48 PM: Then our site goes down
With a few minutes to spare, we took a call from a potential client while driving back to our place to assemble the goods. Then it happens — our site goes down.

Our CTO finds himself calling Rackspace support and trying to figure out what the hell is going wrong. A small panic starts to rise … Finally we figure out that we didn’t renew our domain name on time. Oops, my bad. So I immediately called NetFirms Domain Support and managed to renew the domain before some guy in Pakistan stole our domain.

In 30 minutes, we’re finally back live.

4:25 PM: Now it’s down to the wire
We quickly get ready, throw on a company t-shirt, getting the business cards and stickers, charging our laptops, borrowed a screwdriver from the maintenance man, and finally left for the event.

5: 07 PM
I don’t know how, but we made it. Fashionably late, but we made it!

Somehow, we made it on time (sort of) to the event and managed to showcase our product to some amazing people. We connected with the top people in the San Francisco startup scene, and looked like we had it together.

Above all, it wasn’t about getting to the event and meeting those people — it was about proving our ability to work together as a team and adapt quickly to unplanned events. Being agile, lean, fast and decisive is the very essence of startup genome. We proved to ourselves that we can be part of this execution culture and also experience teamwork outside of the daily dev environment.

Now it’s time to keep up the momentum and execute the same way with with clients, partners and any biz opportunity.

photo credit: jdlasica via photopin cc


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