I’m delighted — actually, completely jazzed — to announce a new initiative at DEMO that will let a portion of the companies at the event launch for free.
The new program, to debut at the event in Silicon Valley on Sept. 13-15, is called the DEMO Scholarship Partner Program. Under the program, we’ve worked with our sponsor partners to subsidize at least 20 companies that have raised less than $500,000 — basically, those with no or minimal funding from family and friends. Another 10 angel-backed companies — those that have raised only seed rounds of less than $1.5M — will get partial scholarships to cover at least half of the cost of launching. All of these companies will launch on stage at DEMO as full demonstrators.
This is an exciting change for DEMO, one that I think will help it solidify its leadership position among launch events for some time to come. The buzz is already building for the fall event, which looks to be our biggest DEMO yet.
I can’t tell you how pumped I am about this. It’s great for entrepreneurs, and it’s great for the wider ecosystem — specifically the larger companies, investors and other dealmakers who are still guaranteed to see the most disruptive new products we can find.
Here’s the background: When I agreed to take over as executive producer of DEMO almost two years ago, the events business was in flux, as were the economics for early-stage companies. Early companies are behind a good chunk of the products launching at DEMO.
Some start-ups no longer need $10 million to develop an early prototype of their product — because they’ve got cheap, frequently free, internet tools to build with. For these start-ups — consumer web companies — it’s more efficient to release an early “beta” version of a product, and get feedback, before spending lots of money on a final version. That meant, however, that some of them couldn’t afford the cost of launching at DEMO — which covers the services DEMO provides, from coaching, to unmatched stage and audio-visual assistance, help with marketing press outreach and high-quality video. There’s so much more, it’s hard to list it all. The vast majority of companies tell us that these services are amazing and that the publicity they get at DEMO is invaluable, as is the money they get from investors and the deals they strike. Not only that, the conference throws companies into hyper efficient mode: Before launching, companies spend months honing product, business models and marketing pitches, all frantically before the DEMO deadline. But while DEMO is unquestionably the best quality event on the market, we got feedback from some companies that they just couldn’t justify spending so much.
So we’ve fixed that.
So what’s new at DEMO? Under the Scholarship Partner Program, the entire fee for the earliest stage companies will be waived for those that qualify. All thanks to the support of contributing sponsors. Now, some of the DEMO companies will receive grants based on specific scholarship charters. For example, the Kaufman Foundation is supporting a scholarship for four companies with female CEO’s. That’s part of an initiative we talked about earlier, between the Kaufman Foundation, Start Up America Partnership and IDG to support women in technology. More sponsors of the program will be announced shortly. But nothing will change the way we select companies. VentureBeat’s team will still select only the very best products for launch — out of the thousands of company products we come across globally.
Today I’m embarking on something we call the “DEMO Innovation Tour,” a series of travels throughout the U.S. and the world to meet entrepreneurs and companies.
Stay tuned over the coming days for more exciting news about what we’re doing internationally and around launch time. One thing I can say is this: One of the DEMO days will focus heavily on mobile technology product launches, and a second day will focus on social, cloud and science product launches.
Can’t wait to see everyone in the fall!
[Here’s the full press release.]