Friday 25 September 2009

AffectLabs (FestBuzz) at TechCrunch London

Yesterday I pitched Affect Labs (aka FestBuzz - for more on that see below) at TechCrunch London.

Update: See also TechCrunch Europe's Event Wrap.

I'm rather pleased, and still more than a bit surprised, to say that we won "best pitch"!

Picture above is me on stage with Mike Butcher, Editor of TechCrunch Europe, receiving a bottle of bubbly.

There were a lot of interesting companies there with some very good pitches. I did think it would be nice to get in the top 5 but I didn't think I'd really done anything to deserve winning. Not that I'm complaining though!

Credit where credit is due though, the presentation was largely based on Jennie's learnings in the run up to the TechCrunch Geek 'n Rolla event earlier this year where she pitched Affect Labs. Some of the slides were ones that she had made for a pitch she did at an Astia London event, also earlier this year.

Of course, like all my interactions with TechCrunch events, I don't like things to be straightforward. I had visited the relevant Amiando page almost as soon as the event was announced. The first thing I did was click on the link to export the event in to my Google Calender. As I knew I was going to be pitching I didn't have reason to buy a ticket or visit the Amiando page again.

So yesterday, at 3pm, I turned up like an eager beaver for some pre-pitch practice.... at Gilgamesh Studios in Camden. Nobody had a clue what I was talking about as I wandered around what looked like a giant empty Indian restaurant asking where the TechCrunch event was.

Turns out the original plan was to hold it at the Gilgamesh Studios, but the venue had quite quickly been changed to the Cafe de Paris near Piccadilly Circus. The people that had already bought tickets were notified of the venue change by email, but as I wasn't buying a ticket I wasn't notified (random link found through Google shows venue as Gilgamesh).

So in future I'll remember not to blindly trust Google Calender exports. In the end I wasn't too late for the event and managed to get some very helpful tips before I went on stage.

Cafe de Paris is an interesting venue isn't it? The private rooms (where we prepared before the pitches) had what they describe as a VIP boudoir but which everyone else described as looking like some kind of porn set. I wonder what goes on in there hmmmm. It would have been a bit nicer without the dodgy stains and cigarette burns on the beds...

Tonight they're hosting the FHM High Street Honeys '09 party. I should have hidden in a toilet for the night or something. Quite contrasting clientele to have one night after the other! Om nom nom nom :D

I got some good questions from the floor. I particularly liked the audience's reaction when I was asked where the technology originated: "Jennie's PhD research in a NLP group at Cambridge University". I think I did hear a kind of "ooh" from the audience. Hud that!

A Hungarian chap, who knows the sentiment field, attempted to ask a technical question. Fortunately, nobody, including myself, could really understand what he was saying. I say fortunately because I did go and speak to him later and I wouldn't have been able to answer his question very well on stage.

One slight issue that did become apparent through the night was our own brand perception. We were publicised as FestBuzz, we were introduced as FestBuzz, and the first thing I did was go up there and say "I'm Steve from Affect Labs". I pitched as AffectLabs (which is the registered name of the company), told the audience about FestBuzz (our 4iP funded Edinburgh Festivals project), and referenced Benchmark7, which is the working name of our sentiment classification engine. Also my business cards are heavily Benchmark7 branded.

Well for the rest of the night I was "the guy from FestBuzz". I had to explain the three names more than a few times. I spoke to Mike Butcher about it and he was definitely keener to refer to us as FestBuzz - "that's what people know you as"! (TechCrunch had written a short piece about us when our 4iP funding was announced). So that's something we'll have to keep in mind as we move forward.

Anyway, I had a great time at the after show party, which was timed to coincide with the end of Seedcamp. It was pretty nice having lots of people compliment the pitch (even before we won) and then have people congratulate me later. :) I met a whole bunch of great people. Now the challenge is to connect the business cards to the faces to the conversations to the follow-ups that may or may not have been promised!

Some more pictures from the event can be found here on Flickr, courtesy of BitchBuzz.

The event was actually streamed live on Ustream. If my day before the event had not been so busy/chaotic I would have put the link in my Facebook account. Is it possible to watch things which have already been streamed?

Thanks to TwistedTree for organising the event.

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