Pitching to household brands is a major opportunity for any new technology company. A deal with a big name can take a startup over the tipping point. I was lucky, I sit next to the Pop17 team at Runway. They asked me to pitch in their SXSW event, called BubbleTank. We bought plane tickets to Austin, and prepared a presentation.
I organized the pitch from what I learned at Launch Festival the previous week. In the first 30 seconds present who you are, what you are, and the analytics. Then relate to the audience, demonstrate the core feature of the app with a concrete example, and close with how the idea will grow.
I related to the audience, and showed the core pages of the app.
More granular, after I introduced Recognize and presented the stats, I asked everyone to remember when they were appreciated for their good work. I wanted the audience and the judges to relive how it feels to be motivated. I brought it full circle by asking them to imagine what it is like to have that kind of recognition on a daily basis via your mobile device and everyone in their company could see it.
At this point I transitioned and I jumped into the demo. I showed the stream page with all the recognitions for a company; we showed the recognition detail view and how it can be shared on major social networks.
Returning to the powerpoint, I showcased where we can go with social employee appreciation with two ideas. First, cross company recognitions, or the ability to recognize any employee at any company. But more importantly, I presented the idea of public company recognition reports. I asked the audience and judges to imagine the ability to hand pick the very best content from their Recognize account. They could publicly show the best moments and all the successes of their company.
Public Company Recognition Report showcases a company’s best work
Finally, I closed quoting Forbes predicting 2013 as the year of social HR and social employee recognition.
Non-tech savvy staff
In summary, the response from Home Depot, GE, and Pepsi were concerns for security, non-tech savvy staff, and internal HR bureaucracy. While the audience gave a healthy applause, the judges looked stale.
The gentleman from GE responded with a comment, “A significant part of our workforce is not tech savvy. The usage of your app at GE would be lopsided” I didn’t have an opportunity respond to this comment, the woman from Pepsi added, “I echo his concern, with our large HR departments and our non-tech savvy staff, your challenge is adoption of your product.”
Enterprise SASS must pass the HR “Sniff Test.”
After all the pitching was over I spoke with the woman from Pepsi. “What advice can you offer us?” I asked her. She said, “I really like your app, but you need to partner with large HR company’s to pass the HR ‘sniff test’.” That was really good advice, and something one of my advisors recently said to me.
Integration is everything
That’s why integration is key. For any new startup integrating into app stores, integrating with any major Single Sign On (SSO), and adding partnership with large names is vital to startup success. That’s why Recognize is moving towards partnerships with all the major players. We are close to launching Yammer integration, and that’s just the beginning.
Understanding your judges when pitching
To step beyond integration concerns, why did the judges seem uncomfortable with Recognize? During the pitch the judges said nothing positive. No one said, “I really like the idea, but…” or “The design is very nice, but…” The way the judges responded seemed on the defensive. After we sat down one of the audience members came up to us, and said, “Don’t listen to those guys, your idea is great. They are only out to protect themselves and their brands.”
The reason we failed was because we didn’t understand the biggest brand’s concerns. I should have positioned Recognize as a way to protect brands. By using Recognize, we encourage only a specific kind of sharing. The user can’t say anything negative through our channel. Allow Recognize in your organization, and your corporate social media is filtered through doing good, not bad. Maybe that would have resulted in a different response. Too bad we can’t A/B test pitches.