What We Learned At Startup Grind Global Conference

startup grind what we learned

Mik - TunePocket Founder

Hi! I’m Mik, the founder of TunePocket. Our team has just got back from presenting TunePocket at 2019 Startup Grind Global Conference in San Francisco.

In this post I will share what we expected to achieve by going to Startup Grind, what we learned there, and what was our day-to-day experience.

What is Startup Grind?

Born out of the Silicon Valley in 2010, Startup Grind is one of the largest independent startup communities, actively educating, inspiring, and connecting more than 1,500,000 entrepreneurs in over 500 chapters worldwide.

Once a year, Startup Grind hosts a global event that brings together more than 8,000 startups, partners, investors, thought leaders, and worldwide directors for 2+ days of networking, education, connection, and inspiration.

For each conference, Startup Grind selects 300 of most promising startups from around the world to exhibit during the event. The admission to the exhibition is highly competitive and rigorously curated.

How I Learned About Startup Grind

I’ve heard about Startup Grind before. However, knowing that it based in Silicon Valley, I somehow assumed that they focus exclusively on cutting-edge software startups, so I never considered applying to any of their programs.

That changed when I got an email from one of the Startup Grind directors on late January, inviting TunePocket to participate in the exhibition.

I filled the application and, since TunePocket was invited by one of the directors, the committee fast-tracked our application straight to the final vetting call. The interview was friendly and fun. The conversation revolved around TunePocket’s history, our target market, marketing strategy, and development plan.

Few days later I got a message saying that TunePocket was accepted to participate in the Startup Grind exhibition.

What We Hoped To Achieve

Here’s a quick summary of what we were hoping to achieve by going to Startup grind.

  • Learn about common avenues available for growing a startup.
  • Meet other founders, seek advice on some common challenges.
  • Find possible technology and marketing partners.
  • Benchmark our exhibition display against other participants.
  • Practice our pitch / presentation with live and diverse audience.
  • Get some idea as to how attractive our company may be for an investor.
  • Get away from the snow for a couple of days, enjoy California weather 🙂

Below is our day-to-day experience at Startup Grid, so you can see what we’ve done to meet our goals.

Our Conference Experience Day By Day

Arrival

We landed in San Francisco on February 11, checked into the hotel in Belmont (about 10 min drive from Redwood City) and headed to the bay area for a bit of sightseeing. It would be shame to spend here 3 days and miss all the landmark attractions, like Painted Ladies, Lombard street, or the Golden Gate bridge.

san francisco lombard street

Around 5 pm we drove back to Redwood city to pick up our badges. This turned out to be a smart move, considering the registration line up we noticed the next day. Also stopped by the welcome party that was happening in the Fox theater lobby. Good opportunity to mingle with other startups and guests and to enjoy the open bar 🙂

startup grind welcome party

Sadly, we couldn’t stay for too long as we all were getting pretty tired by that point.

Conference Day 1

We rushed back first thing in the morning. Found a nice bagel place across the street, got a quick bite, and started exploring the conference.

Our exhibition was scheduled for February 13, so we had the full day to check out the other startups and to attend the presentations.

First, we stopped by the VIP tent, where a handful of well known companies and accelerators were showcasing their services for startups. We had a couple of interesting chats and even scheduled a free 30 minute consultation with one of the accelerators for the next day. Remember, we were fairly new to the startup ecosystem, so very eager to learn the ropes.

One of the cool features of Google for Startups display was this huge whiteboard where all participants were encourages to write how their business could help other attendees. Couldn’t help but to add a little bit about TunePlocket as well!

google for startups whiteboard

Our next stop was the exhibition tent or to be exact two huge tents hosting dozens and dozens of startups each.

startup grind exhibition tent

I have to say we had lots of fun cruising the exhibition tent, meeting with other founders, and looking for possible partnerships and ideas. That surely was one of best, and most motivating, part of the conference.

Some of the interesting people we met were Mateo Jeminez Leon of Muvsik, Jessica Volbrecht of Growthmentor, Evgeniy Gololobov of Fandome, as well as the friendly bunch of Startup Grind directors and volunteers.

These are just a few of the interesting connections we made and we still had another full day of exhibiting our own startup.

After spending few hours in the exhibition tents we took a quick lunch break and went to catch some of the remaining presentations by Startup Grind’s guest speakers.

startup grind presentation google cmo

The two particular presentations that caught my attention were “How To Build A Brand Like Google” by Lorraine Twohill, the CMO of Google and “How To Scale A Startup” by Aaron Levie, the CEO and co-founder of Box.

Conference Day 2

Finally it was out turn to present TunePocket to all Startup Grind attendees!

We arrived to set-up our booth early morning, quickly found our spot (thanks to a handy TunePocket banner placed there by the organizers ahead of time). We spent some time setting up the computers, organizing our business cards and flyers on the table, stocking up on water and coffee, and eagerly awaiting our first conversation!

tunepocket booth at startup grind

I have to say that day was intense! The people poured in and me and my partner found ourselves speaking almost non-stop for the next 8 or so hours.

There was a good mix of general and professional interest, which was rather expected from such a diverse crowd.

Some people were looking to learn more about licensing music for their own marketing programs, some people asked about placing their music with our library, and we have discussions on the variety of topics, from social media marketing to SEO, to music business, to growth strategies.

We met some interesting folks, got some spot-on advice, and had a plenty of opportunity to fine-tune our elevator pitch over the course of the day.

We lasted about 8 hours and had to call it, as both of us started loosing our voices towards the end of the day. Exhausted but filled with new ideas and inspiration it was time for us to head back home.

Takeaway

My biggest takeaway from Startup Grind was motivation!

It was an exploratory trip. We didn’t expect to make any sales on the spot but rather to learn and to network.

The biggest value for us was not in the presentations (though, some were really good) but rather in meeting other startups, networking with other founders, and getting the friendly introduction to the startup ecosystem. Most importantly, it helped us to re-evaluate our growth strategy.

Getting grilled non-stop for several hours helped us to see weak points in our pitch, gave us valuable insight into other people’s perspectives, and provided instant feedback.

We learned that, unless your product is intended for really wide audiences, non-targeted advertisement isn’t very effective.

We learned to speak under pressure and to explain the value of our business to people who knew nothing about music licensing (this will be handy for designing new landing pages for the top of our sales funnel).

We learned that many people who initiated a conversation were rather trying to sell THEIR products and were not necessarily interested to learn about ours. While this may be a hard pill to swallow for an exhibiting startup, it was a valuable lesson.

We learned the importance of proofreading. The hard way 🙂

tunepocket typo

That’s it! All in all, we really enjoyed our time at Startup Global! It was extremely motivating, informative, and we don’t regret attending at all.

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