I attended the latest Startupfix demo night at Culturefix, a trendy bar/art gallery on Lower East Side. Co-sponsored by Flavorpill, this event definitely edged on the trendy side; however, it also walked the line of being poorly run. Britt Payne and Ksenia Voropaeva recently took command of the event, and are trying to make it into a longer, more interactive event, Voropaeva told me.
Sounds like a good idea, but also sounds tricky to implement.
This gauntlet of events began like most other demo nights. It started with a meet-and-greet, moved to four demos (Psych: The S#cial Sector, a 2-week transmedia social gaming experience for a USA TV show, Psych; Trello, which allows you to view an entire project at a single glance; Mani Diaries, a free iPhone app that allows you to track, manage, and share pictures and details about your manicures and pedicures; and Uprise Art, which sells fine art on the installment plan), then dismissing the crowd to allow attendees to drink, mingle and network, at which point the organizers began another series of presentations: a law student pitching free services to early stage startups; Payne himself, with his own Intellectual Property law presentation; and presentations from Alley NYC and TriNet.
The audience was split. Half were trying to pay attention while the other half talked over the presenters. The attendees slowly made their way out of the room and over to the bar. Not only was the event format confusing to the audience, but also was unfair to the speakers. It’s like trying to host a speaker series in… Well, it’s like trying to host a speaker series in a bar.
Longer tech and startup events have several benefits. For instance, longer events provide a longer demonstration; Q&A and more time to meet with the entrepreneurs. But potential consequences also come hand-in-hand with longer events. Most notably, the audience is more likely to lose attention during the night: we work in a very short attention span industry.
Focusing attention through any speaker series can be a challenge, but the issue with Startupfix’s new format is that the types of presentations were disjointed and the structure lacked a comfortable flow. What made the situation worse was when Payne tried to quiet down the audience by yelling into the microphone. Even the prior and upcoming speakers were talking over his presentation. If the crowd wants to mingle, let them mingle. If they want to listen, let them listen. Don’t try to combine the two.
And as this publication has mentioned before, a bar is not the best venue for hosting presentations. Note to event organizers: find a proper venue, and leave time for everyone to continue the networking segment of the evening – at a pre-designated nearby bar.
There’s still hope for Startupfix. At the end of the night, Voropaeva and I discussed possible improvements to the event. She was receptive and excited to move forward.
All-in-all, long-form demo nights are a cool idea, but Startupfix has some work to do before it becomes fully functional and truly fixed.