LAUNCH Logo[Update] See how we did at LAUNCH.

Next week, we will have the incredible privilege of demoing OnCompare at LAUNCH, a conference with 1,000+ investors, tech bloggers and entrepreneurs. What’s more, we’re throwing an after party on Wed. night that already, only 24 hours after being announced, has 100+ attendees.

The best part though, is that we’re doing it all without spending any money (because we don’t have any).  Here’s how we did it in 9 simple steps:

  1. Mashable article. It all started when we offered Mashable exclusive coverage of our launch a couple weeks back. This was after TechCrunch  decided to pass on the exclusive we offered them, so on the excellent suggestion from Carrie at BigDoor Media, we asked Mashable.
  2. LAUNCH team finds us.  The crew over at LAUNCH read about our launch and wrote up an incredibly flattering piece in their weekly newsletter including, “We love it!…Is the angel round filled? Do you need office space? Have you considered moving to the Valley?
  3. I move to SF.  As promised, I moved to SF to be a little closer to the startup action.  Seattle is great, don’t get me wrong, but the Bay Area is phenomenal.
  4. “Hey Jason, I’m here.” Once I told Jason Calacanis, creator of LAUNCH, I had moved to SF, he immediately offered us a table at his upcoming LAUNCH conference – an incredible gift.  Trouble was, I already had a flight to be at a healthcare conference the same week in Orlando but…screw it, LAUNCH was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
  5. Tacos with Larry Chiang.Here’s where things get really crazy.
    Larry Chiang: The best kind of unstable.

    Larry Chiang: The best kind of unstable.

    I’m at my first networking event in my new home when I walk up to the taco truck and introduce myself to Larry Chiang, who turns out to be not only insane, but incredibly, astoundingly & unbelievably helpful.  He’s like an Asian version of Murdock from the A-Team.

    I tell Larry a bit about OnCompare and LAUNCH and he immediately stops me and demands I find a pen and paper. Wha? I’m at a networking event, I’ve just met this guy and he’s making me put my tacos down so I can take  notes?  Who the hell is this guy?Still, I grab a pen and paper and he begins to outline our entire conference strategy from the number of people we have at the booth, to what we give away, to the type of party we’re going to have (this, btw, was the first I had heard that we were going to throw a party).

    “You’re going to have a coffee party.  It’ll be at 3:30 on the first day of the conference and…no, wait.  Cupcakes.  You’re going to buy $150 worth of cupcakes and you’re going to have a party from 3:45 to 4:15 where you’re going to give them away.  And you’re not going to pay for them – we’re going to get a VC here tonight to give you $500 cash to sponsor your cupcakes.”

    At this point I’m convinced Larry is high, mentally unstable, or both, but all of a sudden, he’s walking me around the event, teaching me secret hand signals, and introducing me to VCs!  On top of that, he’s making me ask them for cupcake money!

    The night ends with me having met a couple great VC associates, and although I don’t have any of their cash in hand, I’ve been absolutely inspired by Larry, and I’m determined to make the most out of this LAUNCH conference.

  6. Talk with Twilio. Danielle Morrill, of Twilio fame, and I had met back in Seattle and we’d chatted about putting on a couple events when I got to SF.  As a new arrival looking to partner with an incredible company who cares deeply about the startup space, I figured I’d reach out to Twilio and see if they wanted to work together on a LAUNCH after party.  Low and behold, they did!
  7. Ready, Aim, Eventbrite. 36 hours after talking with Twilio, and after a flurry of activity from both Danielle and Gene, we had an Eventbrite page setup for our after party (less than a week away from the event). Several tweets, blog posts, and old fashioned face-to-face introductions later, we’ve got 100+ attending (and that’s without even telling conference employees).
  8. Signage from an Angel. After an angel investor I had met back in October read our writeup in the LAUNCH newsletter, he immediately reached out to me. Inspired again by Larry’s way of thinking, “If you’ll bust an investor’s balls for $500, they’ll know you’ll bust customer’s balls for money down the road.”, I decided to ask this investor if he’d help cover our basic conference expenses – signage, t-shirts, travel, etc.  After making a couple introductions to my angel friend, I got an email from him last night confirming that he’ll be putting in a couple hundred dollars towards our conference expenses.
  9. Pay it forward. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have support from so many people in SF already – almost all of whom have been essentially strangers.  Now it’s our turn to give back.  If you’re starting a company and won’t be at LAUNCH, but want to be, please let me know. We’ll do what we can to help you get in and help you get exposure during the after party.

So there it is, 9 steps to maximize a conference experience without spending any money, but only 2 of them really matter:

  • Build relationships before you need them. Get out there, meet people, do them favors, and pay it forward before you need help.  By the time you do, the results you get will be 2-3x what you put in.
  • Better to be crazy, than forgettable. What’s the worst that’s going to happen when you ask a VC to sponsor your conference? They’ll say no. Note: we had several people say no to us, but now I’ve got a great connection with these guys (I’m the guy who asked them to buy my cupcakes) and I only needed one to say yes to achieve my results.

Questions, comments, concerns, let me hear them.  Otherwise, I hope to see you at the party!

[Update] See how we did at LAUNCH.