9 Steps to Crush a Conference Without Any $


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! http://launchafterparty.eventbrite.com.

[Update] See how we did at LAUNCH.


LAUNCH Conference & Afterparty

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Launch conferenceI’m so excited! We were invited to participate in the upcoming LAUNCH Conference in San Francisco.  If you haven’t heard of it, LAUNCH is an event where 50 new startups will all launch within 2 days of each other!  It’s a great way for press, investors and members of the startup community to learn about a ton of new companies all at once.

There will also be a number of startups who have recently launched, like OnCompare, who will be demoing their products to conference attendees as well. This is an incredible opportunity for us – we’re a new company, in a new city, trying to build some buzz & relationships.  We couldn’t have asked for a better venue!

Twilio Cloud CommunicationsWhat’s more (and I can’t believe this is happening)…we’re partnering with Twilio, another native-Seattle company, to host a LAUNCH afterparty!!  The Twilio team has been absolutely incredible and have arranged for an open bar and Chairman Bao’s Chinese bun truck to be available at the party!

Chairman Bao's Truck

Mmm, Delicious Bao Buns

If you are in the Bay Area, or know someone who is, come celebrate with us and RSVP for the afterparty! Details: http://launchafterparty.eventbrite.com.

Triumph! and exhaustion.

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We did it. I sit here astounded, exhausted, and inspired.

Sure, I thought we would release something after 3 weeks, but I’m amazed at how high quality it is. There are bugs, but if you think about it, on Feb. 1st we:

  1. Developed a new-ish recommendation paradigm (surveys for the objective stuff + communities for the subjective stuff)
  2. Researched tons of different SaaS providers and found a way to codify that research
    1. Did you notice it will estimate the price of the email marketing services based on your requirements?!
    2. And that it doesn’t just tell you what cloud hosting provider is best for you, it tells you what specific type of servers you should use.
  3. Made it ease to use
  4. And made it look good

To make all this happen they guys went crazy banging out features and bugs, right up until the last moment.  In fact, Aaron, Joe, Joey pulled an all-nighter the night before we went public.  Here’s their 6:00 am whiteboard recap:

There’s a ton more to write about, but we’re running a mile-a-minute at this point.  Will fill you in on all the post-launch goodness as soon as we can!

Thanks for all of your support – we absolutely, wouldn’t have built a product of the same caliber or quality if we didn’t have your input or support.

Status Update: Insane (& insanely close…)


It’s been crazy, but we’re getting close – very, very close.  Maybe today?!

Live stream video of OnCompare Q+A

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

These last few days have really been crunch time, but we were still able to fit in a live stream Q+A. We love interacting with you all and wanted to give everyone a chance to ask whatever they wanted about your crazy adventure.

Here is a recap:

2:13 Status Update

5:10 Chico: I would like to know more on your approach in achieving your ultimate goal: “reach cash flow in 3 weeks”.

e.g. Have you or are you thinking of implementing a business model that will generate revenue, and if so, how have you arrived at this business model? How will you                    future validate the business model?

9:23 Explanation of the user experience

12:53 Explanation of our reputation model

13:26 Carl, “ Hey is it 3 weeks to ‘liv” or “l-eye-ve”?

14:28 What has been the most difficult thing within your 3 weeks

20:13 Patrick, “… the #1 question I ask myself when I am reviewing a product is what won’t this be able to do that I am expecting it to do, how does OnCompare plan to incorporate this?

21:50 Joey, “ What is your opinions on business plans?”

23:11 Aaron picks his nose

25:20 Greets from Switzerland

25:37 Do you consider your code base clean despite the huge pressure?

28:27 [follow up]so you think you wont regret those decisions when you upscale in the future?

30:00 Hi mom!

30:30 Wendy, out of your target market “who will benefit the most?”

31:44 What specific strategies/ tools have you used to manage a 10 person tech startup?

34:50 Daniel, “ How did you manage discussion de-escalation? With a lot of people it is difficult to stay focused especially with some disagreements. Who was the subtle leader?

36:41 What has been the biggest failure so far?

38:21 Wade, “ How are we going to prevent outright solicititation from actual vendors in your reviews?”

40:31 Kristy, “… how we do plan to get buyer input after the sale?”

42:26 knowing what you know now, and you were going to do it all over again, what would you change?

47:18 Reminders and final schedule

OnCompare live Q+A Today!

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Hey Everyone!

Time is winding down and we only have 96 hours until launch! The team is tired but we are still determined to achieve our goal.

Even with this limited time, we wanted to make sure we dedicated time to you all. Being open to the community, hearing your insight, and helping you out as much as we can has been a part of our experience from day 1. We greatly appreciate your support.

Today we will be hosting a live stream Q+A session:

Who: You + OnCompare

What: Feel free to ask us ANYTHING you want! Whether it’s about startups, strategies, or how many push-ups Justin can do in 3min, it would be great to hear from you.

Where: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/oncompare

When: Jan. 28th @ 2:30pm PST

How: If you have questions, feel free to comment them below, email me at joey@oncompare.com., or tweet them @OnCompare. We will be following the sites live as well.

Hope to see you there!

Looking for Featured Consultants

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We are looking for a handful of experienced small business consultants to feature during our launch.  If you are, or know of anyone who is, a marketing, technical, or workflow consultant for small businesses, let us know. We’ll try our best to make you/him/her a star during our launch!

If you’re interested, please contact Joey Aquino at Joey@oncompare.com.

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