Well the first day of the Agora Startup Idol competition is complete, and here are my observations of how the startups did. There were 4 heats today, and there will be 12 additional heats over the rest of this week to determine which 32 startups get to move on to round 2 next week.
The format was that each startup presented a 2 minute lightning presentation, followed by 5 minutes of Q&A, after which the “judges” discussed how they would suggest the startups improve their presentation, and then awarded the startups a score from 1-5.
Not all the startups were actually trying to build a sustainable business. One was looking for crowd funding using KickStarter.com to create a mosaic from pictures submitted globally by people from their phones. That hardly qualifies as a sustainable business, although I can think of a number of ways to apply the same technology in other contexts.
Of the others there were a variety of innovative technology, business models and social metaphors that made it difficult to compare the startups to each other. Clearly though, it is difficult to conceive of many of them creating a long term sustainable business. On the other hand, it is conceivable that they will be able to have a profitable exist, if they execute.
The big issue that kept coming up again and again was financial. How much money are they looking for, what are the financial projections to back that up, and what evidence do they have that those projections might actually hold up.
My feeling is that in many cases they just don’t know, which isn’t a problem in and of itself. What is a problem is that they don’t at least present their assumptions. While an investor might challenge, (or less likely support) those assumptions, at least they get them out there for feedback. One thing investors have seen is a variety of different business models, and they can be quick to provide feedback. Better to hear the bad news at this stage in the process than later.
Overall I was impressed with the ideas. One problem with judging an event like this is that different judges have different perspectives on what they are judging. They may have been judging the actual presentation, or they may have been judging the startup through the presentation and the subsequent Q&A.
In any event I applaud the startups who actually participated. 2 minutes of talking without any supporting props or materials, with the trials and tribulations of attempting to live cast an event like this isn’t easy. Hopefully the audience will make it worth their while, but the worst case scenario is that they have had a chance to articulate their business one more time.
I wish all of them the best of luck in the subsequent rounds of this competition.