Here I am, a twenty-year-old astrophysics student designing satellites to place in orbit around Mars and a self-starter entrepreneur longing to show my baby — nect MODEM — to the earth. I've had a few bumps on the road. Thankfully, I learned a few valuable lessons, and the experience of attending five conferences with my startup as my product made me reflect on a lot I'd like to share with other aspiring startup owners.
I hope you find my insights helpful, and respond with your own unique stories — I would love to learn from you.
IT Arena is the best tech event in Ukraine that is widely known for its global outlook and scale. It has a dedicated “Alley of Startups,” where each is allotted a few square meters to gaze and amaze.
It also has a Startup Competition where I had an opportunity to speak about nect MODEM from the stage for the first time.
Bits&Pretzels was the second conference for our startup. An excellent investment, considering the wealth of contacts you can make around the beer carousel conveniently located in the center of a conference space.
It's fairly useless to go there with a startup stand, however.
South Summit, which takes place in Madrid each October, has been our third conference bringing in cooperation with Peter, an entrepreneur who was excited to leverage our 5G expertise in logistics tracking — something we had never thought before. Still, now, when I know what South Summit is like, there is something I would do differently when attending it again.
Having some experience of attending conferences behind our shoulders, we tried to make our Web Summit stand as interactive as possible. We developed a test “What kind of internet user are you?” (you can still try it here) and rewarded test-takers with medals displaying their results.
Out of three conference days, startups can only have a stand for one day, so we spent the other two running around the space to get useful contacts and ask participants about the issues they had because of the unreliable Internet connection. This kind of “market research” made us have a better picture of our buying persona.
With Consumer Electronics Show or CES, it has been “our heaven” at last. Contrary to Web Summit, the exhibition united those presenting and interested in hardware products. And we were happy to bring the first consignment of our modem — newly designed and produced from the recycled plastics — to CES and gleaming Las Vegas streets.
After all the gains and bumps I had, would I recommend startups to go to conferences?
Yes, I definitely would.
At the same time, I would not recommend anyone to start calculating return on investment on the way home from each conference.
Yes, we have spent much more than we have earned so far. Still, I cannot imagine moving forward without investing any money, or — even more pricey — time and passion.
The insights into your idea, the experience of your product presentation, tips from top experts, which they generously share in a small talk chat (otherwise worth thousands of dollars). All the benefits are hard to name. And it’s hard to put a price tag on them.
What I am sure about is that the experience made me a wiser and more realistic entrepreneur, even though I remain a 20-old dreamer, stubborn enough to keep going.
It is sad that the next conference we were going to, MVC Barcelona 2020, was canceled due to COVID-19. Residence and flights booked, money spent. If anyone can share their experience from the conference and give me some insights into all the rookie mistakes I was about to make at that conference — I will appreciate it if you do share in the comments.
Either this post remained planned and drafted for too long, or the time has speeded up for our startup, but I finally hit “publish” being in the US, several weeks into the Boomtown Accelerator program. I will share my insights into this new experience any time soon, so stay tuned.