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DomainFest: PITCHfest Contest Summary & Winners!

Raw Notes from DomainFest Global, February 1-3, 2011

DomainSherpa.com Exclusive Pictures from DomainFest Global, February 1-3, 2011 — You’re In there!

DomainFest PitchFest

PITCHfest Contest

Judges: Andries de Villiers, Scott Jarus, John Morris, Jeff Cohn
Moderator: Peter Celeste

From the program: “This year, our PITCHfest session will give 10 finalists a rare chance to present their innovative product or idea to our audience of over 600 internet professionals. Each finalist will be given exactly 5 minutes to present. No follow-up questions, no critique. This will be a rapid-fire contest presenting the audience with as many innovative ideas as possible. Be sure to take notes so that you can vote for the People’s Choice winner at the end of the session. We’re sure you’ll discover products and ideas capable of helping your business grow and succeed.”

Edwin Sherman was announced as the Fantasy Domainer winner. He got in early, identified the names he liked, put them on the bullpen list, and then waited until the very end. On the very last day moved them to his active list and shot up the ranks to win.

22 submissions, 9 finalists. Each has 5 minutes to make presentation. At 4 minute mark, bell signals 1 minute remaining. And end of session, screens go blank. Judges have 1 minute to write scores. Next presentation. All scores from judges are then tallied. Judges then will make suggestions about tips for elevator pitches. And they’ll announce the winner.

DOMAINfest Panel of Judges

ZipSmart.com – Jake Ackerman
Partner with them to “sell zips, not clicks.” ZipSmart sells zip codes. They have a patent pending approach to monetizing domains by selling end users zip code exclusivity. FurnaceRepair.com or Landscaping.com are perfect names for their platform.

Example: search for “furnace repair plano texas” and their site shows up at the top of Google SERP. Their customers pay for placement per month, not clicks. Pricing based on fixed price per zip or based on population, household income, value of the keyword, or even traffic count of the domain. All in real-time.

NBC Universal – Bernard Hicks
Biggest loser live training. Expert motivation, advice and peer support helps lose weight. $10 per hour for online interactive sessions. Wii, Playstation and Nintendo integrates. Viral loops help using fitness professionals, users who watch the show. Looking for equity and strategic partners.

HireHelp.com – Matt Grifith
Incubator – they help business grow and sell them. Craigslist.com and Angieslist.com are only two options. Both have downsides (no background checks, costs the consumer). Make free to both consumer and contractor doing the work. All contractors get a profile page. Free to post. Make money through: upgrades (bold listing, featured listings, etc.); pay per click ad network; third party services. Past companies have been sold. Looking for equity partners in this business.

Eclat Company – Omar Alvarez
Location based mobile platform connecting affluent consumers with business. Notify businesses when consumers are around. 14 million affluent smartphone users, location based services growing. Invitation-only network with network fees.

DomainSpike – Troy Rushton
“Powered by Parkings” – technology co based out of Australia. Hyper-niche community at keyword level (understanding content) for domain names. “We’ve cracked profitable domain development on scale!” Launched more than 180,000 websites in 200 different countries using their technology. Increased page views per visitor from 1 to 3.5, time on site to 4+ minutes, decreased bounce rates from 99% to 62%. Key is engagement, and mass development has failed to create it in the past without significant development costs. What they’ve done: participation elements (social, email capture), structured by keyword (geo-site with maps, local businesses), membership (can join and become a member), best of content at keyword level, offers (deal of day, Amazon deals), combined syndicated and unique content.

Worlize Inc – Brian McElvey
Allows to use any image to create virtual world to interact with family in friends. Create avatar with photo, create fantasy world with objects (can upload), integrated with Facebook and Twitter for invitations, can buy stuff in the marketplace. can gift stuff (objects, avatars and backgrounds).

Smartvark – Stefan Wrobel
Discover local stores and restaurants in your area. “Shop. Save. Share.” Deals at Groupon are overload, they’re not specific. Two way communication (not just push), and showing you deals that are specific to you. Show you local deals, you specify if you like them or not, show you more local deals, the more relevant the site becomes to you. Computer or smartphone browser gets you the same experience. Don’t charge for coupons, or sales, or happy hours. 18-35 in Los Angeles is target area. Shops want repeat customers, not a daily deal with massive discount and only one-time visit. Businesses pay monthly fee to be on site and fee to promote.

Vertio.net – Enrico Schaefer
“We are the Wikipedia about what we do”. Make knowledge of experts available online. Internet radio transcribed into websites. Internet radio brands, use Vertio to provide all backend services, widget for publication on website. “Voice content optimization for websites.” Looking for equity: $350,000 to $500,000 to launch the company. Partnerships for niche area.

ePayments – David Clements
Send money by text message. Everyone texts. Everyone will text more in the future. Google has patent on similar process. People will eventually pay with just their phone (why take a wallet, do you carry a checkbook any longer?).

From the Panel: Top 3 Elevator Pitch Tips

John:
1. “Vitamin or pain killer?” Describe your product quickly, right at the beginning.
2. Revenue model clear and understandable.
3. What’s the size of the market? Niche or enormous? Will it have trouble scaling?
4. If asking for money, what’s the credibility of founding team?
–> Elevator pitch is to get a meeting, not a check.

Scott:
1. Develop an elevator pitch (1.5 minutes) with just words. Adding props later is just icing on the cake.
2. Find the need. Fill a need. (like John’s point #1 above)
3. Don’t assume that everyone is as smart as you are. Deliver at high school level so everyone can understand.
–> Don’t start with a demo. If you need to do a demo, the deal is dead.

Andries:
1. Short and simple. It’s an elevator pitch.
2. Pitch at high school (maybe even middle school) level.
3. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Make sure you know your customers.

Jeff:
1. Who are you? What was your epiphany to start this business? You need to give yourself credibility.
2. Differentiation factor. What is it for you?
3. How are you funding it?
–> Bootstrapping gives you credibility and leverage when trying to raise money.

Audience questions:
Q: What if your idea cannot be described in 1-2 minutes because it’s so complex?
John: What’s elegant about the complexity so you don’t have to talk about the complexity. Your solution to a problem is the important part, not the technology. Keep the complexity to yourself.
Scott: “Build spacecraft that takes people and cargo to the moon.” Don’t care about complexity, just the end goal. “It’s like dating, you’ve got 30 seconds to impress the girl or guy. Get past 30, get another minute. Get past that minute, you have another minute.”

Q: How much time in 90 second pitch should I spend on me or the executive team of the business?
John: Spend 10 seconds on your background: “Hi, I was an executive with Coca Cola and I’m here to describe my new business for an energy drink.”

Other points:
Jeff: “99.99% of businesses get funded because of references.”
John: Get introduction to angel investors from mutual friend/acquaintance instead of trying to approach yourself.
Scott: Do research on person you’re pitching, everyone has their own specialities so don’t pitch biotech to software investor.
Jeff: Reference doesn’t need to be wife or business partner, it can just be someone you met at a conference that understands what you’re doing and will refer you.
John: “Venture capital is not for everyone. It’s like rocket fuel and only works for certain vehicles.”

Winner, People’s Choice Award

Voting in real time via text message to pollanywhere.com. ePayments is the winner!

Winner, as Determined by Panel of Judges

Smartvark is the winner!

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