My first conference from start to finish with Dealmaker Media was Under the Radar, held last week in San Francisco. This conference focused on startups in the mobile + social commerce space who are currently flying “under the radar”. The one day conference was a great success and we’ve received heaps of positive feedback from startups, judges and attendees alike. But this one-day conference requires a lot of grunt work leading out months in advance of the show.

For the last couple of months, I have been digging, researching, interviewing and working with startups. We only invited 27. From a list of over 300 – you might wonder how we dwindle it down. Some of the key factors we look at right off the bat are:

1. Wow factor. Does this startup have a unique offering? Is it cool? Is it something I would use?
2. What stage are they in? It’s called ‘under the radar’ for a reason. Companies too far alone (aka funding past a Series B, significant traction, etc wouldn’t be a fit). We want to present leading-edge companies so newness is a huge factor yet at the same time, they need a product, some traction and be in the right place where partnerships are within their 6-month plan. It’s a fine balance between too old, too young and just right.
3. Are they a fit for our categories / judges? We ask judges from a broad spectrum of companies but it is still important that every company / judge we invite, has a reason to be talking to at least one, if not many, of the startups who participate.
4. Are they personable? This isn’t so much a factor for invitation, but it sure does help! To work with a founder / CEO who is willing to work with us, receive our comments in good faith and actively participate are the best kind to work with.

From invitation to conference, we work with startups on their pitches and make early introductions to the judges. When the final conference day arrives, most of the hard work is already done. It was really good to see it all come to fruition – to hear the companies present, to listen to the judges questions (and make a “fuck yeah” fist when they complimented their pitches), to meet everyone face-to-face for the first time, and to make solid connections. As the Community Manager, I am also a jack-of-all-trades when it come to conference time. From working the slide transitions, the music playlist, set-up, take-down, shaking hands,tweetingFacebooking, blogging and taking photos – it’s a lot but in truth it’s a great way to get in the middle of conversations and meet people.

We’re already starting to work on the next Under the Radar, but it’s the GROW Conference I can’t wait to work on.  If you haven’t been to one of our events, I recommend it. It’s more than just a plug – it’s a real way to make solid connections in this industry. I’m loving every minute of it.


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