Google for Entrepreneurs (GFE) – recently rebranded as Google for Startups – brings together a group of compelling investable startups each year under a program called Demo Day. Google Demo Day Asia, the first-ever Demo Day in Asia, was hosted in Shanghai, China on last September 20, brought 10 awesome startups across Asia Pacific region.
Google Demo Day Asia has passed. You may find a lot of good coverages around it on the net. My post will focus on the journey that my team and I took to be involved in that once-in-a-lifetime, prestigious occasion. I hope this post will be useful for anyone who want to participate in the next Demo Day.
Every once in a while, life-changing opportunity emerges in unexpected way. Browsing around my Facebook feed during my time away from work – national Eid’s holiday – I found this post from a friend of mine, Yansen of KIBAR. KIBAR happens to be GFE partner in Indonesia, and the one who facilitates Demo Day Asia in Indonesia. So, thanks Yansen.
Clicking on the link in that post, filled the form, submit my early 40-pages pitch deck, and finger-crossed. Nothing to lose. Oh by the way, I submitted one of DycodeX‘s flagship products, SMARTernak, an Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence-based solution for livestock farming.
Then on June 27, I received an email from Jenny of GFE, explained that my company has been nominated by KIBAR to participate in Google Demo Day Asia. I should complete an application form and should make sure that to participate, my company should be:
- The startup must be legally incorporated and headquartered in Asia.
- The startup must have raised at least $50,000.
- The startup should be seeking to actively raise a round of $1M-$5M within 6 months of the event.
- The startup should have demonstrated traction through funding raised, revenue, customer growth, etc.
- The founder of the startup must be confident in presenting in English
- The founder of the startup must be able to attend the program in China the week of September 17
OK, I thought all points are checked. And I filled this form (I skip the confidential parts):
The hardest part of that form was that I should upload an elevator pitch video under 1:30. That’s hard thing to do because one: I never did elevator pitch in my life; two: too much to tell about the product, 1.5 mins won’t be enough.
So, to make the best use of time, my team and I decided to prepare a script for the video. After many revisions, we managed to create a pitch script that should be 1.30 minutes in duration. I practiced and practiced with that script with the hope that I can tell the story in my own language, as natural as possible. After practicing the whole afternoon, with my broken English, it seems not possible to pitch with the time limit, unless I read the script. We had to submit the application form that night. So, here it is, the script-reading, broken English, super-fast elevator pitch video:
Application form submitted. Again, finger crossed, nothing to lose. Life continued.
Suddenly, just one day before Indonesia’s Independence Day, an email from Nica of GFE came to my inbox to officially congratulate me that DycodeX made it as one of the finalists of the Demo Day. The official announcement is here
Yes, DycodeX is one of 10 finalists of Demo Day Asia, selected by Google out of 305 qualifying applications from across Asia Pacific. We’re the only one from Indonesia, as of the rest nine startups, each representing their own countries.
But that’s just a beginning. The real journey lied ahead.
It’s two months before the D-Day, seems plenty of time, but it’s not. To show how packed it is, here the timeline:
If you notice in the timeline, there’re two times of mentoring. I was lucky having opportunity to be mentored by Google’s mentor, also had mentoring by Indonesia’s Digitaraya mentors. All mentoring sessions had only one objective in mind, to polish my pitch deck and my pitch style. As above-mentioned, my initially submitted pitch deck consisted of 40 slides! How can I present it in just 4 minutes?! And that’s common problem faced by founders, is that we know so much and deep about the company or product, that we want to tell everything even in a four-minutes pitch. No matter how good you are in doing pitch, you can always use some second opinions, external audiences, moreover mentors, to give you honest, unbiased feedbacks of what they think or what they wish to know. So, thanks to all the helps I can get, after 5 time iterations, I managed to reduce the pitch slides from 40 to 21 (includes the title slide)
Other non-technical preparations involve:
- Book flight, obviously. You want to be there on-time.
- Apply for Visa. Either single or multiple entry, I applied for single. To apply Visa to Shanghai, it seems that we need some form of letter. Google was kind enough to provide a letter of invitation. Apparently, for applying Visa in Indonesia, we also need a proof of where we’ll stay during in Shanghai, a hotel voucher will do.
Hello Shanghai! It’s my first time here. Arrived at Sept 17. I just realised I didn’t take a single photo when arriving. Not much to do on that day beside eating, practising, and taking a rest. It’s gonna be 3 long days ahead according to the schedule:
- September 18 (Tuesday): Immersion day, at People Squared.
- September 19: Pitch Preparation: rehearsal and coaching at Google Shanghai, full dress rehearsal in the venue, also setting-up booth for exhibition.
- September 20: The DEMO DAY
Day #1: Immersion
First day is about immersion in GFE’ program, also startup ecosystem in China and APAC region. It’s held in People Squared, which is Google for Entrepreneurs’ partner in Shanghai.
Day #1 was also about Pitch 101. We’re lucky to have Ginny of Amplify as the coach, that’s been coaching previous Europe’s Demo Day finalists and other abundance of experiences.
Few important points I can still remember from the coaching:
- Pitch is about telling story,
- How body language is dominant (55%) in face to face communication
- Learn how to warm up the vocal cords before pitch
- How to stand, breath, smile, use gestures properly during pitch
Stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts aloneBased on research by Stanford University
I remember that quote from the coach and checked that the research was there. That’s inline with the saying: “facts tell, story sells”.
It was fun and mind-opener learning experience. Day #1 was closed with dinner at a fancy, nice ambience restaurant: Liquid Laundry. But quite honestly, I was personally not a fan with the food, I wish to have real Chinese food 🙂
Day #2: Pitch Rehearsal
We started day #2 by riding the bus to Google Shanghai office. It’s in a huge building (well, Shanghai is about huge buildings) at 100 Century Ave, LuJiaZui. From the building entrance to the office itself, we have to take multiple elevators, I won’t remember if I have to go there again by myself. Arrived in the office, we’re directed to go to the pantry. It happened that I haven’t take breakfast at the hotel, so it’s a heaven.
Day #2 was about putting the pitch 101 learned in day #1 into practice, rehearse to be able to pitch under 4 minutes in front of Googlers and influential people. We started with some warming-ups: fun games to activate concentration, warming up standing and vocal cords. Then doing face to face practice with other finalists to practice some lines in our pitch.
Then the actual pitch rehearsal began. I knew all along that it should be under 4 minutes, and kept practising that way. But when watched by many people: Googlers, influential people, and all other finalists, turned out it’s hard. Of course, it should be in English, which is not my native language that made it even harder. And yes, I can not make it in 4 minutes, so more practise needed.
There’s a great surprise that day. There’s a visit and interview from a well-known TV station back in the country, it’s Metro TV. So, we occupied a room in Google office, to do the interview by the journalist, mbak Ayu.
Turned out, tomorrow (Sept 20) there’ll be another Google event in the same building: Google Developer Days China 2018. They’re preparing it.
Arrived at Shanghai Expo Center, we’re still not allowed to enter the actual Demo Day stage, so we did more games and practices. We did some kind of meditation, asked to imagine the stage, the crowd, and what’s the first line that will come out when on stage.
Now that we’re calmer, the stage door was opened and we’re allowed to enter. MIND.IS.BLOWN!
When the organizer said during the briefing call back in the country, that the stage is huge, it’s for 1000 audiences, I honestly didn’t really buy it. Now seeing it with my own eyes, it is indeed a gigantic stage. That photo can not really depict the size, the ambience. When you’re actually standing on stage, you can already feel the pressure. You’ll feel tiny.
Entering the stage, we did more warming-ups. After some technicality briefing, preparing our final deck (was it OK on screen and so on), then it’s time for full-dress rehearsal. It’s a full-length rehearsal, from the very beginning to the end, as if it’s the real event. And we did it twice! That’s what I call a great preparation.
We rehearsed our pitch as if it’s the real one, with the timer, the lighting and everything. Ginny – the coach – gave a lot of feedbacks, showed me how to stand on such a huge stage, how to move around, how to (and when not to) show excitements, how to smile. There’re dots on the stage to show where we should stand, where we should move. Everything you do on such a gigantic stage will be very noticeable, so you should control how to behave. The expression, voice, gesture you show, should be more exaggerated than if you do it on smaller stage. I learned a lot!
After more than 2 hours, rehearsal was over. Then we’re headed to upper level to set up the exhibition booth. Day #2 was over, we’re back to the hotel.
My day was not. I continued to practice and practice. Optimising my pitch script so that it’s under 4 minutes, and kept practicing to “memorise” the script, voice it and time it. It’s impossible, at least for me as non-English speaker, to stand on that stage and need to think what to say, so I need to memorise the script. Sleeping just four hours and woke up at 5AM, then continued to practice. It didn’t stop until finally I can memorise and voice the pitch flawlessly under 4 minutes. I got it.
Ready or not, it’s D-Day, September 20, 2018. Took a bath and wore special outfit for special day, a Batik.
We went to Shanghai Expo Center by bus, and I kept practising during the trip. Arriving at the venue, already a lot of people there. As I said, today was also Google Developer Days China 2018 event. At the gate, there’s a big signage, why not take a photo.
We arrived there at 7.30AM and the Demo Day was not started until 10, so we had more time to practice. We even did 1 more full-dress rehearsal! How’s that for preparation.
Allow me to introduce the honourable judges, from Google and venture capitals
And… The Demo Day began! Michael Kim – Partnership Manager, APAC, Google for Startup – took the stage to introduce the program and Demo Day. Then he called the 10 finalists one by one to deliver the pitch. Skymagic of Singapore took the first pitch. I was number 9, and it felt forever.
Each speakers needed to wait 1 number before their turn, so when number 8 (Swingvy) on stage, I was already at the backstage. Then I heard Michael called the name of DycodeX, I run into the stage, give him high-five. And the stage’s mine. All those 2 months of preparation had come to this moment.
Just look at how small I am compared to the stage.
When you’re on stage, not for rehearsal but the for real occasion, the burst of energy just come out of nowhere. I felt confidence. Despite the glitches here and there, the words just came out of mouth without much thinking, it’s almost automatic. I think that’s the fruit of practices. Watch my pitch along with other finalists below:
Getting off of the stage, immediately I felt weak. I gave my last energy on that stage. I didn’t think of winning or losing, I already won, I’ve conquered that stage. And all finalists are already the winners, after all.
Back stage, I was compelled to take a photo with Ginny, without whom I could not perform well today. So, Thanks Ginny.
Marham of Pakistan took the last pitch. Then judges were given the time to come up with their choice. Audience’s also given the opportunity to choose the favourite startup.
There will be two awards out of this Demo Day: Judges’ choice and Audience’s choice. And… unfortunately, despite all the efforts, we’re not lucky this time as either winners. The Judges’ choice fell to SigTuple, and audience choose Marham. Big congratulations to both of you, guys.
All finalists then called to the stage for the last time, to take photos together. So, here we are, the finisher of the first Google Demo Day Asia.
Google Demo Day Asia was officially finished. But that day was not over yet. We headed to exhibition room to meet with anyone who’s interested in the product that we just pitched. I think this was important opportunity. Hey, lunch was also served there, so here we go.
The exhibition and lunch lasted about 2 hours. I met with a lot of influential people, VCs, and made new friends. Not forget to take a photo with one of the judges, Bradley Horowitz, that happens to be Vice President, Product Management at Google.
Now it’s time to go home. Well, not to the country yet, but to the hotel. Still had 1 more day to experience the comfort of Ritz-Carlton Shanghai Hotel and explore Shanghai. The real fight lied ahead, how to follow up the outcome of this Demo Day, and to prove that SMARTernak, the pitched product, is here to stay and grow.
While in Shanghai, why not seize the days. Ministry of Communication and Informatics (KOMINFO) of Indonesia asked us to meet with Consulate General of Indonesia in Shanghai. It’s the last day in Shanghai and didn’t know where to spend, so there we went.
We went to Consulate General with friends from KIBAR. It’s a good opportunity to explain why we’re here and to tell story of Indonesia startup ecosystem in general. Consulate General facilitates all about business, and it’s time for them to know that doing business with China means they should also highlight about startups, beside conventional businesses.
I’d like to use this opportunity to thank hugely to all parties that made this journey possible. Thanks to KIBAR and Digitaraya for facilitating and mentoring, and many other things. Also thanks to KOMINFO for supporting SMARTernak since the beginning, up until this Demo Day. Big thanks to Yansen, Hadi, Jowyenne for many things. Big thanks to all team at DycodeX, which we all achieve the impossibles. And special thanks to Google for Startup. Thank you all!
That’s for now. Enjoy!