Why you want to demo and pitch at LAUNCH Festival

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You might’ve heard that this year’s SmartCamp events are being powered by LAUNCH. Why did we decide to do this? Because we attended LAUNCH Festival last year and were blown away by the opportunities for founders to demo, learn, and launch. We wanted to give those same opportunities to our SmartCamp participants and Global Entrepreneur members, so that’s what we’re going to do!
This year, ten SmartCamp semi-finalists from around the world will be given the opportunity to demo at both LAUNCH Festival and LAUNCH Scale! (What’s LAUNCH Scale? We will tell you about it next week).
Here are the top 3 reasons why you want to attend LAUNCH Festival:
1.    Demo – Angel investor Jason Calacanis was tired of seeing conferences where startups had to pay thousands of dollars to demo, so he made a conference where demoing was free. The catch? Jason and his team curate the demo pit by extending invitations only to the smartest and most innovative companies they find. Getting to demo at LAUNCH Festival is quite an honor – and also a good opportunity to meet potential investors.

2.    Learn – In 2015 some of the speakers were: Andrew Mason, Jeff Weiner, Marc Benioff, Naval Ravikant, Peter Thiel, and Yancey Strickler. So when you’re not in the demo pit securing your next round of investment or finding your next big client, you can learn from the folks that made Silicon Valley what it is.

3.    Launch – This is really what LAUNCH Festival is all about. Throughout the event startups get on stage and do a live demo to compete for various prizes. Past winners include Mint, Yammer, DropBox, Stack OverFlow and FitBit. Not a bad group of alumni.
While all ten of the SmartCamp semi-finalists get to demo at Festival, three finalists also get to demo live on stage for the final leg of their journey through IBM SmartCamp. There are no losers here – of course one of those companies will land a spot in the LAUNCH Incubator and a $25K investment from Jason Calacanis.

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Christine Boyle, founder Valor Water, developed tools to fix our broken water system & recoup losses

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Jason Calacanis talking water system improvement and plugging SmartCamps 2015 last week on “This Week in Startups.” Thank you Jason!

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IBM and LAUNCH Present The 2015 SmartCamps Competition in Sixteen Cities and counting!

IBM is excited to announce the launch of our 2015 Global SmartCamps in collaboration with angel investor, and serial entrepreneur, Jason Calacanis (@jason) and LAUNCH Media in sixteen cities worldwide and counting.

If you think your startup is changing the world, IBM SmartCamp and LAUNCH are here to give you the tools to make it happen. We’re helping startups build a smarter planet by providing access to ideas and advancements through education, mentorship, business services and industry access.

LAUNCH Festival 2015
LAUNCH Festival 2015

This year’s program offers startups the opportunity to get training from, network with, and pitch to top-tier mentors from local businesses, startups, and VCs. Winners will get the chance to be accepted into the LAUNCH Incubator with $25k investment from Jason Calacanis , and become IBM’s Global Entrepreneur of the Year.

Wondering how it works? Here are the details:

Step 1: Application
Apply to a local IBM SmartCamp in a city near you.

Step 2: Compete in a Local IBM SmartCamp

Step 3: Semi-Finals: 10 local winners will be invited to study + demo at LAUNCH Scale, an exclusive, invite-only event in Silicon Valley

Step 4: Finals: Pitch live at LAUNCH Festival to win IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year and a slot in the LAUNCH incubator, with a $25k investment

Want to engage with IBM Smart Camps and LAUNCH on social media? Keep up with the story and follow us @IBMSmartCamp and @LAUNCH. Tag your photos #IBMSmartCamp.

Marek Sadowski and his autonomous robot

From IBMer to founder: How my experience at IBM taught me what I needed to know to be a great startup founder

I founded a hardware startup back in 2004 as a project to deliver mobile service oriented (vacuum cleaners, logistics, security) autonomous robots. The project was going on in my free time while I was working full time at IBM. We incorporated in 2007 with a team of passionate engineers and with the help of friends & family. We got a seed investment back in 2011. From that time, thanks to healthy sales of technology, our services, as well as obtaining some R&D funds from EU, independent development started. After reaching this early stage with around 20 engineers employed I opened offices for my startup in Silicon Valley. Since that time I decided to step down from leading the company in 2015 to make room for more adequate leaders to take over for me and I returned back to IBM.

My startup adventure was possible thanks to the experiences I gained working for IBM. I worked at IBM for over 10 years before I decided to separate to work exclusively on my startup.

Here are three important lessons founder lessons for you that I learned by working at IBM:

1.  At IBM I  learned how important it is to build a profound relationship with a customer. In a startup, often your first customers become your partners and mentors.

2. Building the team of motivated engineers to deliver a solution on time was key to developing the first products in scope and time. IBM taught me how to invite people to join the team instead of forcing them to deliver. It was vital to demonstrate that there was something of significant value for everyone. And from IBM I learned how important it was to help my employees grow professionally.

3. Lastly, at IBM I perfected my presentation and PR skills. I often presented at conferences as well as organizing events to promote new products and generate sales leads. That came with a significant amount of hands-on training. Later on I leveraged those skills so many times as a founder. You pitch your idea of the startup to investors, passerbys, waiters, etc. Practice your pitch on everybody. It will help you to perfect it and you never know when you’ll run into your next big customer or investor. It really often happens just by sheer luck!

marek bio picMarek Sadowski, is a MobileFirst Developer Advocate at IBM. He is also developing an Internet of Things & Bluemix powered robot vacuum available soon on Kickstarter.

You can reach him on Twitter @blumareks.

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Partnering with Corporate Venture

This week, National Venture Capital Association will host its annual VentureScape event in San Francisco.  IBM is very excited to take part in the event, and in particular, in Office Hours, which links entrepreneurs from the across the U.S. and around the globe with VCs and other entrepreneurs to help build the next generation of game-changing companies.   The theme this year is “Where Transformation Takes Shape” and it is a very timely topic given that corporations around the world are in the midst of transforming themselves and the role of the startup is front and center in that transformation.

Today, large companies are partnering with the startup community to help fuel innovation and to keep their finger on the pulse of new technology trends.  Corporate venture capital and corporate innovation initiatives are becoming strategic “must-haves” at leading organizations now.  According to Global Corporate Venturing, the number of corporations investing in venture capital has grown to more than 1100 corporate venture units around the globe.

For an entrepreneur, this is good news.  First, it certainly means many more choices when it comes to raising funds.  But beyond capital, there are many other significant benefits in partnering with corporations.  Entrepreneurs have the opportunity to leverage their large, established customer base, credibility and brand, and deep  expertise and network within an industry.  Most corporate VCs will have a strategic nature to their interest, whether its furthering existing solutions, getting into new market opportunities, or expanding into new geographies. The reach and distribution that a partnership with some of these largest companies in the world could provide is certainly something to think about for the growth of any startup business.

If you will be at VentureSpace on Tuesday, May 6th, I hope you will join us as we continue this discussion at the VentureScape Workshop on Wednesday, May 6th, 2015.

Wendy Lung is a partner in IBM’s Venture Capital Group.  Since 2000, IBM’s Venture Capital Group (VCG) has been dedicated to building strategic relationships with venture capital firms and their portfolio companies to create exciting new customer solutions and identify growth opportunities in new markets. 

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There’s A New Way to Startup – IBM meets Reality TV

What happens when IBM meets Social Entrepreneurship meets Reality TV? We’re about to find out! On April 26th, 2015, the first episode of an IBM original web series called “A New Way to Startup” will be released here.

What’s this all about?

Ten social entrepreneurs were picked to pitch their startups at SXSW last month and now five of them are moving forward and moving in together for a week in Austin, TX to participate in a series of daily challenges using IBM technology like Watson Analytics and IBM Verse.

Who are the social entrepreneurs?

The entrepreneurs include:

Aaron Horowitz from Sproutel, who is building the “Sesame Street of healthcare.” Horowitz was inspired by his experience dealing with a terminal illness as a child to create a new way of teaching kids about chronic illnesses like Type 1 diabetes;

John Guydon from LassyProject, whose mission is to find lost children faster by giving parents the ability to notify a community about a missing child within seconds;

Jordan from Owlet, who created a baby monitor in the form of a sock that infants wear to protect their heartrate and oxygen levels;

Lauren Foster, from Stretch Recipes, whose mission is to help people eat better and save more money through “an app that lets you choose your budget, pick your meals and automatically get coupons;”

Stephen Garten, from Charity Charge, who created a credit card rewards website that’s partnering with banks to help cardholders contribute their points to their charity of choice.

Hear all ten pitches and meet the five finalists here. And be sure to watch the series because viewers will be in charge of voting for the winning social enterprise!

Good luck to all the entrepreneurs!