Right now, I’m at a 10,000-person technology conference in Dublin called Web Summit. Web Summit resembles TechCrunch Disrupt. It’s held in a massive warehouse-type building and it is brimming with aspiring entrepreneurs who are pitching their businesses to any attendee who will listen. It’s also packed with keynotes from notable technology leaders like AOL’s Tim Armstrong and Dopbox’s Drew Houston.
This morning, as I was heading to listen to Tim Armstrong’s keynote, I was approached by two men.
“Are you Alyson?” one asked. The other remained quiet, shifting on his feet.
I looked at them. They looked at me. I knew what they wanted, and I wasn’t excited about it. But I look down and saw my name badge. There was no denying that I was, in fact, Alyson.
“We tweeted at you!” The man explained.
I was about to get the dreaded blind elevator pitch.
Being a startup reporter at a startup conference is daunting. Rows and rows of entrepreneurs leap out from their promotional booths to pitch you as you walk by. They have to do something to stand out from the pack. There’s too much noise, and it’s hard for reporters to pick up the signals.
I admired the forward entrepreneur before me. It takes guts to approach a stranger and this man had done his homework. He knew exactly who I was and which publication I wrote for. But blind elevator pitches rarely turn into compelling stories. So I tried to wiggle out of it.
I mentioned I was on my way to listen to Armstrong. The startup didn’t let me escape easily. “Can we arrange a time to meet after?” He asked.
I caved. “You know what, I have five minutes. Tell me about your company.”
The man, Yogev Ben-Tov, started talking about his company, JoyInApp. It just launched yesterday at Web Summit. When I asked how far along it was he said it was “fully functioning” and showed me a demo.
The Israel-based company lets non-technical people with startup ideas submit their concepts to a team of developers. The non-technical person then has to pay the “small fee” of $US400 just to entice the team to work with him or her.
Then, when a group of developers is assigned to create the person’s startup idea, the person has to agree to a lifetime revenue share with JoyInApp’s team.
It didn’t sound too joyful to me, but perhaps in Israel where the startup scene is absolutely exploding it’s a more compelling concept. I told Ben-Tov as politely as possible that I wouldn’t be writing about his startup at this time.
Just as I was about to walk away, he dug into his bag. Again, more shifting from the second man, who remained silent.
After about a minute, Ben-Tov stood up with a box of chocolates.
On it was my picture from Twitter and my name. The box read, “Hey Alyson, here’s something for your sweet tooth.”
I was stunned. I wondered how many reporters would be receiving similar, personalised boxes. I thanked him very much for the chocolates. As I walked away, I couldn’t decide if the move was brilliant or creepy. I had made a decision not to write about Ben-Tov’s startup. But here I am, writing this article.
What I have decided, is that I will not be eating the box of chocolates.
Disclosure: Enterprise Ireland kindly sponsored my trip to Dublin to cover Web Summit and F.ounders.