When TechStrat was asked to participate in the 2017 Synergy Contest for startups in the Pacific Northwest, we jumped at the chance. We don’t get a lot of opportunities to hang out with startups – our clients come to us later in life – and we like the excitement of early stage companies. And we were in good company on the Judges Panel, including old friend Taylor Soper, who has been covering the local tech scene for many years for Geekwire.
We also liked the prizes. Offshore development shop Dev-Pro put $25,000 in development services into the kitty (and that was just the start, as we will see shortly). Using offshore resources creates good discipline in startups
because they have to establish process that can incorporate outside resources into the development cycle. – and good process leads to good software.Other prizes included legal consultations with veteran tech lawyer Joe Wallin, and software licenses from other vendors, including Ansys.
Trenzy won. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about the process of picking a winner.
The most experienced member of our panel was long-time mentor and growth expert John Sechrest. John naturally fell into the “jury foreman” role and helped align the six judges. He had a tough job.
We were charged with picking a winner from among 6 finalists. “Winner” in this case meant “the company that would create the highest return for investors.” That sounds simple, but it wasn’t. In order to set the stage for the deliberations, one has to understand the personas in play.
2) Niche Dweller: the Niche Dweller looks for shelter from competitors in tiny market crevices too narrow to be of interest to the big guys. A total addressable market in the single digit millions doesn’t scare him away.
3) Impact Investor: The Impact Investor measures return on investment by how much positive change the target company can impart to the world. Profits and growth are fine, but non-dilutive investment in the form of grants from NGOs is even finer.
Our six finalists had something specific to offer to each investor profile. Fortunately John Sechrest is a master at helping people understand how they really feel, and at reaching consensus. In the end we chose the company most likely to create a return, but the runner up, Latchel, offered such a compelling value proposition that we created a new prize category on the spot, and Dev-Pro CEO Jeff Bianco added an additional $10,000 prize to the basket.
The result was a win-win-win; Trenzy satisfied the Unicorn Hunters, Latchel pleased the Niche Dwellers, and Jeff got to personally adopt the role of Impact Investor by delivering additional value to the startups that entered the contest.