(Almost) A Failure To LAUNCH
REscour’s Launch Festival Story
Aren't these highly public launches for social apps, with target audiences in the millions? Isn't it going to be a distraction for the team? We have a ton to do, won’t our progress slow down during trips to SF?
These were just some of the questions running through our minds as Jake and I tried to decide whether REscour should attend the 2015 edition of the LAUNCH Festival. And to be perfectly honest … we almost decided not to. It’s clear now that would have been a huge mistake, and if I’m ever asked by an entrepreneur about attending LAUNCH, I’ll make sure there’s no hesitation in their mind.
Our LAUNCH Festival story started last October when we attended another of Jason Calacanis’ incredible conferences, LAUNCH Scale. On top of the awesome talks, we had an opportunity to connect with Jason over a shared frustration with how real estate markets work. In Jason’s case that frustration stemmed from the lack of honest information available in the residential market while making the move from LA to SF. In REscour’s case, it was from the low quality and lack of data available in the commercial real estate investment sales market.
After a great conversation, and some due diligence, Jason made an investment, whisked us through an exciting (and successful) AngelList syndication and formally invited us to take the stage at LAUNCH Festival.
One of the most surprising things about preparing to be on stage was that it forced us to develop a laser-tight focus on only the most important pieces of our product. With a total of only three minutes or so to actually demo the product, any cruft, or nice-to-have features we wanted to show off would quickly bloat the demo and leave no time for questions from the judges. Far from being the distraction we were concerned it might be, the time leading up to LAUNCH proved to be a highly productive period during which we ruthlessly applied a piece of advice we received at Scale:
With guidance from Paul Judge and Allen Nance at TechSquare Labs (our amazing incubator in ATL), we refined the product, dropped some features, enhanced others, and as we got closer to February and our first rehearsal, we felt that both our product and pitch were really beginning to coming together.
The first rehearsal then made it clear that it really was only beginning to come together and there was much work to be done. Each of the nine startups at our session got feedback on shortening the pitch, emphasizing pieces, cutting out portions, and working on synchronicity. But one thing that was clear already, despite the lack of polish: the level of competition, and the quality of the companies the LAUNCH team had curated, was sky high (our rehearsal group included three winners, Jeff Dachis with One Drop, VideoStitch, and the overall winner ABRA). If we were going to stand out to the judges, we had to put in the extra effort — and that’s exactly what we did.
We were geared up and motivated by the upcoming competition, and we spent a couple more weeks, including nights and weekends, building, polishing, and practicing the pitch. Finally, the last rehearsal took place at Sequoia Capital’s brand new, beautiful office. It was both exciting and intimidating to be doing pitch practice in a room where you could be excused for confusing the wall with a listing of the top NASDAQ companies.
Despite the intimidation factor, our presentation had benefited greatly from Jason, Brice, and Tyler’s coaching and advice, and beyond some last minute tips on driving, we were deemed “stage ready.” You’d better believe we kept on practicing and polishing for the next week anyway.
When it came down to getting on stage and sharing our vision with the thousands of attendees at LAUNCH, thankfully, it all went smoothly. The product shined, the demo went on without a hitch, and Jake killed the pitch and questions from the judges. After hearing from one of the judges, Ryan Allis, Founder of Connect (and last year’s LAUNCH winner), that REscour “will be a billion dollar company”, you might even say that we were cautiously optimistic as we walked off stage.
Fast-forward to Wednesday afternoon, after a day of great conversations and connections at the demo pit, it was time for the awards ceremony. One of the first things Jason announced is that companies like REscour, which had already received investment from LAUNCH, couldn't win the overall prize. While disappointing, we knew that coming in, and were still excited about the opportunity to win one of the sub-categories.
We waited nervously through 9 of the 11 categories, best design, best hackathon, best 2.0, before finally, Don Dodge came up to announce the best B2B winner. As he announced REscour we jumped up to get on stage. While walking I heard Don tell the audience “this company will make more money than any other company we’ve seen over these 3 days.” Flattering for sure, but thinking back on all the companies I watched pitch, it certainly raises the bar we’ll be setting for ourselves. We took a quick picture with Jason and Don, thanked the team back in Atlanta, and smiled.
The Way Forward
After an exhilarating trip that saw us go from considering not attending LAUNCH Festival, to winning the award for best B2B company, it’s now time to execute and deliver on our vision. We've made more progress on the product, on the pitch, and on the company than we ever would have had we chosen to stay home. So a big thank you to Jason and the LAUNCH team for throwing a hell of an event and for making sure that we were a part of it.