StartupYard Demo Day 2014 in Tweets and Images

StartupYard’s 2014 Demo Day went off beautifully last night. The whole StartupYard team is tremendously proud of our startups, and extremely hopeful and optimistic for the future of all the founders in the program, and all of their projects.

This post will serve as a compendium of tweets and images that we will be collecting from the event. If you would like your tweet or image to be included here, please send us a link in the comments.

You can find a set of photos from Demo Day on our public Facebook page

-The StartupYard Team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Digg thisPin on PinterestShare on Tumblr
If you like what you read, please consider sharing it

Jeanne Trojan: Present as Yourself

Over the past few weeks, the StartupYard teams worked hard on perfecting their pitches for Demo Day. There were a fair share of investors, corporate representatives, mentors, and industry members of all stripes in attendance. Needless to say, the pressure was on. But, every one of the teams pitched really well.

A week before the big day, we invited Jeanne Trojan, an Executive Presentation Trainer & Coach and long-time pitch mentor for StartupYard, to TechSquare to help the teams prepare for their Demo Day pitches. Here are a few of the tips that she shared with us.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Counter-intuitively, the best way to appear natural in front of a group of people is to meticulously plan your pitch and practice until it has a natural flow. You know how an athlete can make an amazingly difficult move look easy? That’s your goal when you present. You want the audience to get the impression that you’re just talking with them. That’s takes loads of practice.

IMG_0575

But, that’s not to say that Jeanne advocates memorizing your presentation. That can be dangerous and will not give a natural impression. You shouldn’t be concentrating on the words, but on the stories that make up your pitch. Every slide should represent a ‘story’ for you that you can remember.

However, you should memorize one part of your talk. Your opening. When you get up to speak, you’ll be nervous and you’ll have a bit of a ‘deer in the headlights’ moment. Make sure you know the first few sentences of your talk by heart so you can do it on ‘auto-pilot’.

 

Find Your Allies

Audience engagement in person is achieved in many ways. But Jeanne emphasized simple, easy, and repeatable tricks for connecting. For example, she advised us to look for ‘audience allies’. They are the people nodding, smiling and really engaged in your talk. Find these people in every part of the room so that when you’re feeling nervous, looking at them can help you to calm down and you can still give the impression that you’re looking at everyone. Instead of a sea of faces looking back at you, judging you, look at the few you feel you can trust, and talk to them.

Vaclav Formanek, getting passionate about education.

Vaclav Formanek, of MyPrepApp

Share Your Enthusiasm

This is your project. If you’re excited about it, you need to be able to share that energy with your audience. If you’re not, there’s a bigger problem than your pitch. There is no excuse for acting ‘cool’ or being stiff when you’re sharing your big idea. Your pitch should appear important and urgent. Your audience should be thinking – ‘Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? This is something that needs to happen!’ Constructing your pitch to give this impression is vital to your success.

Stop Dancing

Even some of the best presenters still have nervous habits to break. For example, nervous speakers often seem to have little control over their legs, skipping around the stage, not even aware that they’re doing it. Once speakers have an awareness of what they’re doing with their bodies and how they can control their movements, it makes for a much more relaxed and easy-to-watch presentation. Jeanne shared some tips on how to move with a purpose and to cure that ‘shaky voice’ that always accompanies nervous situations.

Don’t Be Slide-Driven

notapresentation

“ You and your message are your presentation. NOT your slides. Too often, slides drive a talk and the speaker’s and audience’s focus is on them.’ “

A lot of presenters get stuck reading the headlines of each slide and then following the information as it pops up on the screen. This is a comfortable, but boring way of getting through a presentation, and it puts the material ahead of the presenter themselves. When you give your pitch at a demo day or a conference, you are presenting *yourself* as much as you are presenting your ideas, your team, and your work so far. A sure way of failing to inspire anyone, is to take yourself out of the loop, and show a set of slides that attendees could have read through on their own in 2 minutes.

Make sure that slide creation is one of the last in your preparation steps. And, focus on creating visual, eye catching slides that will attract the audience’s attention and turn to you to learn more.

Jeanne was a vital part of our teams’ pitch success on Demo Day and we’d like to thank her for working with them so passionately. If you’d like to make a successful presentation or pitch, we can definitely recommend Jeanne’s work.

Jeanne Trojan

jmtcz.cz

@jmtcz

Meet the 2014 Founders: SentiSquare. Helping global brands become better listeners.

The last of the 7 from 2014, SentiSquare began as an academic project by Josef Steinberger, assistant Professor at the University of West Bohemia. I caught up with Josef this week to talk about SentiSquare, a “sentiment analytics” engine that will revolutionize the way that global brands engage with their customers online and offline.

Josef

Cofounders Josef Steinberger, and Tomáš Brychcín

Hi Joseph, where does the idea for SentiSquare come from?

Several years ago, I started to research opinion summarization at the University of West Bohemia. There is an enormous and ever growing number of opinions about various entities all over the internet. For example, on Facebook alone, on Ford Motorcars company page, there has been over 37000 comments during the last year. And most of the comments are in English. If we include local Ford pages (ones for different countries), Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube and various discussion forums, we end up with over 1 Million comments. I think that gathering that data and making sense of it through summarization has a great commercial potential. With the initial idea, I entered the Microsoft Innovation Centre (MIC) accelerator and the idea saw some further development. From there, I moved to the StartupYard program. Tomas and Michal, our top two NLP researchers at the university, joined me and together, with valuable advices of StartupYard mentors we further developed the idea and SentiSquare finally crystallized into a workable business idea.

Is your whole team from academia? How did you all get together on this project?

Yes, all three founders are from the University of West Bohemia. I’m an associate professor and Tomas and Michal are finishing their PhD theses. We started working on sentiment analysis together at the beginning of the year. We ran experiments for a Semeval’s shared task [an international NLP research community evaluation campaign] and we were ranked 3rd out of 30 participating teams. We joined  forces for the brand-related opinion summarization project which I’d been already working on in the MIC program. Tomas brings the knowledge of semantic analysis and Michal’s expertise is in machine learning.

What will SentiSquare allow clients to do? What will its limitations be?

Sentisquare discovers the most important topics in social media content and automatically produces summaries of the topic-related comments. We can analyse millions of tweets, facebook posts, forum comments, and many other sources. It’s really the next generation of sentiment analysis. Basically, it does more than just produce sentiment polarity figures (e.g., how many times a brand was mentioned positively or negatively) but it answers the crowd sentiment question by tracking “key” opinions, e.i. opinions expressed by a large number of contributors. The trick is in identifying these opinions even when they are expressed in very different ways. These opinions drive brand reputation in a much more concrete way than “likes,” and so forthe. Sentisquare links topics across different brands, languages and periods, it will allow you to produce temporal, competitive and geographical comparisons. This will allow global companies and brands to get a good handle on their most common user complaints, the successes or drawbacks of their marketing campaigns, and their brand perceptions in a broad set of categories, for various demographics. The size of the data set limits the possibilities for the technology. If we don’t find enough relevant and content-rich comments about a brand (~1 thousand comments), the analysis won’t produce conclusive figures. To hone our models, we currently need over 1 Million domain-specific pieces of text, so this will apply to very big brands, probably with a global presence.

So you need a lot of data. what kinds of companies and people do you see as your likely customers?

Skoda [the leading Czech automaker, owned by Volkswagen Group], is a great example of a potential client. If they monitor what people are saying about the current car models, they can get inspiration on what people like, what they’d don’t like, what they want, and to which competing cars they compare Skoda’s models. This information can help in designing and marketing a new model. After the new one is out, the aggregation of the expressed sentiment about it can help in shaping the decisions taken. The power of sentiment analysis is in the fact that it goes beyond just sales figures and statistics. We can imagine this technology making the world a better place for everyone. For example, there are applications in entertainment as well. You know how Hollywood lives only on the box office take of whatever movie they release, no matter the quality of the film? Films all end up copying each other and looking pretty much the same. Plus, there’s a huge amount of risk in budgeting for a $150 Million film just because a similar one was successful. Well, what if our technology could help movie studios to understand what people like about their movies, and so allow them to *avoid* copying the things that don’t need copying. They could get ahead of trends, and really understand what the audience is yearning for before making the next film. Everybody wins.

What do you see as your primary competition in this field?

We feel that competition is a badly negotiated cooperation :laughs:. That means there is a lot of room in this market for new ideas, and new players. Even if current social media monitoring tools are nominally our competition, we’d rather position Sentisquare as a new layer on top of their functionality. We are investigating the possibility of cooperation with SocialBakers, BrandEmbassy, GoodData and eMerite, however, there are many others we would like to work with.

Josef does some deep thinking.

Josef does some deep thinking.

As an academic, what do you find most challenging about thinking in business terms, and talking to business people?

The first difference is that in business we need to think much more about the target group of users and the business benefit our solution brings. Also In research, we push the quality of the technological solutions. For example, if we improve the quality of sentiment polarity prediction by 2 percent, we could write a famous paper about it. In business, it is more about uniqueness of the idea and differentiation from the competition. Business is about practical, workable solutions that deliver, not just theoretical models.

How has your experience at StartupYard been so far? Which of the mentors has had the most powerful influence on your team and your direction as a company?

We’ve learned a lot about the business world. Now we have a good basis for pitching, business planning, marketing, sales, and positioning the company and so on. There were many mentors who gave up a valuable feedback. Jan Šedivý and Jaroslav Gergic helped us to elaborate the API strategy. Marcel Vargaeštok introduced us to what the marketing research agencies do. Adam Zbiejczuk connected us with the local social media monitoring community. Viktor Fischer share with us his knowledge about sales possibilities and company directions. And finally, there were crucial times when every positive feedback was important for us, like the one from Roman Stupka, Philip Staehelin or Jan Muehlfeit.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Digg thisPin on PinterestShare on Tumblr
If you like what you read, please consider sharing it

Meet the 2014 Founders: MyPrepApp. Motivation, Not Information.

As we continue to introduce the Founders from StartupYard 2014 and their products, we bring you Vaclav Formánek, Founder and CEO of Educasoft, maker of MyPrepApp, a motivational planning device for exam preparation. 
Vaclav Formanek, getting passionate about education.

Vaclav Formanek, getting passionate about education.

Vasek, tell us about MyPrepApp, and Educasoft.

MyPrepApp is a mobile and web application that helps students to achieve on their important exams. It’s a way for students to avoid the stress of major exams without avoiding the actual studying: it gives you a reason to study, and it makes the process fun, and, we hope, a lot less painful.

Did you have trouble studying as a kid?

I was a kind of nerd as a kid. I started to have some problems with studying at high school and university, as I found there were much more interesting things to do than studying.

I started this project with my best friend Ondřej Menčel (Ondřej is CTO of Educasoft) more than two years ago. We loved playing games and we were fascinated with their motivational power. We were asking ourselves a question: if games are so cool that they motivate us to spend hours and hours solving problems in a virtual world, couldn’t we use some of their power to motivate ourselves to do real things, such as studying?

I was never a good studier. I guess that’s the typical experience, but it creates a lot of stress. I couldn’t ever decided what the important stuff was, and how to prioritize when I was studying. So I would procrastinate, and end up cramming for the exam at the last second out of panic. Everybody’s had that experience right? Studying was boring and nothing motivated me to start early. Have you ever had that dream where you show up for a test, but you aren’t prepared, and you don’t know what to do? That’s our inspiration.

MyPrepApp is molded out of our personal experiences. It creates a tailored study plan for exam preparation, and uses game rewards and support of friends to enhance students´ motivation to follow the plan and reach their study goals.

When I am saying “we” I am talking about our company Educasoft. Educasoft is a team of people who want to provide students a better way to prepare for exams.

Ondrej and Vasek taking a break on the TechSquare swing set.

Ondrej and Vasek taking a break on the TechSquare swing set.

Your team has already launched and generated revenue with a similar service in the Czech Republic: Hrave.cz. How did Hrave become MyPrepApp?

Well, we launched “Maturita hravě,” our first product, in preparation for the Czech exit examination, just a few days before the exam actually took place. So it was really a baptism by fire. It was just a last minute thing, so you can see a pattern here!

But, we were really surprised by the results. Within the first week, more than 5000 students tried out Hrave, and feedback was mostly very positive. When we were thinking what to do next, we decided to focus on what was crucial for passing the exam, and what’s really missing from existing products for exam preparation: tailored study plans and enhanced motivation to study. User feedback showed that the main problem with studying wasn’t informational, but motivational. This became the basis of the MyPrepApp model.

 

The education technology field is crowded. What makes MyPrepApp a potential stand-out in your thinking?

We take a different approach towards studying for exams. We see achieving on exams as the same type of goal as, for example, being able to run a marathon or losing 10 kilos, and we think we can use similar methods to help people achieve these goals. That´s why we are inspired by successful fitness and running apps such as Endomondo.

gamifikace plan

We are focused on students with low self-motivation. Students who need a study plan and who need to be intensively pushed to follow it. We think that this group of students has been ignored by existing exam preparation products. Most of these, like Kaplan Test Prep, Magoosh, or BenchPrep just assume the student is motivated from the outset… but we know that isn’t the case.

Our goal is to be the best preparation app for those students – the ones who need someone to tell them what to study and motivate them to do so.

What are the technical and business challenges you think you’re going to face in the next year or so?

The big technical challenge for us is creation of the study plan. We take it very seriously, as by recommending what students should study, we become partly responsible for them and their results. To be able to create a good study plan, we need to combine knowledge from many different areas – from the perfect knowledge of tests to the psychology of learning.

As for business challenges the biggest one will be to entry the US market. I think we will need a business partner to do it in the most effective way.

What strategy are you pursuing for bringing the platform to a global market? How will you secure and grow a strong content network?

Tom2

We have been developing the platform itself to be content independent, so it can be used for most of standardized exams, no matter which system they are for, in Czech republic, Poland or the US. While the exam systems are very different between different countries, our approach can remain constant.

As it is quite easy for content creators to use our platform, we can choose the best strategy for getting the relevant educational content for different countries and exams. Similarly, we can choose the best strategy to market MyPrepApp in different countries. We are now in the process of deciding for which countries to find strategic partners, and in which we can branch out on our own.

Which of the mentors at StartupYard have had the most profound impact on Educasoft during the past few months? How has the accelerator been for your team?

Generally the mentor sessions have helped us a lot to make our plans more precise, and prioritize the next steps. Roman Smola (Founder of Glogster EDU) had amazing knowledge about how to be successful in the US market with educational products. Vit Horky (CEO of Brand Embassy) has a really interesting approach to business development, that we learned a lot from.

Unfortunately I was the only team member who could atend most of the program during the first month of the accelerator as the rest of the team had to stay home working on the app so we could launch it as soon as possible. Though we find the accelerator very useful.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Digg thisPin on PinterestShare on Tumblr
If you like what you read, please consider sharing it