May 04 2012


Many of you have asked for details on last week’s NWEN FirstLook Forum (aka FLF) event. In case you missed it, the official Geekwire coverage is here.

Without further ado, here are the details in Q&A format! Yes, I know, I am incredibly creative. Plus, this got kind of long, so now you can just skip the questions you don’t care about. Yes, I am also giving and considerate, I know.

Q: Is it just like that show Shark Tank? (If you don’t know what that is, check it out, pretty entertaining!)

A: Well, none of the judges were called Mr. Wonderful that I am aware of. In fact, they seemed to be largely going by their real names overall.

The biggest different was the audience. Instead of having just a few investors, and some cameras, the room held about 120 people and there were no second takes (I am just assuming the TV show does that). So on the one hand, it was less intense, on the other, there were a lot more eyeballs if I screwed up or fell off the stage. (Thankfully I did not do either of these things, at least outwardly. I did forget to say a couple of things, but did not break or apologize, which are no-no’s).


By the way, it was held in the super-cool Artic Ballroom. Which made me feel compelled to break into dance for some reason, but I didn’t.

Q: So what exactly did you do?

A: The way the FLF works is that you get 5 minutes to pitch your company. Yes, 5 whole minutes to pitch the ENTIRE business concept behind Booktrope. Just to really up the pressure, there is a person in the front row flashing bright red time cards counting down your time. Oh, and of course the entire Booktrope executive team were there, so yeah, no pressure.

Everyone in the audience has been given 5 gold coins. Your goal is to get them to use those coins in your voting bin in the next room. We started with 12 companies, and the top 5 got to come back to give one more minute, plus a Q&A session with the judges. So, you finish your pitch by offering some sort of “hook”. Mine was, “I hope you will invite me back so that I can share with you the marketing secret that can increase book sales by 3000% or more”. (Guess what that is? Anyone?)

After the first voting round, they narrowed it down to top 6. No, I didn’t mis-type, it was supposed to be top 5 but there was a tie, so we did top 6. After the one minute follow up, the judges ask a bunch of questions. From what I am told, I did a great job answering the questions, but funnily enough I sincerely cannot recall what those questions were! HA!

Q: C’mon, spill it, what is the marketing secret?!?

A: Free books of course! We had a very cool slide put together by our fabulous Mr. Andy Roberts that showed the increase in sales of a book immediately following the 5 day free promo (+41,000%) , and then 2.5 months later where it still shows a significant increase in sales (+500%).

Q: So then what?

A: Then the judges went away while the entire audience got to ask any of the 12 companies whatever questions they wanted. I got asked a bunch of stuff, again, that I don’t remember. (I hear there was video of all this, which would be good in case I ever want to recall the evening in greater detail.)

After that, the judges came back and announced that there was a tie for first, and we were one of the winners! Yeah Booktrope!

The other winner was Randy at EKT – shown here with me. They make electronic key tags – which is actually way cooler and more interesting than it sounds.

I will brag and say that I was told a few times after the event that I am a good presenter. So, to my family who funded that totally useless theater degree from USC, thanks! See, it finally came in handy for something

Q: OK, so you won, were there prizes, do you get something for all this?

A: Yes, there are prizes. Some are simply the ability to present for some local investment clubs/groups – with the goal of potentially raising some money. The first one of those for us is this coming Friday. The other prizes were a seminar this weekend, and office space! This last one was the grand prize and there was some consternation initially as no one was quite sure how both companies could share space. (As much as I love the EKT folks, they couldn’t be further from the book business if they tried.) But, as it turns out, they already have an office they have no interest in leaving, so that came to us. We haven’t figured out the details on that, but we will keep you posted!

But truly, the value in the event was the ability for Booktrope to pull together the things we need to articulate our company quickly and clearly. The coaches who helped me: Hyer Bercaw, Jack Breese, Bryan Brewer and Connie Miller were unbelievably generous with their time and offered insight and advice that I could not put a price on.

So – here are the shout-outs to everyone who helped along the way.

NWEN – Caitlin and Daniel are amazing. They go out of their way to help and do whatever it takes to make things run smoothly. They are also so encouraging you can’t help but feel better after speaking to them. Not to mention that the sessions offered by NWEN – in particular the eIQ series – are affordable and informative. These sessions frequently feature people in the Seattle community that you need to know if you want to succeed and they impart their wisdom at rock bottom prices. If you are not a member of NWEN and you are a Seattle entrepreneur – join now!

Bryan Brewer at Business Plans Northwest – Bryan must have looked at 10 different versions of our presentation. He never failed to offer timely and valuable feedback. From content, to tone, to small details such as font size – nothing was overlooked. I thought we had a pretty strong pitch going in, I know we have a strong one now.

Connie Miller at Pivotal Presentations – You might think with a theater degree and 20 years of business experience there wouldn’t be much for her to coach me on. You’d be wrong. The best thing about Connie is that she doesn’t just give you generic advice – she really looks at YOU and tells YOU what you need to hear to be better. Gold, people, pure gold!

As to my other coaches Jack and Hyer, well, they are mentors in a variety of programs locally, but don’t officially hang out a shingle for their advice. In other words, I could not be more fortunate to have benefited from it. Thank you, gentlemen!

Last, some words to some of my Booktrope extended family. It goes without saying that Ken, Heather and Andy were part of all of this, but still, they put up with my neuroses and stayed up nights to hit deadlines, so thanks guys! (Especially poor Heather who had to listen to me practice, even in the car).

But, in particular, I want to call out Booktrope authors Jesse James Freeman and Tess Hardwick. Jesse did everything from gathering data, to cheering me on constantly, to listening to my angst that I would screw it all up. Tess, well, it is “the dream” and we are living it.

This is really only the beginning of this phase of the Booktrope journey, but it was a fantastic kick off to it all, and I am so pleased to have been able to participate. (Insert Sally Fields acceptance speech here).

As Ken frequently says, onward and upward!

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