Hello! I am Sirla, the Chief Inspiration Officer at SprayPrinter. Together with Aet I work at the communications department. This means, when attending events, our aim is to make SprayPrinter visible and memorable. SprayPrinter is still quite a small startup. But we have managed to make a fuss with the tools we have. The sentence I hear the most at SprayPrinter is: “You gotta work with what you have.”
We don’t have an enormous budget to spend and we don’t have that much manpower either. This means we have to be clever. So far, we have attended around 10 big international tech events with SprayPrinter, so I’m gonna present you some examples of how we have stood out at these events.
Keep calm and collaborate
In Paris there’s a very concentrated tech conference called Hello Tomorrow. We sent in an application to participate in the startup area but didn’t get accepted. Bohooh. I know. That always sucks.
But it was very important for us to participate since it took place just before our Kickstarter launch and visibility is everything. We asked the organizers whether there were other options to take part of the event, for example, as a cooperation partner. As you can see from the photo, we came to an agreement that we will help with the interior design solutions and posters. That meant sprayprinting 3 days and nights in a row without getting proper sleep once we arrived in Paris. But it was totally worth it because sprayprinted posters were all over the event. We even got to print the diamond around one of the screens. That means we were super visible and all over the place.
And we also got a demo booth! Here you can see the CEO of SprayPrinter talking to guys from L´Oreal. They were very interested in the SprayPrinter technology. They wanted to know if we could print hair dye or make-up. This collaboration is still on the table, just takes some time. But the point is, we got some enormously valuable contacts thanks to that event.
Actually a similar thing happened with Estonian Interior Design fair. We knew that it would be useful for us to be there but it was too expensive. So Aet and I were thinking what we should do about it, what would be a clever idea to offer them but so that they wouldn’t understand that we only want to get in for free. In the end we just wrote an e-mail that we want to attend but we don’t have any money. Can we come for free, we have a visually really attractive device. And we were in! Honesty rocks!
Have some balls
Another tech event we attended was Login in Vilnius. We wanted to get publications from the tech journalists attending the event. We had a demo booth but apparently it wasn’t enough to get noticed among all the other demoing startups. You probably know that there’s a press room in every event like this. So we sneaked pass the security and went to the press room. We made ourselves comfortable. There’s always free food and coffee, sometimes even alcohol 🙂 And when we catched a good moment, we started talking with the journalists. As you can see, we got the coverage.
So my tip is that if you have enough balls, then try going to backstage, to the press room. Wherever you can. But have an agenda also. Just looking around isn’t enough!
Step back and observe what people like
Next event I want to share some insight about is Web Summit in Lisbon. We decided to sprayprint a portrait of the football legend Louis Figo as he was one of the speakers there. This way people who were not that interested in the printer, but loved Figo still stepped by to ask what’s going on. Every other person passing by took a picture of Figo’s portrait (and our Kickstarter information). And we could use the ultra popular louisfigo hashtag on our social media.
And we got extra attention with him signing the canvas which was an excellent piece for our social media. A startup attending a startup event is not very newsworthy, but Louis Figo signing a sprayprinted portrait of himself is. And it caught some attention on Facebook and Instagram.
So make your trip special to your followers by adding a story to it. Even something really simple works.
What the duck…?!
Next one is TechChill in Riga where we won the pitching contest. This means everyone there had heard about us. We were visible! But I think TechChill is the smallest tech conference I have ever attended. That means the potential reach was also smaller than it would be at conferences like Web Summit or Hello Tomorrow. But, small events have their own advantages. You can really make a personal connection with the other attendees. Instead of having thousands of people who have heard of you, you have a hundred true fans who have a personal connection and probably will also share the story with their friends. I have my own way of creating this connection with this duck:
This is Tommy, the networking duck. He is a multifunctional communication tool and he makes wonders. I bought him from a thrift store in San Francisco. But it was on the last day before going back on the plane. All my bags were packed to the limits, well, because thrift stores in San Francisco are amazing! So I had to carry him in my hand the whole trip from San Francisco to Tartu. And you wouldn’t believe how many compliments I got! Like “Heeey, nice duck!” and “What’s with the duck?”. Then I realized it should work the same at networking events. A few days after arriving back to Estonia, we attended Slush in Helsinki and I decided to bring the duck with me. Turns out, Tommy is an amazing ice-breaker.
So back to TechChill. As you can see we had Tommy with us. He is named after Tommy Cash by the way. Because he had been on the main stage, he was the star of the TechChill afterparty. And the next day we had a demo booth where Tommy also had his part to play.
Everyone wanted to be friends with that weird duck. Here you can see Mike Butcher from TechCrunch holding him gently.
After Techchill I made a Facebook profile for Tommy and added every single person who attended Techchill as a friend. And of course when they are friends with Tommy, they will see what he’s doing and have SprayPrinter in their newsfeed. This way we will stay connected with all the people we met at the event. Communication is a really creative field and you can experiment with different approaches.
Only cure for the struggle is to hustle
And the last event I want to talk you about is the latest. It’s called the Launch Festival and it was held in Silicon Valley. The prize for winning the TechChill pitching contest was a ticket to Silicon Valley and meetings with mentors and investors there. When Richard and Mihkel got there, they heard that the Launch Festival is going to happen soon. They didn’t have tickets but since they were already in San Francisco, they decided to take part of the event at least by sprayprinting next to the entrance. They decided to print a portrait of Jason Calacanis, a serial entrepreneur and angel investor and the creator of the Launch Festival. He was the investor who brought Uber out of the garage and helped Elon Musk’s Tesla when Tesla had only 2 weeks of runway left. Anyway, soon Calacanis came outside and said that a lot of his friends had sent him a picture of the guerilla demoing.
His reaction was to invite SprayPrinter on the main stage to do the demo. I guess you can imagine how hard it would be to get on the main stage at an event like this. In addition to that, Jason Calacanis said on the main stage that he is going to invest in SprayPrinter and invited us into his accelerator. In Silicon Valley, social proof is crucial. And if Jason Calacanis has invested in you, the others will follow. Let’s just say that the last few weeks have been absolutely crazy.
You can go pretty far if you have some attitude. Work with what you have. If you don’t have money, you can redeem your ticket or entrance in some other way. Be creative, break the rules. And don’t feel bad that it’s not the right way to do it.