How To Blow People Away At One Of The World’s Leading Data Competitions

I-COM, the world’s leading data and measurement strategy event, is gearing up to host its third-annual Data Venture Challenge as part of its Global Summit in San Sebastian next April.

As part of the competition, I-COM crowns an Overall Winner, an Emerging Market Region Award, as well as winners in these five categories: general, programmatic, social media, TV and mobile.

And for the first time ever, I-COM will present the Unilever Foundry Award, a special corporate award to work with the company that owns Dove, Axe and Ben & Jerry’s (application deadline is January 31, 2015).

Ahead of I-COM’s Data Venture Challenge, KITE spoke with I-COM Chairman Andreas Cohen to learn just what sets a startup apart for brands, how they can successfully partner with them and some common mistakes startups make with brands.

KITE: What helps a startup stand out to brands?

Andreas Cohen: Startups that are mature enough that you can dance with, but also fresh enough to be new. As a friend of mine would say, “they’re not napkin-level startups.” They have a startup, have one or two clients. If Unilever says they want to do a global roll-out, they can do that. That’s sort of why we have the criteria the way we do.

Many of these startups are either well-working into their Series A or they’ve done their Series A and, in both cases, they need some killer clients on their client list. Many of the startups that are participating, after the show, they have great leads and end up with some very fantastic deals.

There’s a trend that’s starting where major marketers are interested in that new talent. We have companies like Unilever, Kimberly-Clark, GlaxoSmithKline highly interested. It’s a rare opportunity where these startups can be the stars.

To be a startup that makes it into the final selection, it’s a very special opportunity because our audience really appreciates these people. They’re highly specialized in the data sector. Many other competitions are not focused on providing clients — the audiences aren’t as tailored.

I-COM Chairman Andreas Cohen
I-COM Chairman Andreas Cohen

If they want to stand out, they need to demonstrate why they should be a must-have in someone’s data ecosystem. To play this data game, you need to essentially get a dream team together in your data ecosystem. Nobody can do this by themselves. Everybody is someone else’s client. It’s a very broad and interconnected, almost incestuous community. It’s a wide range of collaborations. The end game of achieving some sort of competitive advantage is why big marketers are beginning to generate their own accelerators. If you’re waiting for a big company to do a global roll-out, guess what? You’re probably not going to get much competitive outcome because it’s already widely available.

KITE: Why were certain companies selected in past years? For example, why did RealEyes win in the past? What made them stand out from the rest?

Cohen: It’s because there are enormous amounts of very successful data entrepreneurs sitting in that audience. You have agency people whose jobs are to evaluate new tech. These companies have won those awards because various people have decided it’s the most impactful technology.

[RealEyes] is not a question of, “Oh, pardon me ma’am, can I ask you something about your recent visit?” RealEyes reads these facial expressions with more of an automated system. With a question like, “What did you really think of this?” the problem is you just don’t get the truth. So game-changing types of things like this is one aspect.

KITE: What are some common mistakes startups make when pitching to large corporations and brands?

Cohen: Some startups rely too much on who they are and what they’ve done, and don’t pay attention to the jury. They’re not careful enough with their application. A jury can only evaluate what they receive.

Another mistake is just being too general. They need to be very clear about what their USP [unique selling proposition] is and what problems they’re trying to solve. Sometimes they get too caught up in the engineering and don’t focus on solving problems in a specific market.

KITE: What are some other insights you can share with startups?

Cohen: What they should know is that the distance between making it to the next level and being stuck in moving forward isn’t very far. All it takes really, even though it seems like a big market and world, is just convincing one client. If you get a major client on board, that can absolutely be the day or night game-changer. Sometimes, startups need more focus. Think in detail about who you’re trying to focus on. Just convincing one person at the right company can change everything.

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