Dear BetaGroup, We Love You Just the Way You Are

Ay ay ay ay ay. So Jean Derely is stepping down from BetaGroup.

Ramón Suárez, the new “face” of the BetaGroup wrote a very fitting tribute to the well loved Jean, Thank You Jean

But while it was maybe a shock for some people to hear that Jean was leaving, the people now running the BetaGroup have always been deeply involved in it’s organisation anyway so it’s not that big a switch.

I think the BetaGroup format is great. It’s a social gathering of the Belgian startup tribes. I’d hate to see the format change too much, but I do think there is scope for some improvement.  And now, in light of the change of guard and the new year approaching  is probably best the time to reflect upon some tweaks. Here are my thoughts. Chime in on the comments if you have your own.

Venue

I’ve been attending since BetaGroup 4 so I’ve seen a lot of these events. Please, please, please keep the lecture hall/auditorium format. It works. There’s just something about “being back at school” that settles an audience and ensures that we can hear the presentations. Often when the BetaGroup has moved away from the format to a special event it’s difficult to hear the presentations as half the people drift off to the bar because they cannot see the stage. I don’t care if it’s the ULB, VUB or some other venue, but the lecture hall layout of the room definitely works.

Presenters

I’d suggest reducing the number of presenters. It gives more time to question them after their 5 minute presentation.

Audience questions are great and I’m always itching to ask questions, but have you considered having a small panel of investors/relevant experts to do the questioning first? You have the connections, some of them are in the audience anyway and it’s good profile for them. They watch pitches all the time so they can usually cut to the core of the problems the startup may face. Many startups will face this kind of questioning at some stage in their development, so getting used to it sooner rather than later might save months of going down a blind alley. It’s also useful for the audience to hear challenging questions from investors.

If you’re not keen to reduce the number of presenters then you could actually increase the number of slots to seven. Four startups with 20 minute slots and three startups with a one minute pitch just before opening up the live tweets to everyone.

Audience Questions

You still need to leave room for audience questions, but perhaps these could be gathered via tweets and asked by the host after the investor panel? This also let’s the presenter followup after the presentation and builds a conversation.

Voting

“Would you invest your own money?” – This works really well. I don’t care whether or not it’s a scientific measure. It’s fun.

Live Tweets

Maybe structure the live tweets in to categories. “Does anyone have a job to offer”, jobs first. “Does anyone have an event to promote?”, events next then open the floodgates to all the other randomness of life.

External

Please record and publish each session. If the group continues to grow, you’ll need overspill. Your options are live streaming at alternative venues such as coworking spaces, but it’s probably easier just to record the sessions and distribute them via YouTube.

So that’s my 2 cents, for what it’s worth.

Who better to sum it all up than the master, Barry White, singing his heart out in Gent. Onwards and upwards BetaGroup. x

WATCH TO THE END!

4 comments on “Dear BetaGroup, We Love You Just the Way You Are

  1. I think one of the reasons everyone loves Jean is that his enthusiasm made every startup pitching at Betagroup feel loved, no matter how awesome or lame they were.

    My additional cent to TechBrew’s two cents:

    — I’d be careful not to tamper with the format too much. While I agree with many of your suggestions, I fear that implementing too many of them would complicate things a bit much. Need to find a balance between evolution and simplicity.

    — I do agree that recording each session would be great. But why not live stream via Bambuser or Ustream and then publish the recording afterwards for those who missed it? It won’t take up any more time than a straight recording would, plus it enables realtime interaction between onsite and online audiences (eg via the tweet wall). Cos given the option (and our own availability), we all like to be there as it happens..:)

    • I think live streaming is still fraught with technical problems and needs a lot more expertise than people realise as we learned during Startup Weekend. I’d always put regular video recording before live streaming as it offers more value to more people. Simple numbers game.

      We have enough problems getting a decent audio interview with a startup out every couple of weeks.

      Decent video is more of a sponsored a commitment that a volunteer effort.

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