Techcoctail CelebrateFor the past year, Tech Cocktail has been scouring the nation for America’s best startups, and over 40 of their favorites will vie for the Tech Cocktail Chalice at Celebrate. Celebrate is expecting over 500 attendees and will feature pitches, a hackathon, and some great keynotes, and one of the highlights will be the opportunity for a few Midwest startups to shine.

Midwest Startups at the National Competition

Among the smattering of more coastal startups, three startups from the Midwest made the cut. Based out of Chicago, Fury Wing Games will be pitching. Furywing aims to revolutionize the gaming industry by enabling the mobile games that people love playing to become real money gambling games. Lucky Orange, out of Overland Park, Kansas, will be pitching their complete suite of tools for total website optimization and usability analysis. Finally, we have Itizen. This Minneapolis-based startup is a mobile marketplace for parents to buy and sell kids’ stuff from clothes and shoes to baby gear.

I talked to Dori Graff, one 0f the co-founders of Itizen to find out a little more about their story and how they’re preparing for the Celebrate Conference.

How One Startup Prepares to Shine at Tech Cocktail’s Celebrate Conference

What’s the Itizen Story?

“We originally launched Itizen in 2010 as a platform with a very different focus — Itizen provided a way to attach digital content to physical things so that the story of these things could be captured as they change hands. Ultimately, we found that there were too many barriers to efficiently scale. We then looked at who was using Itizen and found that it was niche communities brought together by the things they love. We built a prototype to test and learn what these communities need most, and found that their greatest need is a marketplace that focuses on community, curation, and convenience. We chose the kidstuff vertical for a number of reasons, including the overall market size and the ongoing cycle that parents experience in which they are constantly having to both acquire and get rid of their kid’s things as they grow. And as parents ourselves, it’s a pain point that we personally know quite well. ”

Besides Sweet Victory, What do You Hope to Get Out of the Celebrate Conference?

“We were honored to have been chosen by the Minneapolis community to represent at the Celebrate Conference. We’re excited to meet everyone who’s attending and look forward to learning from the keynotes, presentations, and conversations we’ll have while we’re there. The timing of the event couldn’t be better for us, as we’re launching a brand new version of our product a couple short weeks after the event, and it will be a great opportunity to get feedback on our strategy, new design, and features we are rolling out.”

How are You Preparing for Your Pitch?

“Practice, practice, practice! We’ve been running through our pitch with folks at every opportunity, and have been getting continual great feedback along the way which has been hugely helpful for refining the content and the presentation. Also the Tech Cocktail Minneapolis was a great rehearsal for us, and we were especially fortunate to have the awesome team cover the event, complete with video which is always an incredible learning experience for anyone presenting.”

Key Takeaways

  • Just because your first draft isn’t perfect, don’t give up! The original focus of Itizen was much different than it is today. Changing your baby isn’t failure, it’s progress.
  • Build for the niche, not the masses. A key to success for Itizen has been defining a market and scaling in that one vertical.
  • Record your pitch! You may be surprised by what you see. It just goes to show, sometimes game tape is the best teacher.

For more information on Tech Cocktail’s Celebrate Conference, click here or follow the hashtag #tccelebrate on Twitter October 23-25th.