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Announcing the TechCrunch Early Stage Audience Choice winners


The Audience Choice results are in, which begs the question, Could we BE more excited to share this news? No, we could not. Out of hundreds of applications, we curated 10 breakout sessions and 10 roundtable discussions. Your mission? Vote for the topics you want to see live and in person at TechCrunch Early Stage on April 20 in Boston, Massachusetts. And vote you did — mission accomplished!

Click, save, learn: Buy an early-bird ticket now, and you’ll save $200 on a day jam-packed with quality content.

A bit of background before we announce the 10 presentations that won the hearts, minds and votes of TechCrunch readers.

For the uninitiated, TC Early Stage is our annual founder summit. Workshops, breakouts and roundtables — led by established founders, leading subject-matter experts and VCs — cover core entrepreneurial topics across fundraising, marketing and operations. Check out the agenda!

This daylong event gives aspiring and early startup founders — from the idea stage to Series A — the confidence, skills, information, connections and community they need to take next steps and grow their business.

Meet the TC Early Stage Audience Choice Winners

The Breakout Sessions

Breakout sessions consist of a 20-minute presentation followed by a 20-minute Q&A from an audience of up to 125 founders. Each breakout occurs once during the event.

What Unicorns Know: Prep Your Company for Success by Leveraging Lean at the Earliest Stages

Speaker: Pablo Dominguez, Operating Partner, Insight Partners

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Description: The most successful startups have one thing in common: They set themselves up for large-scale operational success at the earliest stages, some before they even have a product. But how can founders look that far ahead, in a turbulent market, and predict their future business model? The answer is Scale, a five-principle Lean framework that helps any company accelerate its ability to grow. Survival of the leanest requires hopeful unicorns to examine, identify and remove waste that impedes the free flow of value to customers — without layoffs or knee-jerk cost-cutting. Dominguez will draw on 25 years of experience as an operator to explain how early-stage startups should leverage Lean principles to set themselves up for success.

Assembling the Perfect Founding Team: Insights and Strategies for Nontechnical Founders

Speaker: George Hantzaras, Director of Engineering, MongoDB

Description: Building a strong founding team is essential for the success of any startup, and finding the right technical co-founder can be a particularly daunting task for nontechnical founders. Hantzaras will explore the importance of assembling a diverse and well-balanced founding team and share best practices for finding and working with the right technical co-founder. He will also address common challenges that nontechnical founders may encounter when building their founding team, and he’ll offer practical strategies to overcome them.

Lack of Community: The Not-so-Secret Enemy of Early-Stage Founders

Speakers: Cait Brumme, CEO, MassChallenge; David Chang, Entrepreneur and Angel investor; Diane Hessan, Founder, C-Space

Description: For early-stage founders focused on building the best product, gathering market data and gaining the finances they need, deliberately seeking out community may seem less important. The more than 4,000 early-stage startups we have launched provide case studies of how intentional community development can sustain founders working to accomplish big things while catapulting their ability to build a business. We’ll provide the opportunity for you to ask your most pressing questions and teach you how to:

  • Build your startup community from scratch.
  • Recognize the value of community in each stage of your company’s growth.
  • Identify key players in your field and attract them into your circle.
  • Form relationships with people who will provide value beyond what they ask in return.

Extract the Most Value from “Value-Add” Investors

Speaker: Amber Quiñones, Head of Platform and Operations, BBG Ventures

Description: Whether you call it “Platform,” “Portfolio Impact” or any number of clever euphemisms, we live in the age of value-add VCs. Many firms have invested heavily in the Platform function to grow the firm’s network and help their investments succeed. Yet, the wide range of team structures and focuses leaves founders struggling to determine how to engage appropriately with Platform — and about what. Quiñones will demystify this function, clarify how to leverage the various forms of VC Platform and assemble an operational SWAT team to unlock more value from your value-add investors.

Creating a Successful Pilot Program: How to Prove Product Value and Win Your N’th Customer

Speaker: Ned Brody, CEO, Actifai

Description: An excellent pilot program eliminates initial barriers to customer growth, like license costs and change management. Creating an ideal pilot engages customers in the crucial introductory phase that makes success and future partnership possible. It builds confidence and rapport with decision-makers, and it delivers financial proof-of-concept. Brody will describe how to create and deliver a pilot program that grows technology businesses, including:

  • Designing a “live” value-creating pilot.
  • Creating pilot timeframes and roadmaps
  • Minimizing customer tech and change requirements
  • Creating executive evangelists
  • Standardizing pilot programs and adapting to unique customer needs
  • Developing statistically sound results and A/B test design
  • Building post-pilot rollout terms into contracts
  • Collecting key growth data and feedback

The Roundtable Discussions

Roundtables feature one person leading a 30-minute interactive conversation with up to 20 founders. Each roundtable occurs twice during the event.

What You Need in a Lead Seed Investor. Spoiler Alert: It’s More Than Money

Speaker: Ishan Sachdev, General Partner, Deciens Capital

Description: When you’re struggling to find your first funding, the best investor is usually anyone willing to write a check. In the friends-and-family and angel stages, companies often don’t have a lead investor. Consequently, many founders don’t know why they need one or what to look for beyond a willingness to invest. But when startups approach their first significant seed round, the choice of a lead investor suddenly becomes top of mind. From negotiating investment terms to providing “platform services,” leads can wield powerful influence over long-term success. Ishan Sachdev, whose venture capital firm exclusively leads seed rounds, will discuss how founders can find the right lead investor for an early funding round — and why investor/founder fit matters.

How Founders Can Prepare for Successful Exits at Any Stage

Speaker: David Jegen, Managing Partner, F-Prime Capital

Description: The vast majority of startup exits occur via acquisition, yet remarkably little content exists to help guide founders through post-acquisition life. David Jegen has experienced 11 different acquisitions from multiple perspectives — as a founder, an investor and a board member. He will break down the different types of startup acquisitions and what leverage startups have and will discuss important points that help maximize success and employee happiness in the long-run.

What’s Your Risk Archetype? How to Turn Risk into Your Startup Superpower

Speaker: Ben Jennings, Chief Revenue Officer, Embroker

Description: Everyone who starts a company takes a risk, but that doesn’t mean that every founder is a risk taker — or even understands their risk tolerance and appetite. Using our Risk Archetype quiz, founders can and have discovered what kind of risk taker they are and how that affects everything about growing a business — from fundraising to building a team to critical decision-making. Founders will leave with a blueprint for turning their specific Risk Archetype into their superpower.

Navigating Entrepreneurship as an Underrepresented Founder

Speaker: Ghalia Aamer, CEO, TalkMaze

Description: This interactive discussion will be geared toward young founders and other underrepresented groups. The goal is to create a sense of community among attendees and support one another to succeed as entrepreneurs. Aamer will facilitate the discussion using guided questions to encourage vulnerability. By sharing her personal experience starting a business as a full-time student and young woman of color, she will create space for others to share their own challenges, which they can address together as a group. Founders will walk away empowered by a set of new connections with like-minded entrepreneurs who can help each other succeed.

How to Leverage PR to Get in Front of Investors

Speaker: Liza Vilnits, Founder and CEO, Beyond Trending

Description: Founders understand the value of PR, but they frequently lack the knowledge to leverage it and execute. How do you properly frame your story so that investors notice you through the press? This session will provide an edtech case study example (from a school teacher to Chelsea Clinton and Serena Williams), plus a “roll-your-sleeves-up” discussion to help founders better craft their stories and understand how to engage media.

TechCrunch Early Stage takes place on April 20, 2023, in Boston, Massachusetts. Don’t miss out on the Audience Choice presentations and so much more. Buy your early-bird ticket for $249 and save $200. We can’t wait to see you in Boston!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Early Stage 2023? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

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