Report from DEMO: The DigitalScirocco Experience

4/5/10

The Internet is dying, and visitors are lost among its crumbling ruins. Sounds like hyperbole, but we are all trapped by an obsolete ideology binding most sites and keeping the Web from being all it could be.

We go to the Internet seeking entertainment, information, communication, commerce, and comfort. We find ourselves lost in a bewildering sea of boring, undifferentiated, incomplete offerings, smothered by advertising. The innovative community of Web creators who could actually meet our needs don’t know where we are or how to find us, largely because the locations where we could connect are bound by a rigid, failed ideology of search engine optimization, location-generated content, and traffic-based currency.

This is how I look at the Web and how I set up my presentation—all six minutes of it—at the semi-annual DEMO conference in Palm Desert, CA, a couple of weeks ago. It is also why I started my newest venture, DigitalScirocco, an auction-based marketplace bringing fresh and relevant content and services to Web-based properties.

The DEMO experience was amazing. We are angel-financed and only eight months old, with an initial focus on getting our product to market using a “Rolodex” direct sales model, and so we hadn’t even begun to think about marketing/PR, messaging, or even solid demos. Worse, as a market we planned to bootstrap by seeding with quality sellers, a process we had barely begun. But the opportunity was too good to pass up, so the already crazy pace of a startup went into hyper-drive for a few weeks.

Upon arrival at DEMO in Palm Desert, my immediate attention was caught by pink flamingos. My first thought was, “Tacky!” Then realized they are real, and my reaction changed to “neat!” Shortly after, I realized I hadn’t ordered a monitor for our Pavilion Station (booth) at DEMO. Our team raced to Best Buy and figured it out.

After taking care of the monitor drama, Sunday night offered a chance to rehearse on the main stage and attend a CEO dinner—both which were scheduled at basically the same time—I did both and made the most of the festivities.

I presented just after 11 a.m. on Monday. I was calm and thought of a couple things. The first: no matter how bad it might be, that it was unlikely to be as bad a performance as rehearsal the night before. Not the best of thoughts, but then I remembered a message from a coach I work with: “Find your peak moment and speak from it.”

As for my DEMO presentation, I led with a provocative message (outlined above) and used an example—my cat Punky’s blog—and my mood and tone changed for the better. Walt Mossberg of Wall Street Journal fame tweeted outrage about a pet cat at DEMO. Oh well, love me or hate me, just don’t ignore me. Audience chuckles and relaxes.

My presentation is pretty clear in my mind, but the rest of DEMO is a blur of pavilion activity and the hype and drama that is DEMO. So many people stop by our station, and thankfully I have help from my co-founder Frank Paterra and Minou Nguyen of Illuminate Public Relations.

My DEMO experience ended Tuesday evening with a shared taxi ride to the airport. The ride included a CEO of a content producer who, upon learning who I was, handed me his card, and we discussed getting his content into our marketplace. It also included Dean Takahashi, a reporter with VentureBeat. We discussed Walt’s and others’ Tweets about my example of Punky, and my thoughts found their way into his final, round-up DEMO piece. (Photo above is courtesy of VentureBeat and DEMO).

Wow, what a few days. What a few weeks. We did it! We actually pulled it off. Now all we have to do is follow up and maintain that momentum.

Bruce D'Ambrosio is the founder and CEO of Seattle-based DigitalScirocco, a marketplace for Web content and services. Previously he founded CleverSet (acquired by Art Technology Group). Follow @

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