Posted by Tom Foremski - March 24, 2010
The premise of Swagapalooza is to invite 85 bloggers to hear five minute pitches from a variety of companies and at the end of the evening leave with a bag of swag.
There is no obligation to write about anything.
I had a fun time primarily because I had expected some kind of super-smart marketing event, after all, Guy Kawasaki (Super Spamurai) was the keynote speaker. I expected a crass display of bloggers transformed into spammers, Twitting marketing messages all night long because of all the free stuff they were going to get.
It wasn't anything like that. Instead, the presentations were so wonderfully unrehearsed and so funky, and so funny, that at times I thought we might all be in some hidden-camera reality TV show.
The Tweets were hilarious, the running commentary was very funny.
But, there were plenty of moments when I really couldn't tell if things were carefully rehearsed comedic sketches -- or the real thing.
Fortunately, we weren't in some twisted TV reality show -- all the presenters represented real companies, even the guy who looked like a very young Christopher Walken and talked like him -- was real.
Nearly a billionaire...
Guy Kawasaki kicked things off with a long, rambling, top ten tips for entrepreneurs. There was lots of good advice. But it was clearly just a gig for Mr Kawasaki, he stayed in his green room before the event and didn't mix with anyone, and he was long gone by the time the presentations were finished.
Mr Kawasaki did reveal something interesting: he said he was offered the CEO position at an early stage Yahoo. But he didn't think Yahoo had much of a future and didn't take the job. He said if had taken the job, he would be a billionaire and he wouldn't be where he is today, in a dingy night club talking to a 100 people. Ouch.
"5 minute" presentations...
We then saw a bunch of "5 minute" presentations that were more like 15 minutes, repetitious, and some were becoming tedious. But, it was this authentic approach, rather than some slick presentation, that I enjoyed.
The other neat thing about Swagapalooza was that the companies weren't the usual tech startups I normally see. There was Black Garlic, which sells a delicious black garlic that tastes like licorice; a guy told a very long story about his inspiration for a bicycle helmetlock; there was Equmen - a male underwear company with engineered supports for a svelte figure; a company selling a bacon flavored hot sauce (not yet FDA approved so no samples(!))( Nick Aster was wondering if bacon might have jumped the shark - I think he could be right); WhiteyBoard, selling a roll of adhesive backed white plastic in 6 sizes for turning any surface into a whiteboard; Backflip - a protector for your iPhone with a 'kickstand' so that you can stand it up on a table; Gorillapod - a flexible camera tripod; and a few others that I don't recall...
The only tech company was Fotobabble with its "talking photos." I spoke with Kamal Shah, the CEO, he said that you can annotate any photo with any audio. Such as for promotional uses but also for family photo albums.
The swag bag...
The "swag bag" was a collection of fairly innocuous samples, not much different from the tchotchkes you find at trade show booths, I didn't feel tainted or corrupted by the modest value of its contents.
Also, our fellow audience members were great, most weren't from the tech industry, they were food bloggers, etc. It was very refreshing to spend some time outside of the normal geek groups and echo chambers.
The organizers launched their web site last night, LaunchHear.
My buddy Nick Aster said he loved the format and we discussed maybe doing something similar in our neighborhood. The local music club in our San Francisco, Divisadero neighborhood (The 'Dero) is The Independent, and on Mondays, when it hasn't any shows, it opens up with a free movie night. What if Mondays at The Independent were to become a platform where local businesses/shops could make a pitch, pass out some samples, engage with their neighbors? It could work...
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Here is a PearlTree of web pages, focused on the event, put together by Shannon Clark - it also has some of the Tweets.