05:50 AM

An Evening At Swagapalooza: An Experimental Marketing Event

There was good turnout for Swagapalooza Tuesday evening at the DNA Lounge n San Francisco. This is an experiment in viral marketing. About 150 bloggers were invited to hear pitches from people with mostly quirky products or services. And everyone got to take home samples of the products.

I went to the first one last year and enjoyed the unpolished pitches -- a welcome respite from hearing tech company pitches. Last year there was bacon-flavored hot sauce, fermented black garlic (yum), and expensive men's underwear among the products pitched.

[Please see: Swagapalooza: An Offbeat Funky Promo Platform]

The event kicked off with a keynote by Justin Kan from JustinTV. He had some great advice for anyone launching a startup.

- "Only work on ideas that excite you," I think this is important. CEO should stand for Chief Excitement Officer as much as anything else.

- "Assume you can." Assume that you can make a business work even if you know very little about what it takes to make it succeed. "You don't know all the ways that you can fail."

This is very important advice. You often hear people saying, "If I knew what it would take to make this business succeed I probably wouldn't have started in the first place."

People that don't know what it takes are more able to find ways to make something work. But if you know too much about the tasks ahead, you might decide it can't be done.

That's why I love working with people that are new, inexperienced, because they don't know something can't be done. I've worked with experts too, and have been told, "That can't be done because that's not the way it is done."

Or, "That can't be done otherwise someone else would have done it." Makes me want to smack my head (and their's) in frustration.

We then got into the pitches:

- Saboteur: "Invincible" a tailored blazer, was modeled by Mr Kan. Its primary feature: it's waterproof. A cocktail was tipped over Mr Kan and it rolled off just like water off a duck's back. It's made from a Swiss material that blends wool with plastic, silk lined, $600 to $800.

That seems way too much money for a jacket. I've never thought about my blazer and wished it were better at repelling spilled cocktails. However, I'd love a blazer that I could crumple up into a ball and shake out the creases in an instant.

- PopUp recycling/trash bins from Flingsbins. Quickly pops up into a 13 gallon bin that holds 40lbs of trash or 60 bottles or cans.

Neat product, cost is $30 for a pack of ten. It is designed to be used for outdoor events, barbecues, etc. But these are cheap enough that I can see these being used in my kitchen too. When full you unroll the top and pull the drawstring closed and it is ready to be hauled out.

- Magic Panties. A couple of people got on stage, said some things and threw some "Magic Panties" into the audience. I have no idea what makes the panties magic.

- Stunner of the Month - A random pair of sunglasses: This was a fun presentation for a monthly service that sends you a random pair of sunglasses. You can try out a new persona every month for just $9. Gift subscriptions in 3, 6 and 12 month options.

-Boom Boom! Revolution - A card game that encourages "intentional acts of kindness". The pitch said that people don't know what they should do to make the world a better place. This card game shows them what to do.

I think people do know the right things to do, so why would they need a card game to tell them? It seems that this is a solution to help the clueless, which means the clueless won't know they should be buying these cards.

Do-gooders might buy them for others. And I'm sure their well intentioned gifts will quickly end up in a landfill and will most definitely not be recycled.

Drinkin' Mate: Fizzing tablets dropped in water to help ameliorate hangovers. Mostly vitamin C with sodium bicarbonate and some Guava. Take one or two after drinking alcohol.

The box states that the tablets won't prevent intoxication -- which is good because my evening's investment in Manhattans is safe.

I tried one tablet last night but I couldn't tell if my hangover was any lesser for it.

- SwipeGood: I missed the pitch due to a bathroom break but I looked it up later: "SwipeGood rounds up all of your debit or credit card purchases to the nearest dollar and allows you to donate the difference to the charity of your choice. It's the easiest way to give to charity!"

I'm not a fan of goods and services that make charitable contributions. Encouraging material consumption for the benefit of the less fortunate seems perverse. I want to be in control of my charitable contributions -- it's not a big deal and is easily done.

- TwoDegrees: Buy a nutrition bar for $2.49 and a malnourished child in Malawi receives a specially formulated nutrition pack.

Way too much money to pay for a nutrition bar. I'd rather support malnourished children with a direct charitable contribution rather than have a proxy, in the form of a food company, however well intentioned, profiting from the charitable act.

Again, I'm not a fan of companies encouraging consumption by holding a charity as hostage.

If I don't buy the bar am I withholding nutrition from a starving child? It would seem that way. Eat more and the world will be better for it. How about I give the money directly to a charity? No bars need to be purchased.

Grubwith.us. Two guys said something about eating at restaurants. I didn't understand the pitch. but I looked it up later: You go to the web site to find strangers to eat with at specially selected restaurants.

I'm definitely not the target market for this one. But if you check out the page for San Francisco, there are several meals sold out. You can join Tuvia at Shabu House restaurant on April 21, seven places left.

- Transcendent Man: A documentary about futurist Ray Kurzweil. Looks interesting. I saw Mr Kurzweil speak in San Francisco a couple of years ago: Live forever coming soon says Ray Kurzweil....

Mr Kurzweil believes that within a couple of decades our technology will inevitably collide with our biology, at which point we can extend life indefinitely. When we reach the "Singularity" it will be near impossible to distinguish the real world from a simulated world (Matrix).

I've been fascinated by this concept for some time, and my question is: If we are so close to the Singularity then how do we know we aren't already in it? And we are just running through various simulations...? [Please see this fascinating Google TechTalk: The Quantum Conspiracy: What Popularizers of QM Don't Want You to Know.]

I agree with most of Mr Kurzweil's analysis. I'm very impressed by what our species has achieved especially since Homo Sapiens is just 200,000 years old.

Ten thousand years ago we were still living in caves and we were about to invent agriculture. In just ten thousand years we've moved from cave to Moon and coming right up: the Singularity. That's damn impressive. It's less than a blink in the 13.7 billion year history of the universe.

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Overall it was a fun evening and I ran into many friends. And there's no pressure to write about the companies. But I preferred last year's event, with less people and with less polished presentations.