One stage, 500 people in the audience, and a jury. Is it a talent contest? It can be if your skill is pitching a working product to venture capitalists. That is the essence of Startup Battlefield, the competition created 12 years ago by the American tech news website TechCrunch.
More than 700 early-stage companies have participated in this contest in one of its several editions. The main Startup Battlefield competition usually takes place when TechCrunch organizes its Disrupt event in San Francisco, which gathers founders, investors, and tech leaders to discuss emerging industry trends
But this year, the competition will be taking place much closer to home: Startup Battlefield São Paulo will take place on November 8th and TechCrunch will select 15 Latin American startups to participate. However, only one will win a US $25,000 prize and a free trip to San Francisco for up to two founders.
For the popular American website, it’s a chance to get familiar with the local ecosystem, where “there is no traditional venture capital, but there is an emerging tech market,” Anna Escher, TechCrunch’s Senior Audience Development Analyst, says.
Last week, Escher and senior editor Jon Shieber visited Argentina and Chile with one goal: meeting with the local startup community for the first time. First in Buenos Aires and then in Santiago, they spread the word about the competition and spoke to anyone and everyone interested in the upcoming event.
“The goal was bringing everyone together and urging them to apply,” Escher told The Bubble. In Buenos Aires, the venue chosen to hold the casual meet-up was Facebook’s Innovation Lab in Palermo, as Mark Zuckerberg’s social network and TechCrunch are partners in this first-ever Latin American edition of the contest.
How to get on the list
In order to apply, a company must be in an early stage (any pre-A round startup is eligible) and headquartered in Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Uruguay, or Venezuela
The startup needs to have a working product or a demo version close enough to actual production. The requirements include no known intellectual property conflicts and limited press coverage or publicity; the idea is to generate media attention both during and after the event.
If you’re still scratching your head about what TechCrunch wants, take a look at previous Disrupt winners. For example, Vurb is a search app where you can find and save recommendations about things you can do in a city. Another famous winner is Dropbox, which at this point doesn’t really need any introduction.
The competition has already been hosted in Nairobi, Kenya, and later in this year will also travel to Beirut, Lebanon, and Lagos, Nigeria. To do that, they will also team up with Facebook.
What to expect in São Paulo
So far, 750 companies have pitched on stage at the startup competition. According to TechCrunch, founders that have participated in Startup Battlefield have also gone on to raise more than US $8 billion.
TechCrunch now expects to add 15 Latin American-based startups to that community. In São Paulo, local founders will get the chance to present their products or ideas to a jury that will include editors of the website, top venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs.
São Paulo is Brazil’s financial capital and has the most mature startup scene in South America’s leading economy. No wonder why TechCrunch decided to stage its first Latin American Startup Battlefield there. “Brazil is obviously a dominating country,” Escher explains.
But it is also a gateway to other Latin American tech ecosystems and the tech website is well aware of that. “We want to do more down here, more analyses, meet more investors,” Escher says. The startup competition helps them knowing what the entrepreneurs are working on and expand their local coverage.
The VC factor
After receiving and reviewing applications (due by August 6th), TechCrunch will select 15 founding teams and work with each one to achieve a perfect six-minute pitch. Coming November 8th, they will present it onstage at São Paulo’s Tomie Ohtake Institute. One by one, they will pitch their products to a live audience of 500 people; five of them will be chosen as finalists. As a general rule, TechCrunch is constantly looking for new companies that have a strong potential for a big impact on society.
The finalists will then face a new jury, and one team will be the winner of the first Startup Battlefield in Latin America. The primary benefit is the possibility that lies beyond the competition itself. Besides the cash prize, there’s an all-expense-paid trip to San Francisco for up to two founders, where they can attend to the next Disrupt SF and exhibit their company on the Startup Alley.
Winning founders can even qualify to participate at the major Startup Battlefield that will take place during that event. The idea is that they can connect with other investors, get the media attention and expand their project.