How Appthority Won “Most Innovative Company” at RSA

Domingo Guerra, co-founder of Appthority

Domingo Guerra, co-founder and president of Appthority (pictured in red tie) launching his startup at the RSA Conference 2012

A couple of weeks ago, Appthority was named “Most Innovative Company” at the RSA Conference 2012’s Innovation Sandbox competition. The following is an interview with Founders Network member Domingo Guerra, co-founder and president of Appthority. In this interview Domingo talks about:

  • The deciding factor in choosing the right conference
  • Getting nominated for the “most innovative company of the year”
  • The decision to launch at the conference
  • Leveraging your resources as a startup
  • Taking advantage of media attention when it is there

Choosing the conference
“We wanted to make the biggest splash possible and RSA is the largest information security conference in the world with something like 20K enterprise customers present. So from that stand point it was the biggest stage we could get as a startup. Another advantage of the RSA Conference was the Innovation Sandbox Competition, which highlights the top 10 most innovative companies of the year. Talk about an elevator pitch. You have to submit a 30 second video in which you have to introduce and sell your product and explain why it is important to the Enterprise IT security space. So we built a teaser saying: “Enterprises are embracing the mobile world. However, there is a lot of risk with these mobile apps, as they have turned into enterprise software over night”. In the video, we also showcased a little clip of our technology doing static and dynamic analysis on our engine to show how it actually works.”

Getting nominated
“In late December, we got the call saying we were selected as one of the finalists for the contest. So we decided to book a booth on the main conference floor to leverage the exposure from being a finalist, and we decided that it would also be a great opportunity to launch the company (We had been in stealth-mode up to that point). We were still bootstrapped at the time, and a booth on the main floor is NOT cheap, but the team saw this as a great platform to launch our company and leverage the exposure form being a finalist at the Innovation Sandbox contest. Win or lose, being a finalist was a huge deal. Also, we leveraged our booth to reward our launch partners for trusting us, a young startup, and being with us form the start. Instead of having each of our partners pay for their own booth, we shared our space and let them share the booth with us, through the week. Partners came in and did demos showing mutual customers how our technologies integrated together. We also had a demo built to show off our technology at the Innovation Sandbox science fair, as well as at our booth on the main floor.”

Preparing for the competition
“We didn’t know whether we would win or not. I mean we hoped to win, but we had to prepare for both scenarios in terms of press releases and how to announce the partners and so on. To prepare for this, we had asked the fn-members which companies they were using for PR and got some great advise on pricing and on what was worth investing in vs doing ourselves. Besides that, there wasn’t much we could do to leverage our position because is was going to be decided by the judges. We studied the 5 judges from the VC space and from the security space and then tried to figure out what both of those categories find attractive. Its all about how you position the company so that it is not just an attractive technology solution that solves a security need, but also something that a VC would like to invest in. Therefore we had to carefully balance the tech and business side in the 30 sec video submission, and then again in the 3 minute presentation at the actual conference. This strategy turned out to be successful because we won contest and were named “The Most Innovative Company of RSA Conference 2012″.”

Greatest lesson learned
“As a startup, you don’t always have access to a big fancy PR team, so it has really about how we could leverage what we had to highlight our company. These kind of events can be great for this, given that you are able to showcase yourself in a way that will attract customers, partners, and investors. The greatest lesson learned is to get out there and leverage any positive attention around your product to its greatest extent. We focused on our target customers but also made the company attractive to potential VCs at the same time. We had a lot of people come by our booth on the main floor, saying: “I heard you guys won, I want to learn more about your product”. Having a strong presence on the main conference floor even after the Innovation Sandbox competition allowed us to address customer interest immediately after participating in the contest. Win or lose, all of the top 10 nominated companies got a lot of attention and exposure. However, not all of them had a booth on the main floor, which I feel was a wasted opportunity on their part. If you are already nominated you want to be present to take advantage of that coverage as much as possible.”

Current focus
“Right now we are lazer focused on riding the wave of interest that has come from winning this contest. We had probably spoken to around 100 companies about our product prior to the RSA conference. However, since the event we have literally gotten 100s of new leads that we are now following up on. So right now, our focus is on meeting with interested parties for partnerships and potential customers that want to learn more about Appthority. The best thing is, now we are not just known as “Appthority”, but “Appthority, the most innovative company of RSA 2012!”. Of course, this is something we can leverage even further. We’ve been invited to speak at events, participate at pannel discussions, and we now do a weekly talk on a radio station based in New York about app security. All of this helps us create thought leadership and awareness around Appthority, and it all started with a free application for a conference contest.”

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Comments 27

  1. kevinholmes

    Awesome picture Domingo!  Curious, would you recommend this launch strategy to all startups or would it vary by sector?  Also, would you recommend launching at a conference that does not have a similar competition to showcase your startup? e.g. just buying a booth with partners and launching that way?

  2. Anonymous

    Congratulations Domingo! Thanks for sharing your lessons learned with us. I loved the insights on how you leveraged your partners at the conference. 

  3. Domingo Guerra

    Hey Kevin, great questions. I think this type of launch can be leveraged by any startup that wants to make a big splash or come out with a bang. However, in some cases it’s better for a startup to remain stealthy and fly under the radar, so that might vary by sector. (Sometimes, a startup’s best asset is its ability to take competitors by surprise.)

    When a conference doesn’t have a similar competition, one can still make a big splash by using social media like Twitter leading up to the event. Most of these conferences leverage #hashmarks with the conference name used by attendees before, during, and after the event. Start sending our your message a few weeks prior to the conference using these hashmarks.

    Also, it’s a great idea to pre-seed traditional media, analysts, news outlets, potential customers, and social media that you have an exciting launch during the conference, and pointing everyone to your booth… it is a great way to ensure people come and check your company out!

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