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over 7 years ago

How You Can Win – Tips and Reminders

Thank you for participating in this year’s annual RootsTech Innovator Showdown – a hack-a-thon with a family history twist.  With about 3 weeks to go, we wanted to offer some tips, reminders, and set expectations.

There is a lot of info here, but it’s worth the read.  Our team decided to write down all these tips rather than host a webinar with you.  So here is a useful guide on what it takes to win this competition. Please use the discussion forum for questions and conversation.

This hack-a-thon is intense but rewarding.  If you haven’t already, check out the Resources page for an overview of how this is different.  In addition, here are some key tips on how to be considered as a semi-finalist.

1) Your video is Key

Your video is required, and is key to influencing judges to progress into the semi-final round. It should be 90 seconds maximum; anything more will disqualify you. If judges are not convinced in 90 seconds, they may not even take judging your app to the next level, including evaluating or trying things out. It doesn’t need “professional” polish, rather, it needs to convey exactly what problem you are solving and how your solution is the best at solving it.  You can demo some key features, but probably need to focus on the value your solution provides to the user, with a mention of the key feature that is relevant.

Also, remember, the audience for this submission video is the judges, not the consumer audience. Please try not to make it just an ad. That said, it often makes sense that there is some overlap since they need to see how you’d convince the consumer too.  Your presentation as a semi-finalist is a little different as it definitely targets both judges and consumers in the live audience.

2) Acknowledge your competition

We often see multiple entries of the same basic category, such as apps that help people with photos and stories for their family.  This is ok, but you really need to stand out in order to get judges attention. Be open about who your competitors are, and don’t assume you have none. Be clear about how your solution is unique and the best at providing the user with what they need.

3) Win hearts by answering judges

If you make it to the final or semi-final rounds, you will have 2 minutes to present to judges in person, and about 4 minutes to answer questions from judges. Bring a good presenter if that person is not you. Two people from your team are allowed on stage to answer questions from judges, but only one will be your official presenter.  It can be difficult to fit everything into 2 minutes. Use that time to really peak interest (similar to the video tips above) using key points. Then, use the time with judges to elaborate further and get into compelling details about your project or team.

We recommend you watch the video from last year’s Showdown to get an idea of what kind of points you should highlight in 90 seconds to 2 minutes (your video, and presentation, respectively).  This is available on the Resources page.  Even if you aren’t creating a start-up (perhaps a hobbyist, or humanitarian project), you have a business case you need to address. Not in terms of money to be made, but rather, the value you bring to the audience you are targeting.  Judges will be looking for this. 

Cool tech + solid business case = win!

Lastly, here are 6 Myths

1) "If you’ve submitted in the past and lost, you can’t resubmit and win"  - Not true, last year’s winner was a contestant the year prior.

2) "To win, your app has to be for ‘genealogists’ or very specific to family history"  - Nope. It just needs to be related in some meaningful way. We welcome apps in adjacent markets. Last year’s winner was more in the medical industry than the genealogy industry.

3) "Non-profits can’t win; it’s about revenue"  –  No. It may seem that way due to business people on the judging panel, but the judges are asked to look at the criteria we outlined, which makes no mention of for-profit companies.

4) "I can’t compete with funded companies in this contest"  –  Yes you can. Mark Zuckerberg once said that he felt a company like Microsoft, Google, or Yahoo would be the one to build Facebook, as opposed to college kids. The point being, a good idea that makes a clear case to solving a real problem has potential to dominate this competition, regardless of size, and regardless of non-profit or for-profit as stated above.

5) "If I’m selected, I can’t afford to come to Salt Lake City"  – Hopefully not the case. We can help pay for travel if needed (see rules).

6) "The money and prizes are the most valuable thing"  – Not necessarily. Our past winners have told us that the bragging rights and media coverage is more valuable than the cash prize. Partnerships have even been made between winners and other established companies, and some winners have later obtained funding from investors.

If you have questions, post a discussion, and we’ll help as best we can. We look forward to seeing your entries!


The RootsTech Team