Leave it to Durham to bring a first to Google Demo Day.
In the lineup for Google for Entrepreneurs’ fourth annual North America pitch event, coming June 8 to its Mountain View headquarters, is an American Underground startup named PRSONAS and its life-sized interactive hologram named Brie.
While the pitch will be delivered by CEO David Rose, he figured the only way to show the technology he’d be explaining would be for Brie to join him on stage, welcoming investors verbally and using sign language, and signing off in a memorable way (Rose wants to keep that a surprise).
Google announced the 13 startups today. They represent 12 Google for Entrepreneurs hubs in the U.S., Canada and Mexico and have products that range from marketing tech to personalized health food to robotic arms for manufacturing work to online education for senior care givers.
Each startup gets four minutes to pitch a room full of Silicon Valley investors and a live stream of audiences gathered at each hub. Winners mostly get bragging rights, though serial entrepreneur, investor and author Steve Case has been known to throw in an angel investment. And many startups have gone on to raise venture capital after the event.
Demo Day has been lucrative for a pair of American Underground startups. Windsor Circle won the first event in 2014, funds that helped it close a $5.5 million round that summer. Mati Energy won in 2015 and has since raised nearly $6 million and expanded distribution of its healthy energy drinks well beyond North Carolina.
Rose hadn’t planned to apply—he jokes that he never wins anything locally—he was convinced by American Underground chief strategist Adam Klein to consider it as an addition to his fundraising efforts. After all, PRSONAS has made great progress since closing a $525,000 seed round last summer, surpassing $1 million in cumulative revenue from clients like Procter & Gamble and Microsoft, landing a major distribution partnership with the global company Ricoh and hiring a team of six full time employees.
Check out our timeline of the company’s progress here:
Rose admits he’s a bit surprised he won, but he’s already using the Demo Day news as leverage to expand his fundraising from the East Coast to the West.
We spoke this morning from his hotel room in Mountain View, where he’s spending the week meeting with investors like Accel Partners and Lightspeed and pitching at the invite-only Silicon Valley Open Doors technology investment conference.
It was the Google Demo Day selection that helped him get chosen.
Rose has also received helpful pitch feedback from a Google Ventures investor, a side benefit offered to Demo Day teams. For example, he knows to show, not tell, about the hologram’s sign language capability.
“If I’m an investor sitting in audience, I’m looking for reasons not to invest in you,” Rose learned from the session. The investor shared with him five things that distracted from the pitch—the sign language point made him wonder how big of a market could use that sort of feature, taking his focus away from Rose.
One addition to the pitch, will be PRSONAS ability to enable AR and VR experiences for customers, a new feature now demoed on the startup’s website.
“The characters and one-to-one user experience our software creates will run not only on a device but any AR or VR platform, so it gives us a lot bigger opportunity,” he says.
Imagine strolling the aisles at Kroger, and a hologram popping up on your mobile phone or Google Glass (in the future) to share a promotion or details of a new product.
“That market is still maturing, but we can have a lot of value there,” Rose says.
He hopes the Silicon Valley investors gathered at Google in two weeks think the same.