How JioGenNext successfully hosted the first Online Demo Day with 1,000+ attendees

On May 2nd, 2020, in the midst of the India-wide coronavirus lockdown, JioGenNext pivoted to organise a first-of-its-kind Demo Day, the earliest and largest online demo day of the country’s startup ecosystem.

A demo day as we know it, is the grand finale of an incubation or acceleration programme. Aside from being a showcase platform for the cohort of startups, it provides them with a platform to connect and network with key stakeholders including investors, customers, mentors and go-to-market (GTM) partners. It’s an opportunity for startups to present their progress and also show how they leveraged the programme to go from 0 to 1. Over the years, several successful startups have participated in Demo Days to progress rapidly in growth and scale. It’s a day to hustle, network, pitch and above all, celebrate a successful cohort within the ecosystem.

However, given the current challenges around the coronavirus pandemic, organising an offline event was completely ruled out. The JioGenNextteam, therefore, had to pivot its demo day strategy to not only take it completely online, but also ensure that it ticked all the boxes, especially the startup pitches, and investor one-on-ones.

Pivoting to make it wholly online

Hosted in partnership with YourStory Media, the JioGenNext Demo Day, therefore, took place online for the first time ever. The demo day began with startups pitching in real-time to key stakeholders —investors, customers, mentors and GTM partners in addition to the 1,000+ viewers who watched the Demo Day broadcasted live over Zoom and YouTube.

The attendee dashboard

Promoted across social media, the demo day garnered 2,447 registrations which translated to over 1,000 attendees. These included VCs, entrepreneurs, ecosystem specialists, technologists and ecosystem enthusiasts not just from India, but also from countries such as USA, Canada, Germany, HongKong, China, Japan, Malaysia, UAE, Oman, Singapore and Nigeria.

Live pitching and one-on-one virtual breakout sessions

In 2019, JioGenNext steered the accelerator in a new direction by hosting and mentoring sector-specific startups. These five startups are the latest addition to the 136 startups that JioGenNext has accelerated since the inception of the programme in 2014. The programme supports their growth by providing access to Reliance’s large distribution network. The pitches that are traditionally delivered by the startup live on stage for Demo Day were pitched live in real-time to all stakeholders online this year. The demo was followed by a Q&A session with questions from the live audience.

Another great feature of the demo day was the exclusive one-on-one virtual speed dating session between the startups and the VCs.

Speaking on the success of the one-on-one breakout sessions with the VCs, Harsha Kadimisetty, Co-founder & CEO, Aerchain said, “The JioGenNext Demo Day gave us an opportunity to connect with key stakeholders and investors, and truly enabled us to achieve our business goals faster.”

Unprecedented response from the ecosystem

The biggest advantage of executing the demo day online was that it was now geography-agnostic. This enabled greater participation not just from the Indian ecosystem, but also from the global community. The demo day saw unprecedented attendance from the funding ecosystem, including Sequoia Capital, Nexus Venture Partners, Unitus Ventures, Blume Ventures, Fundamentum, 100X.VC, A91Partners, Multiply Ventures,  YourNest, 3one4 Capitaland Prime Venture Partners to name a few.

Key learnings from the online demo day

While the team was initially apprehensive about how an online demo day would pan out, the amount of interest and sign-ups garnered through promotions were more than encouraging. As an organising partner to the demo day, YourStory Mediaobserved that hosting the Demo Day online amplified the outreach of the graduating startups within the extended ecosystem ten-fold compared to that of an offline engagement. With the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, the startups were also encouraged to realign themselves to new market realities and identify ways to keep pushing forward in the new normal of virtual engagements.

For JioGenNext, hosting an online demo day also demonstrated its versatility and capability as an accelerator to pivot and support and champion its startups even amid challenges. It shows how the accelerator literally walks the talk of turning adversities into opportunities.

Hosting the event online also meant better accessibility for the participants that were from the ecosystem, in particular for the VC community, whose members would most likely have declined because of the travel involved. The logistics for an online demo day were also simpler. The VCs also responded positively to the virtual one-on-one sessions with the startups from the cohort and even got real-time pitches from the startup audience in the comments box.

Going forward, our Jury Days, Demo Days and classes will be mostly online. However, as we get past the current crisis, we will balance it out with the physical experience of peer-group learning, industry networking and pursuing proof-of-concepts in our ecosystemsaid Amey Mashelkar, Head, JioGenNext, signing off.


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