From the December 2008 issue of Entrepreneur
Media outlets, venture capitalists and startups all love launch and pitch shows like DEMO, TechCrunch and Under the Radar. These shows bring together promising new online startups to connect them with a wider audience, potential partners and funding sources. The co-founders of intelligent online travel organizer TripIt--Gregg Brockway, 42; Scott Hintz, 37; and Andrew Denmark, 36--have been through the gauntlet with TechCrunch40, Web 2.0 Summit Launch Pad and Under the Radar. The San Francisco company officially launched its public beta at the Tech-Crunch show last year.

The application process for getting into a launch show can be pretty intense. A written application and multiple demonstrations of its product helped TripIt rise to the top 40 of nearly 700 TechCrunch submissions. "It's a phenomenal networking opportunity," says Brockway. "They did a great job of bringing together top-tier media as well as top-notch financing sources and potential partners."

Once you're accepted to a show, you have to prepare a presentation. "You get six to eight minutes to present your idea," says Brockway. "So the preparation is hours and hours of thinking about how to present your baby in the most flattering light in a very short period of time." He suggests focusing on a central goal, whether it's to attract media coverage or drum up funding. TripIt's founders had already raised $1 million in funding prior to launch, so the goal was to gain more exposure. The company's TechCrunch launch and subsequent positive reviews helped fuel 120 media mentions for the startup. More recently, it landed $5.1 million in second-round funding.

While launch shows can be a big boost to startups and garner rave reviews, companies need to be sure that they and their product are ready for the bright light of public and media scrutiny. TripIt was prepared for the avalanche of traffic and ready to listen to feedback from new users. Brockway's advice for startups that are eying the launch-show circuit: "Apply when you're ready, and apply to as many [shows] as you can afford in terms of time and money," he says. "You have to be persistent and crafty and look for all possible opportunities to break out of the clutter."

Some shows are free while others charge a fee, so carefully evaluate your options and work to find a good fit. With loads of online startups vying for attention, a launch show may be the extra boost you need to get your business off on the right foot.