DocForge was the product of the Startup Summer pitch competition held in 2019, put on by Silicon Flatirons. Over the course of 9(ish) weeks, our team learned the ins and outs of launching a startup, outlined the business, and worked tirelessly on our pitch. At the end of the program, on the final Pitch Night, we walked away with both the 1st Place and some cash. We decided then to keep at the project, as it seemed to have legs.
Fast forward a few months, the school year had started, we officially incorporated as an LLC, signed a founders agreement, opened a business bank account, completed dozens of customer research interviews, and decided to compete in NVC 12.
The first night of NVC 12 was a blur—a total of 146 teams (a record for the event) were included in this phase of the competition, across 6 categorized tracks. It was nerve racking, to say the least, to be pit against so many driven entrepreneurs, but also very exciting. We were confident in the pitch and got some great feedback from the judges, making the cut to Round 2.
Around early March, COVID-19 began to have a greater effect on the US. Many offices in downtown Boulder instituted work-from-home policies and the NVC organizers made the decision to hold Round 2 remotely. By this time, our track was limited to 6 teams—and our competition was fierce. But, we gave our pitch via Zoom, completed our Q&A, and waited for feedback. A few hours later, we were informed that we had advanced to the championship round.
Between rounds, we worked on all aspects of the business: product, marketing, sales, UI/UX, even working with the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic at CU Boulder to ensure our documents were legally sound and valid. We were feeling good. Even if we didn’t win NVC, we made it pretty far, and while we may never perfect the pitch, we are pretty close.
Pitching over Zoom was a change our team adapted to quickly, but there is something lost when pitching remotely. There is something to be said for the personal connection our CEO, and “pitcher” extraordinaire, Jackson, is able to make with the judges as he explains the problem with technical documentation, and just how DocForge solves it. The visual cues the judges might give during the presentation are lost on the team as we can only see their faces on the screen.
But there are upsides to a remote pitch night too—NVC participants were encouraged to submit video versions of their pitches, which meant we didn’t have to worry about a live Zoom presentation with potential stumbles or technical difficulties.
We also changed the pitch a lot from what it would’ve looked like pitching in person, little things that completely go against what we were taught are crucial for a good pitch—mostly, we added more text to the slides, more explicit information. We couldn’t risk relying on the judges to listen the same way they might during a live pitch, because, well, we were all staring at a screen. We may have lost that personal connection, but gained security by the way of a recorded pitch.
The biggest letdown, by far, is just the celebratory nature of the Championship Event. We wanted to shake hands with our competitors, judges, and sponsors. During the judges deliberation, one of our competitors from Mcyclo Bacteria, put it best: “I’ve never wanted a group hug so bad”. It is the final round, but also a celebration of our hard work, our competition’s hard work, and recognizing the incredible entrepreneurial community in Boulder.
The fantastic people responsible for NVC worked tirelessly to put on an incredible remote event. We’d like to give a special shout out to Brad Bernthal, whose emcee skills during the event rivaled that of Michael Buffer himself–the energy was infectious. Our families and friends who may not have been able to attend the live event were able to watch in real time and participate in the celebration with us, which was a welcome surprise.
In the end, we placed 2nd, walking away with both a substantial cash prize, and an investment offer. We plan to use that money to continue growing our business, improving product, and raising more capital to help us scale.
We want to thank NVC and the Innovate CU Boulder for putting on the program despite everything going on in the world. Here are a few “thank you”s:
Kyle Judah, for lending us his incredible expertise on the complex startup world. Backbone PLM, Halp, and the CU Robotics Lab, for encouraging us to participate in the 2019 Startup Summer program. Ryan Ferrero, for his helpful pitch deck advice. SIlicon Flatirons, for putting on the program that brought us all together.
If you’re interested in what we’re building or just want to say hello, don’t hesitate to reach out! Our contact info can be found below.
We’d also like to provide some information on the other teams that competed in the Championship round. We highly recommend you check out these awesome entrepreneurs and their ventures: