Startup Riot 2009 Recap

Startup Riot, a day-long networking and startup pitching event organized by Sanjay Parekh, was held at the Twelve Hotel today and much like the last one, was a huge success. Startup Riot is one of the glimmering examples of the growing startup, tech and entrepreneurship communities in Atlanta. In addition to the larger size of the event this year, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and listening to this year's keynote speaker - Chris Wanstrath. Chris is one of the co-founders of the amazing GitHub.

Startup Riot 2009
Startup Riot 2009
Sanjay amid his creation, with Scott Burkett in the background pitching the phenomenal Wi-Fi Cat.

GitHub Talk

Chris Wanstrath of GitHub at Startup Riot 2009

Update: The full text of Chris's talk is now online.

I've mentioned GitHub here and there before but for those unfamiliar with it, GitHub is a social code hosting website for collaborative development based around the open source, distributed version control system git. Skribit moved to git and GitHub almost entirely because of GitHub - it's a great developer environment, and of course it doesn't hurt that git is superior to every revision control system out there. Chris spoke about the story of GitHub and how it was always a side project while Chris and PJ Hyett were hacking away at their startup FamSpam. Eventually what would become GitHub got to the point where FamSpam itself was hosted on it and became useful in development. Chris explained how FamSpam was a failure. FamSpam was a "kind of cool" idea, but not for them. For their mothers yes, but it wasn't something they could work passionately on. The time came for them to make a decision and only a month after FamSpam launched, Chris and Tom Preston-Werner decided to focus their attention on GitHub.

"I want to make people happy, and I want to be happy doing it, and I've found that's a good way to make money."

-Chris Wanstrath

To date GitHub is all bootstrapped and its founders and employees (4 full-time, 1 part-time) retain all equity. This falls inline with Chris's definition of success - being able to take his girlfriend out to nice dinners and not having a boss. At the end of his talk Chris posted his take on the "should I take VC/angel/etc investments?" query posed by many startups. In essence, he said "do whatever you feel is necessary." Bootstrapping has worked well for companies like GitHub and 37Signals, but that is only one particular take on it. You can't assume your startup needs millions of dollars because [insert-name-of-ridiculous-valley-startup] got X million.

"Spend money on employees to keep them happy."

-Chris Wanstrath

Chris also touched on some marketing techniques they employed; perceived scarcity - limiting user registrations - (he referenced the GMail invites system) to build value for accounts, as well as wining and dining others in their industry not to get them to try out their app but to have them as a connection for future not current business.

So what's GitHub working on next? More enterprise features like a local "firewall" install.

The Pitches

Around 51 startups presented 3 minute or less pitches at Startup Riot. Of those I enjoyed hearing about the following startups (in no particular order):
  • Cloudsurance - backup web applications
  • TyFish - OTA mobile phone backups with remote-control abilities (lock your phone, tell your phone to "shout" via their site)
  • Fuzzy Logic Toys - Chumby in a bear for educational purposes for children
  • KidKey - OpenID for kids, COPPA compliant
  • Accelereyes - Very, very cool GPU computing technology.
  • Simatra - Develops software and hardware that solves complex math fast.
  • Lizzer - "the easiest way to add links and embed content in web-based email & blog posts"
  • - Online personal assistant for 495 per month

Wi-Fi Cat

This particular pitch needed its own section. Wi-Fi Cat is a revolutionary cat collar that acts as a Wi-Fi signal repeater and cat tracker. No more fading Wi-Fi signal throughout your house! Unfortunately, Wi-Fi Cat is not real but a joke played on Sanjay.. and they ran with it. It was quite the pitch to see. Here are Scott Burkett's slides:
Wifi Cat pitch at startup riot 2009
Wifi Cat pitch at startup riot 2009
Wifi Cat pitch at startup riot 2009

After revealing that it was a joke, Scott went on to explain how Atlanta's tech and startup community is thriving and pointed out Startup Riot's success in particular.


Startup Riot 2009 was a impeccable success (I'll ignore the Wi-Fi connectivity issues) and fantastic networking event. Mad props to Sanjay. If you were at this year's Startup Riot, what did you think? What pitches did you enjoy the most?

If you're not in Atlanta, are there any events like Startup Riot in your city?