Dreamforce 2014: Was Sponsoring for $75,000 as a Startup Worth it?

By Paul Teshima in Events

We are wrapping up the last day of a crazy week as a bronze sponsor at Dreamforce.  We just launched our Nudge social selling app, and used this conference to showcase it to business professionals from around the world.

I was reflecting on the decision to sponsor, because the bronze booth fee was $50,000.  And after you add in graphic design, hotels and flights for 8 people, giveaways, vendor wireless network charges (at $1,600 for the week), we are probably going to land at $75,000 for the whole show.  Wow, that is a lot to spend, even though we raised $2.8 million.

I have broken my “was it worth it” thoughts into three categories.  Would love your opinion.

“It’s All About the Traffic”

Our original goal was to get 400 through our demo at the booth and have them register for the BETA.  But we actually beat that number and ended up with 547 “leads” that saw the product demo and registered (woohoo!).  Some were friendlies, some were high quality, and a few were just trying to grab our powercell charger.

When you do the math $75,000/547 = $137 per “lead” for our freemium product.  That seems expensive.  But I will say we also had four interviews by media, also talked with some great VCs and had many people come by the booth because “someone told me I had to see you” OR “I heard you were the cool new kid on the block” – maybe that additionally is worth something at the end of the day, but hard to say how much.

“You Need to Bet on Your Team”

When Steve and I founded the company we wanted to have a culture that bet on people.  So this value was tested immediately after I signed up for Dreamforce.  We had 6 additional booth staff to fill (besides Steve and I), and all of our employees were developers.  Now don’t get me wrong, these are senior people, some of whom did a lot of sales support in previous roles.  However with 100,000+ attendees, hundreds of sponsors, and a booth the size of my dining table, we needed to bring our A game to make it worthwhile.

Well the team delivered and then some.  I haven’t see a bunch of more motivated and engaging booth staff in my 7 years at Dreamforce.  And as we start this next phase of our journey at Nudge, it helps our product tremendously to have the entire development/data science/operations team having had hundreds of interactions with potential users.  And they each had to pitch and demo our product in under 30 sec.

So not only is the team super motivated, but their heads are full of great ideas on how to make it better, as users got to experience Nudge for the first time.

“Everyone Needs an Unmovable Date”

Back in February when Steve and I were building our plan for the year, we wanted to put a milestone around an unmovable date.  In the past I have always used customer or new business commitments to help drive urgency, but since we didn’t have any customers or sales, we had to choose something big enough to scare the crap out of us, and Dreamforce fit the bill.

Since we didn’t hire our first developers until May that gave us 5.5 months to get a product from prototype to the real deal.  Not a lot of time, even considering the massive improvements in the tools you use to build software that have occurred in the past 10 years.

I think the fact we got here with a working (and sexy) product has got to be worth more than half of the cost of Dreamforce.  I am positive we would still be hymning and hawing about architecture decisions, features and work flow if we didn’t have this “unmovable date” (note: I did call Benioff and ask him to move it by two months, but for some reason he thought that was unreasonable 🙂 ).

So in summary

  • 547 registered BETA users
  • great “buzz” and awareness
  • a motivated and user educated product team
  • and a finished product that works and now can be iterated to get to “market fit”

I am still not 100% convinced we would do it again next year, but what do YOU think?

Paul Teshima
CEO and Co-founder