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Promising work, and missed opportunities, at LearnLaunchX demo night

At the LearnLaunchX demo night, District Hall proved a comfortable venue for formal presentations and informal schmoozing — despite some exposed sheetrock and particle board.
At the LearnLaunchX demo night, District Hall proved a comfortable venue for formal presentations and informal schmoozing — despite some exposed sheetrock and particle board. Callum Borchers

There was a whole lot of education going on Wednesday at District Hall during demo night for LearnLaunchX, the ed tech accelerator program that hosted its first class of seven startups this summer.

Everyone in attendance got an education on what District Hall will look like when it’s complete. A sort of clubhouse for South Boston’s Innovation District that is designed to host events like this one, the $7 million building proved a comfortable venue for the evening’s formal presentations and informal schmoozing — despite some exposed sheetrock and particle board.

“It’s a great metaphor to be in a building that is under construction for an event like this one because all of you are builders of the innovation economy,” District Hall director Carlos Martinez-Vela told an audience full of entrepreneurs and investors.

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The venture capitalists and angel investors in attendance got an education on what the LearnLaunchX teams are up to. And since most of the young companies were asking for six-figure funding rounds, their presentations likely helped investors decide whether they are interested in opening their checkbooks.

Unfortunately, a couple of teams got an education in how not to make a first impression. At one point, I witnessed the following exchange between Governor Deval Patrick, who visited the teams’ demonstration tables, and one entrepreneur who shall remain nameless because hey, there’s no need to pile on the embarrassment:

Patrick: “Sounds like an interesting idea. Can you show it to me?”

Entrepreneur: “Uh, no. They didn’t give us Wi-Fi access.”

For the record, the Wi-Fi password at District Hall is “innovation!” and was announced at the top of the program.

In any case, there’s a lesson here: When the governor shows up and wants to see your idea in action, make sure he can.

At another point, a different entrepreneur delivered a presentation that was so long and so full of jargon that I doubt anyone left understanding the product. Certainly not the prospective investor seated beside me, who leaned over, shook his head and said, “After that, I have no idea what they do. Terrible.”

A second lesson: If you want to get funded, practice your pitch in front of a brutally honest friend who is not an expert in your field.

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