Strengthen Your Slide Deck! TIBCO offers XTC Applicants A FREE Data Analytics Tool.

Tibco Spotfire logo


The Extreme Tech Challenge is built on the premise of helping entrepreneurs lower the friction to scale, not just for those who reach the top 10, but for all applicants who take the time to apply. So, today I am excited to announce another XTC partner that is going to help in our plight.

TIBCO is giving ALL applicants a 3-month license to TIBCO Spotfire to help them to create the most amazing slide deck presentation to submit for the

TIBCO Spotfire for desktop is an analytics and business intelligence platform. It allows users to perform in-depth analysis on their data through the use of predictive and complex statistics. It really makes it easy to visualize a large amount of data in just about any type of graph – a bar graphic, pie chart, tree map, heat map, or even a scatter plot chart, and more.

TIBCO Spotfire allows users to easily connect to a database, pull in a subset of data, and then quickly create visualizations to help them make more informed decisions. It can take just about any data, whether it’s from Salesforce, Google Analytics, LinkedIn, Twitter — anything with an API or that that can be exported or the software can pull data from, and it turns that information into easy-to-read graphs and charts. No coding required! Users hardly have to be tech savvy at all to create the most amazing visual demonstrations of their success thus far.

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The reason I asked TIBCO to offer applicants a FREE 3-month license is because the XTC judges want to see the data. Not only are they going to be analyzing the working product demo but also proven product/market fit. Applicants must show the judges, not just tell them, that they’re bringing tremendous value to market and are poised and ready to scale. They want to see a demonstration of how entrepreneurs have used data to make strategic business decisions. And the judges aren’t going to have access to spreadsheets. Even if they did, I guarantee they wouldn’t have the time or energy to read all of them. TIBCO Spotfire will allow applicants to quickly create charts and graphs, then export them into their PowerPoint presentations. If they make the Top 10 or even Top 3, the finalists can even do their presentations straight through Spotfire to allow them to respond to the judges inquiries for deeper analytics real-time.

TIBCO Spotfire allows anyone a 1-month free trial HERE. But Tuesday morning at 10am PT, everyone who has started an application by that point will receive a 3-month license for TIBCO Spotfire directly in their email. So watch for it!

Enter the now to strengthen your slide deck with amazing analytics that will set you apart from the competition!

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Remember, September 30, 2014 is the deadline to submit your completed application.

 Email me at if you have any questions.

 ~ Kym McNicholas

Executive Director






Creating an Epic Pitch Deck: The 6 Key Elements of Design

For those of you who haven’t heard, the Extreme Tech Challenge is hosting a series of free webinars through our partners at Super Summit called XTC Academy. We explore different topics to help you better your submission, and your business. These interactive webinars give you a chance to access some of the top professionals in their respective fields that are experts in helping grow business and know the startup world inside and out. Keep an eye on our Twitter for announcements on upcoming XTC Academy sessions @ExTechChallenge.

On Wednesday we held a webinar with Powerpoint ninja Ljana Vimont, owner of boutique design agency Stinson. Stinson makes premium decks for some of the world’s largest Fortune 500s, as well as small startups located all over the globe with the aim of helping communicate their products, brands, and ideas more effectively. Ljana took the time to share the formula to a perfect deck and walked us through the 6 key elements of design to help you become a powerpoint ninja too.

stinson_6 key elements


1. Photography

Photography is an ideal way to convey emotions and create a connection to audiences. Leverage high resolution, high quality images when possible and ensure they fit within the brand guidelines that you’ve set out. Photos can make an incredible impact and depict exactly what you’re trying to say with an image, and make your deck look much more modern and exciting.

If you’re thinking, “I’m bootstrapping, I don’t have money to hire a professional photographer” – fear not. There are incredible sources online that feature stock images at unbelievable prices. Stinson’s favorite is Dollar Photo Club – where, you guessed it… images are a dollar a piece! Ljana advises taking your time when browsing for images. You won’t find the perfect one in seconds. Plan to spend at least 30 minutes browsing for the perfect visual depiction so you can leverage it to tell your story.



 2. Illustration

Stinson suggests that concepts presented on slides should, as often as possible, be presented in a visual manner. They create custom illustrations for each client for as much content as they can in order to simply communication and enhance the experience of the target audience.  Luckily, with all of the tools online to solve many of life’s problems… there is a solution for making your own illustrations. You don’t have to hire an artist, a designer or use a corny powerpoint ClipArt image to make your point – (avoid the latter like the plague!)

Icons are an impressive, clean and modern way to illustrate your point, and top reco is Noun Project. Noun Project allows you to search through a vast library of stock icons and customize them to your brand – so you can easily manipulate the colors, sizing, and distortion of the icon in PhotoShop or Illustrator. Use the icons to clearly indicate each point so the viewer gets a visual cue to what you are talking about. Minimize your text, and talk to the icon – or just keep it clean with a summarizing point underneath for decks that are emailed.



3. Infographics

“Infographics should not be left out of presentations” says Ljana, Stinson’s owner. They are a powerful ally as they communicate your information in a way that resonates with your audience.  Stinson creates custom infographics for every presentation that they work on.

Infographics are all the rage now on blogs, in news articles, and of course in presentations and decks. They are an incredible way to visually depict an entire story so you can have less text heavy slides and more clarity. Stinson recommends using Pinterest for inspiration when thinking about your infographic creation – and if you’re on a tight budget and can’t get a graphic designer to create one for you, use sites like Pik To Chart to illustrate your point.  If you have a few extra bitcoins lying around, check out our friends at Right Source Social who made us the epic infographic pictured here.Infographics



4. Charts

Using charts and graphs can be a powerful alternative to simple text or raw data. You should always be looking for ways to turn your data into visuals that transform your information and how it is perceived. Think about your audience. Are they really going to have the time or the interest to mine through all of the data on your screen? Collect it and display it in a crisp, clean manner to make them Ooo and Aah at your incredible results, and more importantly, think about it. “Don’t just put a random chart in there. Think it through and tell a story” suggests Ljana.

Stinson uses all kinds of different graphs and charts to demonstrate results, and sometimes even uses animation to make a serious impact showing growth. Ljana’s favorite chart to use right now is the Donut Chart. Simple, sleek and modern – the donut is a great way to present both quantitative and qualitative data.



5. Typography

It is the golden rule of marketing to protect your brand and demonstrate a clear brand identity which means you probably have an official font, or at least a go-to that fits your brand. With that in mind, make sure you still have fun with the font you have experimenting with different sizing and boldness. Stay away from messiness like shadowing and make sure to use colors that match and are pleasing to the eye. Your font should pop on the background and be very clear and legible.

One of the most important things to remember when creating your deck is to be careful of how it will be received or displayed, meaning: Mac or PC. There are fonts that exist on both that do not exist on the other – and that cool font you downloaded from DaFont (our fave), is probably not on your VC’s computer already. So always either export to PDF (especially if you’re going the cool font route) or stick to a standard font found everywhere, like Arial. Ljana’s go-to font is Century Gothic because it is modern and clean and works everywhere.  She also recommends never going smaller than a size 13. No one should have to squint to read your deck.

Oh, and last but not least? Serifs are so 2001. Sans serif will completely modernize your deck.



6. Simplification

K.I.S.S. Keep it simple startups!

Simplification of main concepts and ideas is key to any great presentation. Creating simple yet resonant visuals that stick in your audiences’ mind helps communicate your message with maximum impact. This is not your annual report or even a press release. It’s tough to be concise, but that’s your mission every time a deck is involved. Summarize your thoughts and get right to the point – especially with Sir Richard Branson. He is famous for scoffing at powerpoints usually because there is just WAY too much information involved. The other key elements listed above will help you to achieve a simply, clean deck that cuts out a lot of unnecessary wording and clutter.



Last words?

“Don’t leave it until the last minute… or it will show. Anyone can create an amazing powerpoint presentation if take the time, and spend the effort making it flawless.” – Ljana.

Ljana was full of amazing tips and tricks for powerpoints and is an incredible resource for anyone able to make the investment. As vested supporters of the Extreme Tech Challenge, Stinson has graciously offered a break on pricing for your 10 slide pitch deck and can deliver before the deadline if you contact right away. As bootstrapped budgets are a reality for all of us, Ljana has made an exception to the normal rule of whole presentations only – and is willing to work with participants on piece meal projects for your XTC pitch such as: individual slides, graphics, and infographics. For pricing and information contact them right away so you can get your projects in before September 30th.

Check out Stinson’s site to view their impressive portfolio. This is what they can do for you:


Do you have any powerpoint tips you’d like to share? Tweet us @ExTechChallenge

The XTC Advisory Council is thrilled to announce the addition of 5 more members

With just 1 WEEK LEFT until FINAL submission, the Extreme Tech Challenge is heating up with new entries flooding in every day – and so we’ve added more superstar advisors to create more value for your experience. The XTC Advisory Council welcomes seasoned investors Cyan Banister, Scott Banister, Shervin Pishevar, Veronica Serra, and IBM Watson Executive John Wolpert.

So without further ado, let’s meet the newest stars on the advisory committee!

Shervin Pishevar, Managing Director of Sherpa Ventures

Shervin is a Managing Director at Sherpa Ventures, which he founded with Scott Stanford in March 2013 and is a Strategic Advisor and Board Observer at Uber Technologies. Named “Bill Gates’ Worst Nightmare” by the Financial Times, Shervin is a visionary technology entrepreneur, angel investor, published researcher, start up advisor, incubation expert and startup visa activist.  Shervin has raised over $50m in venture funding for his start ups and invested in over 100 startups. The companies he has founded have Shervinreached an aggregate of 100 million plus.

Shervin was previously a Managing Director at Menlo Ventures, a venture capital fund with over $4 billion under management ( where he is now a Venture Advisor and has worked on investments in a number of smash success startups including Uber and Tumblr. Shervin also helped launch the Menlo Talent Fund, Menlo’s new $20m seed fund that has invested in over 35 seed stage companies including Parse which sold to Facebook in 2013.  In addition to his business ventures Shervin places an incredible emphasis on giving back and is one of 10 members of the UN Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council, serves as an Entrepreneurial Ambassador on several State Department delegations and at the President’s Summit on Entrepreneurship; in addition to the numerous charities he supports.


Veronica Serra, Partner Pacific Investments

VeronicaVeronica Allende Serra is a Founding Partner of Pacific Investments with an MBA from Harvard, a law degree from the University of Sao Paolo, and a background of over 15 years in private equity and a variety of investment sectors. She brings an international edge to the Extreme Tech Challenge, fluent in English, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

In addition to her partner status at Pacific Investments, she is the Managing Director of IRR Latin America and former Partner and Head of Latin American Investments of International Real Returns LLC. Despite her busy investment business, Veronica serves on a number of boards including participation as a Director and Chairman of groups she supports.


John Wolpert, IBM Executive & Innovator

John is an experienced executive who has built innovative organizations at the government, Fortune 100, and startup levels. As the leader of IBM’s Extreme Blue incubator lab in Austin, Texas, John ran one of the most patented labs in the company.  Prior to Extreme Blue, he ran the celebrated alphaWorks team, which pioneered early sharing of IBM Research technology. John is Johnresponsible for the awesome XTC prizing from IBM Watson that will allow up to 3 XTC participants to leverage Watson’s supercomputer technology!

Interest in John’s approach to intention-based collaborative innovation, first published in Harvard Business Review, led to the creation of IXC, a non-profit consortium of industry, university and government research labs in the US, Australia and the UK. IXC explored the use of multi-party fiduciaries acting as intermediaries to find opportunities for joint development.  John spent five years overseas leading these and other “open innovation” initiatives.Returning to the US in 2008, John worked with retailer Best Buy to create a corporate incubator for entrepreneurial talent, called UpStart™ where he  turned the project into a smash success that led to commercialization and venture capital rounds. Today,  UpStart™ Mobile is one of three major brands in its category.


Scott and Cyan Banister, Entrepreneurs & Investors

Scott and Cyan are a husband and wife entrepreneur and investor duo best known Cyan and Scott Banister of Zivityfor founding social networking site Zivity and investing in industry success stories.

Cyan is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Zivity, a prolific angel investor with her husband Scott (Read about him below), board member, advisor and also a contributing writer for TechCrunch and Women2.0. Cyan co-founded the controversial website, which is a subscription based social networking site for creators and fans of beautiful and tasteful glamour photography. She currently serves on the board of directors for Mimoco, best known for their MIMOBOT line of designer USB storage devices. Cyan has held many leadership roles throughout her career, from leading technical operations teams in an enterprise software company to helping women master technology as CTO of a nonprofit organization.

Scott is known for his work as an early advisor of PayPal (…where he also co-invented email payments). He is also an investor of SpaceX, Uber, Facebook and Zappos. Scott co-founded Cisco IronPort Systems LLC in 2000 and served as its Chief Technology Officer. He is a former employee of Microsoft and Vice President of Ideas / Manager of idealab, where he contributed numerous innovations, including the unique bid-for-placement search engine model that powers Overture. Scott is a serial entrepreneur, co-founding several other ventures and companies such as Zivity, ListBot and Topsy Labs Inc.  He is an active investor and board member for many startups where he also plays advisory roles.

Are you as excited as we are for our new Advisory Council members? Join in the conversation! @ExTechChallenge

Take Innovation to the Extreme with CEA Innovate

InnovateIt’s easy to say, “I’m a CEO. I’m building a startup.”

Anyone can do that these days.

But to be successful at entrepreneurship is a different story.

So, how do you ensure you’re not one of the dreaded 3 out of 4 that fail?


…and I know what you’re thinking: “Ya sure, I already knew that.” It seems like a simple concept doesn’t it? But the complexity of innovation, and the scale and speed to which you must power your innovation forward is what separates the Apple’s of this world from the Blackberry’s.

So, XTC teamed up with the Consumer Electronics Association to provide our participants, friends, applicants, partners, and sponsors with all of the tips and tricks you need to succeed at CEA Innovate!a networking event hosted by CEA.

CEA Innovate takes place September 30 – October 2 in Phoenix, AZ. This hands-on 3-day seminar shows you what it takes to launch and scale your startup.

At CEA Innovate

  • Sign-up for 1:1 coaching from CEA seasoned industry veterans.
  • Get feedback and advice on your latest business ideas and how to secure financing in a competitive landscape
  • Learn how to create an effective crowdfunding campaign
  • Find out the most disruptive trends to watch for in technology, including the exciting category of wearable technology
  • Discover how to get media attention: Gain insight into what reporters really want from you, how to share your company’s story effectively, and why times of crisis can all be opportunities.

Entrepreneur/scientist rock-star Nolan Bushnell is one speaker you won’t want to miss. Best known as the original disruptor of the video gaming industry; Bushnell Nolan_Bushnell_2013founded Atari Corp as well as ‘the only place where a kid can be a kid’ Chuck E. Cheese. An avid member of the technology community, Bushnell is still recognized as the father of video games and continues to share his passion for entrepreneurship, creativity, education and innovation. Bushnell will not only be speaking at CEA Innovate! but he will be available at networking events throughout the conference to offer personalized advice and insight.

What to expect from Innovate!

How do I register?

If you’re an XTC participant, friend, applicant, partner or sponsor, email us ASAP for a 20% discount code (, then sign up for Innovate!

…and if you’re not an XTC participant, sign up now at

What are you most looking forward to at Innovate!? Let us know @ExTechChallenge!

XTC and Progress partner to offer applicants FREE app development tools

Picture1To enter the Extreme Tech Challenge, yes, you must already have at least a working prototype, proven market fit, and traction – which means you probably already have an incredible app.

So… you might be wondering, what would an XTC applicant do with free app development tools?

That was my first thought as well.

But one of my favorite quotes from Sir Richard Branson is, “Life is a helluva lot more fun if you say yes rather than no” – saying yes to assistance can make something amazing even better.

So when Progress VP/CTO and head of Progress Startup Program Dr. Mark Allen offered such a generous deal for XTC applicants, how could I refuse?

“Progress is excited to provide XTC contestants with the tools they needmark allen to build the next generation of business software,” says Dr. Allen. 

Progress is providing ALL XTC contestants with free application development tools, training and mentoring (up to $35K value)Imagine your best could be even better.

Have a great idea for a software app, but lack the time or expertise to build it?  

Need to build a web-based or mobile app?

Need to automate complex decision-making rules?

Interested in node.js?

Progress provides the tools to build your app in record time, whether starting from an existing framework, or building from scratchwhether deploying in the cloud or on-premise.

If you’re still wondering how you can put these free tools to use when you are required to already have a working product demo, proven market fit, and traction for your product in order to enter the Extreme Tech Challenge

Here’s how Progress can help:

  • By adding cool software features to your existing product.
  • By taking advantage of additional licenses and prizes if you’re already using Progress
  • By offering mentorship and guidance from Progress professionals

And last but definitely not least…

  • By giving you the chance to win cold hard cash.

In addition to free product, Progress is hosting the Progress-XTC Challenge available to XTC contestants who build an application using the Progress tools.  Winners are eligible for up to $25,000 in market development funds.

To learn more and apply for the Progress-XTC Challenge, go to:

Remember, you must be an XTC applicant to qualify for the Progress offering. To learn more, apply to XTC, or finish your existing application – visit

Just make sure to check the “Progress” box on the YouNoodle application and the FREE app development tools are yours, along with the opportunity to compete for an extra $25k in market development funds!

Now that’s what I call making progress!

Join in on the excitement @ExTechChallenge

~Kym McNicholas

XTC Executive Director

Here’s your chance to play with the world’s smartest computer…



Want a tech opportunity that comes around only once in your lifetime?!?

IBM’s Watson team wants to get into business with you! The Extreme Tech Challenge is teaming up with Watson to offer up to three applicants who reach XTC’s “Top 25” the ability to partner with Big Blue’s smartest technology ecosystem.

Remember the system that beat the two most successful human players on Jeopardy? If not, maybe you’re familiar with Chef Watson from the SXSW conference that cooked up some original recipes for attendees. Consumers choose their favorite ingredients, their favorite region, the type of meal (pasta, dessert, etc.), and Watson goes to work.

Watson is a cognitive technology that processes information more like a human than a computer-by understanding natural language, generating hypotheses based on evidence, and learning as it goes. It’s a turning point in technology.

The Watson team believes that startup entrepreneurs, tech companies, academic scientists and students are essential for finding the best uses of cognitive computing. That’s why they are opening up the Ecosystem: To empower companies and entrepreneurs who have access to large volumes of text-based information (think articles, notes, email…information consisting of english-language sentences) who want to tackle some tough commercial challenges..

Through access to the IBM Watson Developer Cloud, Partners will have access to the technology, tools and APIs for self-service training, development, and testing of their cognitive apps. More APIs and tools will be added as Watson grows. For example, In upcoming releases, Partners will be able to use additional APIs to discover unseen relationships hidden in their data

Here are the details of the Watson Ecosystem and see it in action with a YouTube Suite of Watson working it’s magic! 

Have you dreamed of quantifying your user experiences? Tell us about how you think Watson could add value to your business when you apply for the Extreme Tech Challenge.

It’s your opportunity to get on the fast track to becoming part of the Watson Ecosystem.

Here’s how the XTC – IBM Watson Partnership will play out:

IBM Watson will be selecting up to 3 applicants out of the XTC Top 25 to offer a 45 day instance of Watson. What that means to the applicant is they’ll be able to build a minimum viable product on the Watson Ecosystem Platform and work with IBM to forge a commercial agreement and go to market as partners. The instance of Watson alone is worth a lot, and the help IBM can bring for funding rounds, sales, and marketing is worth even more. Those who are chosen will receive mentoring to help them incorporate the offering into their overall strategy so they can add it to their pitch in competing for the Top 10 spots. Talk about truly setting yourself apart from the competition! Imagine having Watson on your team moving into the Top 10! On top of that, Watson Partners are eligible for participation in the the $100 million Watson Fund when seeking Series A funding and above.

To be eligible, you MUST check all the boxes for the IBM Watson Partnership (see below).

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And you MUST write a paragraph (on the application) on how you would use an instance of Watson.

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XTC and IBM Watson are going on the road to tell you more about this unique opportunity and to offer insights on the future of cognitive computing. We’ll be traveling through Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Austin throughout the month. If you want us to visit your shared workspace, incubator, accelerator, or meet-up group, please email us ASAP at

Join in the conversation @ExTechChallenge and @IBMWatson

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