What I Learned From Organizing & Hosting Twist Seoul

by Jason -- September 6, 2011

Last week I helped organize and then host the first ever “This Week in Startups” Seoul Meetup episode. In this post I wanted to discuss the experience of doing it, what I had hoped to gain from it and what I ended up gaining from it.

What is “This Week in Startups”?

This Week in Startups” is an Internet TV show. Twice-a-week they air a one-hour episode online which can be downloaded and watched anytime afterwards. A typical episode has one entrepreneur as a guest and he or she is interviewed for the entire hour.

They also do specialty episodes. A popular specialty episode is a news roundtable where they invite two guests to comment and discuss the previous week’s news.

Another type of specialty episodes are international meetup episodes. In these, 3 to 6 companies from the city pitch their company or idea to the hosts of the show. The hosts then rate the companies pitch and idea, and then offer feedback to the entrepreneur.

This Week in Startups Seoul Meetup Episode – The Beginning

After listening to one of the international episodes, the hosts of the show mentioned that they would love to do an Asian meetup episode. In fact, they specifically called out Tokyo and Seoul as potential cities to connect with. Having just moved to Seoul, I thought it would be fun to put it together and if I could actually pull it off, it would be good exposure for both me and Unanchor.

The key to the international episodes are the companies. If you can show 6 high-quality and interesting companies, then the show is a success. So, my first move was trying to find out if this was even possible for me to do.

I started reaching out to the couple of people I knew, and they helped me connect with other folks in the startup ecosystem. Eventually, I met the good folks from Seoul Space. They were immediately sold on the idea and felt we would have no problems finding enough great companies to appear on the show.

With a venue, help and reassurance on the companies in place, I reached out to the This Week in Startups team. In fact, I emailed the host, Jason Calacanis directly and told him I wanted to put it together. Within a couple hours he had responded and put me in touch with the right people from his team.

Twist Seoul - Planning

The planning process started way back in early April. One of the biggest issues with organizing the show was finding a sponsor. We wanted to award the winning team a significant prize. We weren’t certain if just being on the show was going to be incentive enough for companies to pitch.

The turning point for the entire event was when Seoul Space decided that if we weren’t able to find a sponsor, they would put up the prize money themselves and sponsor the show. Unfortunately, we were never able to secure a full sponsor and it was Seoul Space who ended up being our title sponsor.

Twist Seoul – How did it go?

To put it simply, it went great.

  • We had hoped and expected an audience of 40 to 50 people. We ended up with an audience of 70 to 80 people and with only 60 chairs, it was literally standing room only.
  • Not only did we have a good size audience, but the energy from them was amazing. At the end of this post is the video, take a look and watch how excited the audience is and how much energy they have.
  • Every one of the companies that participated absolutely nailed their pitches.
  • In true American Idol fashion, we had VIP judges give feedback and rate the companies before the live show. They all had wonderful feedback and enjoyed the event a lot.
  • The show’s hosts were blown away and said that we “knocked it out of the park”.

So, in mid-December we’re planning on doing another one!

What did I learn and gain from this process?

A lot of people asked if I worked for “This Week in Startups”, which I always found funny. They were always surprised when I told them no, and that I was simply a fan of the show. It makes sense why they would ask that, what other reason would I have for going through all of the effort?

Here’s what I learned and gained from organizing this event —

  • I vastly underestimated the amount of time and work it would take to put together an event like this. This was a big learning experience and I now have much greater appreciation for the organizers of the events I attend. Here’s a fun example — we were expecting 60 people, but our true range was more along the lines of 50 to 75. How many pizzas and sandwiches should we buy? This was made slightly more complicated by the fact that we didn’t have a true sponsor and so keeping our budget in line was of the utmost importance.
  • I once heard a Mixergy interviewee say that going to events and networking is great, but if you really want to take your networking up a level, you need to organize the event. After hosting this event, I have to agree. I met many more people before and at the event than I ever could have by simply attending.
  • I really enjoyed helping and working with the startups. I hope to continue to be able to work with them as my career progresses.
  • And of course, one of the biggest things I walked away with was simply being on the show and being able to get my name and company out there a little more.

Final Thoughts

The show was a lot of work, but the people I got to work with and meet made it all worth it. In fact, I’ve already signed up for another Twist Seoul event in December — mark your calendars for December 16th (US)/December 17th (Seoul)!

Final random thought — I’d love to continue to be involved with helping startups when I move back to the Bay Area, but it’s a lot more intimidating. There are many more events and companies so it seems that it would be easy to get lost in the noise. One of the things I particularly like about Seoul is that there’s a vibrant startup scene, but it’s still on the smaller side. For this reason, it was much easier to get involved and make an impact. It’s the age-old adage; would you rather be a small fish in a big sea or a bigger fish in a small sea? I’m enjoying Seoul’s smaller sea.

Watch our “This Week in Startups” Seoul Meetup Episode

It’s a one-hour show. Here are a few of my favorite parts:

04:30 - Introducing Seoul and myself.
19:50 - Richard Choi from Spoqa‘s pitch (Winning pitch)
36:20 - Oakyoon Cha from ShortEnuf‘s pitch (“Craziest” pitch)
58:40 - Unanchor gets some love!

Be awesome and help us share:

5 Responses to “What I Learned From Organizing & Hosting Twist Seoul”

  1. awesome write up! How did you get the opportunity to do this?

  2. Follow up to my last comment: I know you reached out to him. But how did you gain there trust? I’m very impressed with how both of you pulled this off so quickly.

  3. Hey Rishi — Thanks for the compliments, I really appreciate that! I think Twist’s view is to give people the opportunity and if it goes well they do it again, if it doesn’t, then you’re out. So, to get started they just trusted me. However, along the way through constant communication with their team, I think I made them more comfortable with my progress. It’s possible that if things didn’t sound like they would work on my end, they could have plugged the plug, but that’s just a guess.


  4. The event was wonderful. Great teams, great pitches, great judges, great audience, and overall just a really fantastic energy. Bravo!

  5. Thanks Michael, I’m glad you were able to be there. Hopefully you’ll be in Korea for the next one in December! — Perhaps even pitching?

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