Zia Yusuf, CEO Streetline - Tips for winning IBM Smartcamp
Calling All StartupsYour Startup idea could win it all at
IBM Entrepreneur SmartCamp
President and CEO Streetline
As an entrepreneur, I’m sure I don’t have to remind you of the impact of a strong partner network. While I
personally knew that value from my days as head of SAP global ecosystem, I don’t know that I truly understood
its reach until nearly a year ago as an entrepreneur.
Each of us believe in our products and trust that they will make a difference, but we sometimes forget that
having a strong partner can be the difference that helps break us out of the pack and fly by your competitors.
In Streetline’s case the help and encouragement of IBM is turning out to be just that difference.
When I joined Streetline in July 2010, I knew we had a great thing on our hands. We were addressing one of the
biggest unsolved problems in the world today–Parking. As more and more people flocked to urban areas, and
budgets were shrinking, I know that by solving the age old parking conundrum we could provide cities with an
easy first step towards making streets more efficient and transform the way people live and work.
Getting attention as a tiny startup is challenging; it’s one thing to meet with a skeptical head of
transportation of mayor of a city to showcase your solution; but doing so after being named the 2010 IBM Global
Entrepreneur of the Year is an entirely different experience.
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Winning Smart Camp – Some Tips
from the 2010 World Champs
We were initially introduced to the smart camp process through our friends and investors at Sutter Hill
Ventures and within two days of receiving the application we filled it out and hoped for the best. From 660
original applicants, we were invited to present to the IBM Venture Capital Group where I promptly spilled a cup
of coffee two minutes into our initial presentation.
Luckily forgiven, we were invited back as a finalist at Smart Camp Silicon Valley where we presented to a room
of leading venture capitalists, and were shocked and ecstatic when we moved on to be a global finalist.
I flew to the finals in Dublin, Ireland along with eight other global finalists, an exceptionally talented
group of entrepreneurs. When not spending time in a local pub with my fellow finalists I presented over twenty
-five times over three days. Talk about getting intense amount of feedback from experts! There were a few
lessons and approaches that served us well (now the judges may disagree!).
First and most important is for you to be passionate about what you are doing. This is critical in
putting you over the line.
Second, you have to be very clear in articulating your value proposition to potential customers in a
very short period of time – six minutes.
Third, tell a story about how your product or service will change the world. As a start-up, don’t be shy
to articulate a grand vision even if you don’t have everything worked out!
Fourth, make a clear connection to IBM’s strategy. If your company does not find a clear synergy with
the Smarter Planet/City vision of IBM then maybe this is not the right competition for you in the first place.
Fifth, use the many opportunities prior to your big final day to sharpen your presentation – practice is
Finally, and most importantly, – relax and have fun! Participating in a Smart Camp or being named a finalist is
a huge achievement. Be proud and enjoy the ride and you will be a more confident and relaxed advocate of your
Should you actually end up winning give yourself and your team a big high five and get ready to scale your
Learn why IBM wants to help Startups
The Moon Shot of the IBM Smart Camp
In the parking business we often say that getting from point A to point B is not enough, there is a last step,
point C. That means not just getting to your destination (Point B), but being able to find, pay for and secure
a parking spot quickly (Point C).
This concept rings true from a business perspective. IBM’s Venture Group played a tremendous role in helping us
define our sales and marketing strategy, and align our roadmap to definitive business goals. IBM helped us
realize our potential way beyond sensors.
Almost instantly after winning the global Smart Camp award, reporters had a new found interest for Streetline;
we won Smart Parking projects in Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington DC and Charlotte; and raised $15 mm in Series