These past few days have been hectic for me but I promised I’d write a series of blog posts and decided that this would be the first one since it was the most requested. The next blog post will be about Socionado and why every company that cares about company culture should consider working with Socionado! But back to the day I pitched Will Smith on stage in front of thousands.
So it’s Wednesday October 2nd, 2019. I flew in from Philadelphia to San Francisco for Techcrunch Disrupt. I was crashing a couch at a friend of a friend’s place in Oakland. Our company Socionado was selected as a Techcrunch Top Pick which meant that we had a free table where we could showcase our company. We were slated to showcase our company on Friday so Wednesday was just about networking and listening to speakers. We also would get interviewed by a Techcrunch editor which would be shared across all Techcrunch social platforms and this would happen on Friday as well.
I got up around 8AM PST and in all honesty I didn’t expect much. I threw on my gray Socionado sweater and walked to the 19th St. Oakland Bart Station on my way to Techcrunch Disrupt. I was a little tired and hungry when I got there so before I went in I grabbed a bagel with cream cheese.
After checking in through security and getting my badge I started going down the long escalator to where all the festivities were taking place. The time is about 10:03 AM or so when I get a phone call from my business partner Will (whose nickname is Bud) at the bottom of the escalator. With a bagel and cream cheese in one hand and the phone in the other, I heard Bud talking loudly and quickly.
“BRUH. CHECK YOUR EMAIL. YOU GOT A CHANCE TO PITCH WILL SMITH ON STAGE!”
Now anyone that knows my business partner Bud knows that he loves to joke a lot. A LOT. He’s always cracking jokes. So when he said this I immediately started laughing and told him to shut up and kept eating.
“BRUH. I’M NOT JOKING. PLEASE CHECK YOUR PHONE. THEY’RE SAYING YOU HAVE 15 MINUTES TO RESPOND. CHECK YOUR EMAIL AND CALL ME BACK.”
After he hung up he caught my attention. Now when he said it again this time there was something in his voice that made me realize that this dude was not playing around. I tossed my bagel in the garbage and checked my email and this is what I saw.
I immediately responded back that I wanted in. This started a chain of events which changed everything for me. At this time it was about 10:15 AM and we were told that we could practice with a Techcrunch editor at 12 PM. The pitch was supposed to happen at 2:20 PM. In the email, a Techcrunch editor told us that Will Smith was simply interested in hearing pitches at the last second because he gets excited to hear new ideas. That’s it.
40 seconds. Honestly when I first heard that it was 40 seconds I got excited. This is what that means. YOU NEED TO GET TO THE POINT RIGHT AWAY. Cut out all the BS and fluff. I don’t want to get into the details of how I crafted the pitch because I’m saving that for another blog post.
I called Bud and we immediately started to scheme and strategize a pitch until we liked what we had and it fit the 40 second limit. When we finished, we knew what we had was compelling.
12:00 PM. I went backstage and started doing pitch practice with the other teams and a Techcrunch editor. Honestly, I wasn't mentally there. I was being told to make certain changes to the pitch in ways that I just simply didn’t agree with. I’m always open to advice and insight but in this instance I didn’t want to change what I had. So I left early by making up an excuse that I had to take a call and just went to eat. I made it clear I’d be back by
1:45PM when we were supposed to be backstage. The speakers were running a bit late because we hadn’t even seen Will Smith on stage yet. Around 2:30 PM we saw Ang Lee and Will Smith on stage. It felt surreal. Someone who I watched every day on TV growing up is about to listen to me pitch. WOW. Will Smith is incredibly charismatic and enigmatic. You can feel his presence. I was soon told that I would be the third one out of four of us to pitch and I actually thought that was the perfect place to be.
At this point if you asked me how I felt, truthfully, I wasn’t nervous at all. I don't know if I realized how big the moment was. I was more anxious. I wanted to get on stage and present. I knew I had my pitch down and I knew how to command an audience. I’m happy to have both my mom and dad who raised me to have a lot of confidence in myself. That confidence carried me throughout high school, Princeton University and onwards. When we went on stage you could notice how far back the rows of the audience went. It was incredible. I became energized by it. I knew it was my moment.
There was something I noticed as others were pitching before me. Will Smith would make little quips like, “Don’t worry, it's only the biggest moment of your life." I found them to be funny and lighthearted. I thought he was genuinely trying to make everyone comfortable but I’m unsure if it did for the others pitching. When it was my turn to go on stage I didn’t notice anything except the sea of people in the audience and Will Smith so I wanted to make sure I addressed both. I was surprisingly relaxed, spoke with pace and conveyed exactly what I wanted to. When I was done I felt great. I felt really prepared and the audience reaction was a thunderous approval. I could tell Will Smith was blown away by the pitch and that made me feel even more invigorated. When Will Smith was asking me questions I was excited and passionate because I truly believe in our mission behind Socionado. I believe he felt my passion as well.
When Will decided whose pitch he liked the best I was waiting for him to say my name. This is not out of any cockiness or arrogance. I just genuinely believed that I delivered a great pitch that showcased our company.
“Uhh. I think I’m going to have to go with Kofi. Socionado.”
I could tell he had no clue what he was going to reward the winner and decided on the spot that he was going to be an investor but at that point it didn’t matter to me.
When I went up to him to take a selfie that was the most fun. We spoke for a bit on stage and I let him know that my business partner Will (Bud is his nickname) is actually from Philly which he laughed about.
Backstage we spoke for a bit and it was crazy to see everyone asking him for a picture. I didn’t even fully grasp what happened until afterwards when I sat down backstage by myself and someone congratulated me and handed me a water.
The number one question people keep asking me.
“Were you nervous?”
“Were you stressed?”
I don’t know why but strangely enough the answer is a definitive “NO”. I felt energized and emboldened by the moment. I can name several other instances in my life where I felt significantly more nervous than I did on Wednesday pitching Will Smith. I’m incredibly grateful to the Techcrunch staff and Will Smith for putting me in a position to present to the world.
I have a bunch of pictures below here. The next blog post will be about Socionado, showcasing company culture and why it should matter your company and organization!