Buy your tickets to the 2nd Annual TechCrunch Winter Party

We love parties almost as much as we love startups, but we go absolutely bonkers for a hot startup-party mashup. That’s why we’re returning to host our 2nd Annual TechCrunch Winter Party in San Francisco on Friday, February 8. Even better news, party-goers — the first batch of coveted tickets to this wild winter romp are available now. Better get your tickets while you can.

Last year’s inaugural event was a huge success as nearly 1,000 of Silicon Valley’s brightest minds came to relax, connect and celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit of the startup community — and cast a keen eye over some promising startups.

This year’s soiree takes place at Galvanize and features tasty libations, delicious hors d’oeuvres and engaging conversation. That sounds so very civilized, right? Well, don’t dry clean your stuffed shirt just yet, because we’ll have plenty of party games and activities, giveaways and fun surprises. And, of course, plenty of photo ops, baby!

Galvanize may be a multi-level venue, but the space is still limited — as are the tickets. We’re rolling them out in batches over the next few weeks, so keep checking back if you can’t snag a ticket. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter (if you don’t already) to stay up to date on the next release.

Here are the pertinent Winter Party details.

  • When: Friday, February 8, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • Where: Galvanize, 44 Tehama St., San Francisco, CA 94105
  • Ticket price: $85

Here’s another great idea. Why just mingle and schmooze when you can mingle, schmooze and demo your early-stage startup in front of hundreds of the Valley’s top star-makers? Buy a demo table for $1,500 (the price also includes three attendee tickets). Demo tables are limited, so act now before other founders snatch ’em up.

Of course, no TechCrunch party is complete without plenty of awesome prizes, including TC swag and tickets to Disrupt San Francisco 2019, which takes place this October. Come on out for a great midwinter’s night of relaxed connection, fun and opportunity. Get your tickets to the 2nd Annual TechCrunch Winter Party at Galvanize today.

Here’s what you missed at Startup Battlefield Lagos

Yesterday TechCrunch held its first-ever event in Nigeria — our second in Sub-Saharan Africa. The day was packed with Battlefield presentations from 15 different startups from across the region, along with panels featuring some of Africa’s best known tech entrepreneurs and executives.

It was an incredible day and offered a fascinating peak into an absolutely vibrant tech community. For those unable to make the trek through the standstill Lagos traffic, have no fear. We’ve included footage from the day’s event below. And for those who were lucky enough to join, you can relive the highlights right here.

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Expats, Repats and Africans

Kwame Acheampong (Mall for Africa), Eleni Gabre-Madhin (blueMoon) and Lexi Novitske (Singularity Investments) discuss the ups and downs of the influence repatriates and outside investors exert on the African startup community

Fireside Chat with Funke Opeke

Main Street Technologies founder and Main One Cable Company CEO Funke Opeke has led the charge to bring broadband internet to West Africa. She discusses the role of entrepreneurship in helping to scale business.

Investing in African Startups

Kola Aina and other area investors discuss the lessons that can be learned from Silicon Valley VC and which aspects of the model don’t apply to the African tech ecosystem.

Blockchain’s Potential in Africa

Olugbenga Agboola (Flutterwave), Omolara Awoyemi (SureGroup) and Nichole Yembra (Greenhouse Capital) and Olaoluwa Samuel-Biyi (SureRemit) discuss the impact crypto has had on the African tech community and the different ways blockchain technology can help build a broad cross section of different categories.

The Winner of Startup Battlefield

The winner of the event was M-SCAN from Uganda, which develops portable mobile ultrasound devices (Ultrasonic probes) that are laptop, tablet and mobile phone compatible. The judges were impressed with its scalability potential to make many other medical access devices affordable for Africa, where mother and infant mortality is unforgivably high.

Announcing the final batch of judges for Startup Battlefield Africa

Startup Battlefield Africa in Lagos, Nigeria, is coming up fast. As usual, we have a great lineup of panels that will include investors and founders discussing issues such as blockchain, raising venture capital on the continent and beyond and more.

And of course companies will compete in Startup Battlefield, our premier startup competition. Startup Battlefield consists of 15 teams competing in three preliminary rounds — five startups per round — which have only six minutes to pitch and present a live demo to a panel of expert technologists and VC investors. Five of the original 15 startups will be chosen to pitch a second time to a fresh set of judges. One startup will emerge the winner and receive a US$25,000 no-equity cash prize and win a trip for two to compete in the Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2019 (assuming the company still qualifies to compete at the time). The event is now sold out, but keep your eyes on TechCrunch for video of all the panels and the Battlefield competition.

And now to announce our next batch of judges who will be grilling the startups after their pitches. See you next week!

Jason Njoku, Iroko

Jason Njoku is the founder and CEO of Iroko, the home of Nollywood content. He has pioneered the African digital content market by bringing Nollywood (Nigerian cinema) to a global audience, and in the process has raised more than $40 million in investment from international VCs, including Tiger Global, Kinnevik, RISE Capital and Canal+.

In 2013, Njoku was crowned as the CNBC Africa West Africa Young Business Leader, and in 2014, he was recognized as one of Fast Company’s Top 1000 most Creative People in Business.

Dapo Olagunju, J.P. Morgan

Dapo Olagunju is head of West Africa at J.P. Morgan. In this capacity, he represents J.P. Morgan’s global platform to clients, regulators and other stakeholders in the region.

Prior to joining J.P. Morgan, he was a general manager at Access Bank Plc where he oversaw the financial markets division of the bank. He was a member of the bank’s Digital Council, which had overall responsibility for the bank’s digital strategy, approved partnership with fintech companies and monitored the implementation of digital initiatives. He was, at different times, a consultant on peacekeeping financing at the United Nations in New York and chief dealer at Investment Banking & Trust Company Limited (now Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, a member of the Standard Bank Group). He was also co-founder of — an online fundraising platform.

Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook

Konstantinos Papamiltiadis is the director of developer platforms and programs for Facebook, supporting the company’s product and platform strategy through partnerships with technology companies and programs for startups.

Prior to that he supervised product and engineering at Taptu (sold to Mediafed) a Cambridge, U.K.-based startup. Prior to Taptu, he led the Yahoo EMEA mobile product team. His team supervised the development and launch of mobile sites for Search, Mail and IM across Europe, as well as News, Sports and Finance for iPhone and Blackberry apps. Before joining Yahoo he was a product manager at Skype and Vodafone R&D.

Bosun Tijani, Co-Creation Hub

Bosun Tijani is the co-founder and CEO of Co-Creation Hub, a social innovation center based in Nigeria dedicated to accelerating the application of social capital and technology for economic prosperity. In pursuit of an active lifestyle, he also founded and serves as the CEO and founder of Truppr, an emerging fitness brand in Africa that connects users to fitness events across the world. In addition, he is a partner at Growth Capital, Nigeria’s first social innovation fund for high-potential, early-stage businesses.

He has more than 15 years of experience across public and private corporations, including Pera Innovation Network (U.K.), Hewlett Packard (EMEA) and International Trade Centre (UNCTAD/WTO), both in Geneva, Switzerland.

Fintech investors and founders to judge Startup Battlefield Africa

TechCrunch will soon be returning to Africa to hold its Startup Battlefield competition dedicated to the African continent.

The event, in Lagos, Nigeria, on December 11, will showcase the launch of 15 of the hottest startups in Africa onstage for the first time. We’ll also be joined by some of the leading investment firms in the region. The event is now sold out, but keep your eyes on TechCrunch for video of all the panels and the Battlefield competition.

Here are just some of the investors and founders who will be judging the startups competing for US$25,000.

Olugbenga Agboola, Flutterwave

Olugbenga Agboola is the CEO of Flutterwave, a payments technology company headquartered in San Francisco with operations and offices across Africa and Europe. Prior to co-founding Flutterwave, Olugbenga contributed to the development of fintech solutions at several tech companies and financial institutions such as PayPal and Standard Bank, among others. He is a serial entrepreneur with two successful exits under his belt. He is a software engineer with a Master’s Degree in Information Technology Security and Behavioral Engineering, as well as an MBA.

Barbara Iyayi, Element

Barbara Iyayi is the chief growth officer and managing director of Africa for Element, which deploys AI-powered mobile biometrics software to develop digital platforms globally. Barbara was part of the founding team of Atlas Mara, a London stock exchange-listed company, co-founded by Bob Diamond, ex-CEO of Barclays Bank, which was the first-ever entity to raise more than $1 billion to invest in, operate and manage financial institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa. As the Regional Lead for M&A and Investments, she led investments into banks and developed the banking platform’s entry into seven countries in Africa. Notably, she led the acquisition and first-ever merger of two banks in Rwanda, to be the leading innovative retail bank — Banque Populaire du Rwanda — and led a $250 million equity investment in Union Bank of Nigeria.

Aaron Fu, MEST Africa

Aaron is an early-stage investor, entrepreneur and strategic advisor to both startups as they scale and corporates as they transform to gain agility for disruptive innovation. Over the last five years he has specifically focused on innovation in Africa, working with global brands and entrepreneurs across diverse industries, from financial services to health to mobile to agriculture.

As managing director at MEST, he is dedicated to training, investing in and incubating the next generation of global software entrepreneurs in Africa. He manages a portfolio of 30-plus startups spanning fintech, media, e-commerce and agritech. 

Sam Gichuru, Nailab

Sam Gichuru is founder and CEO of Nailab, one of Kenya’ s leading business incubators. His contribution in establishing the startup business ecosystem in Kenya, through Nailab, has been significant, and as a result was invited as a key speaker during the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, held in Nairobi and officiated by then U.S. President Barack Obama.

Sam has been instrumental in propagating the development of a strong and vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem, and it’s through this engagement that he was most recently selected by Jack Ma to lead, through Nailab, the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative, a $10 million Initiative that seeks to discover, spotlight and support 10 African entrepreneurs every year for the next 10 years.

Olufunbi Falayi, Savannah Fund

Olufunbi Falayi  is a partner at Passion Incubator, an early-stage technology incubator and accelerator that invests in early-stage startups. He co-led investment in 12 startups, including Riby, BeatDrone, AdsDirect, TradeBuza and Waracake. Olufunbi also a principal at Savannah Fund, driving investment in West Africa.

Want a free ticket to Startup Battlefield Africa 2018?

We’re entering the final days leading up to Startup Battlefield Africa 2018, which takes place on 11 December. We have our passports, we’re packing our bags and we can’t wait to arrive in Lagos, Nigeria to watch 15 of the continent’s best startups launch to the world.

Will you be there cheering the competitors and celebrating the richness of Africa’s growing startup scene? We’ve sold out of tickets to the day-long event, but — and this is great news — we set aside a limited quantity of tickets that we’re giving away for free. If you want one, act now and apply for a free ticket before they disappear.

Center stage of this day-long, action-packed event is, of course, our renowned pitch competition, Startup Battlefield. Out of hundreds of applications, we winnowed the field to 15 remarkable early-stage startups across Africa. Startup Battlefield consists of three preliminary rounds — five teams per round — followed by a final round.

Teams have only six minutes to pitch and demo their product to a panel of expert judges. After each pitch, the judges run the presenting founders through a gauntlet of tough questions. Up to five teams will move on to the finals to pitch and answer questions again.

One team will claim the Startup Battlefield Cup, along with US$25,000 in no-equity cash. Plus, the winning founders also win a trip for two and the opportunity to compete in Startup Battlefield at a TechCrunch Disrupt in 2019.

Between rounds, we have a slew of outstanding presentations and panelists scheduled to discuss the most pressing issues facing early-stage startups in the region. Check out the conference agenda, but some of the people you’ll hear and learn from include:

  • Omobola Johnson, a senior partner at TLcom Capital, is the former minister of communication technology for Nigeria. Her 25-year tenure at Accenture — as managing director — informs her expansive knowledge of startup investing.
  • Lexi Novitske, the principal investment officer for Singularity Investments, manages the firm’s Africa portfolio. She’s a proponent of understanding local complexities, modifying Western business attitudes and working with companies to ensure desired results.
  • Marième Diop, an investor at Orange Digital Ventures Africa, focuses on early-stage African startups, and she’ll be talking all about venture capital.
  • Shikoh Gitau, the head of product at Safaricom’s Alpha incubator, will share her perspective on the talent and innovation within Africa’s expanding startup landscape. She’ll also talk about repatriating entrepreneurs.

Come and join us in Lagos on 11 December. Experience Startup Battlefield Africa 2018, engage in world-class networking and spend a full day celebrating the awesome talent of the region’s startup community. All you need to do is apply for your free ticket right here.

Loro’s mounted wheelchair assistant puts high tech to work for people with disabilities

A person with physical disabilities can’t interact with the world the same way as the able, but there’s no reason we can’t use tech to close that gap. Loro is a device that mounts to a wheelchair and offers its occupant the ability to see and interact with the people and things around them in powerful ways.

Loro’s camera and app work together to let the user see farther, read or translate writing, identify people, gesture with a laser pointer and more. They demonstrated their tech onstage today during Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin.

Invented by a team of mostly students who gathered at Harvard’s Innovation Lab, Loro began as a simple camera for disabled people to more easily view their surroundings.

“We started this project for our friend Steve,” said Loro co-founder and creative director, Johae Song. A designer like her and others in their friend group, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, a degenerative neural disease that paralyzes the muscles of the afflicted. “So we decided to come up with ideas of how to help people with mobility challenges.”

“We started with just the idea of a camera attached to the wheelchair, to give people a panoramic view so they can navigate easily,” explained co-founder David Hojah. “We developed from that idea after talking with mentors and experts; we did a lot of iterations, and came up with the idea to be smarter, and now it’s this platform that can do all these things.”

It’s not simple to design responsibly for a population like ALS sufferers and others with motor problems. The problems they may have in everyday life aren’t necessarily what one would think, nor are the solutions always obvious. So the Loro team determined to consult many sources and expend a great deal of time in simple observation.

“Very basic observation — just sit and watch,” Hojah said. “From that you can get ideas of what people need without even asking them specific questions.”

Others would voice specific concerns without suggesting solutions, such as a flashlight the user can direct through the camera interface.

“People didn’t say, ‘I want a flashlight,’ they said ‘I can’t get around in the dark.’ So we brainstormed and came up with the flashlight,” he said. An obvious solution in some ways, but only through observation and understanding can it be implemented well.

The focus is always on communication and independence, Song said, and users are the ones who determine what gets included.

“We brainstorm together and then go out and user test. We realize some features work, others don’t. We try to just let them play with it and see what features people use the most.”

There are assistive devices for motor-impaired people out there already, Song and Hojah acknowledged, but they’re generally expensive, unwieldy and poorly designed. Hojah’s background is in medical device design, so he knows of what he speaks.

Consequently, Loro has been designed to be as accessible as possible, with a tablet interface that can be navigated using gaze tracking (via a Tobii camera setup) or other inputs like joysticks and sip-and-puff tubes.

The camera can be directed to, for example, look behind the wheelchair so the user can safely back up. Or it can zoom in on a menu that’s difficult to see from the user’s perspective and read the items off. The laser pointer allows a user with no ability to point or gesture to signal in ways we take for granted, such as choosing a pastry from a case. Text to speech is built right in, so users don’t have to use a separate app to speak out loud.

The camera also tracks faces and can recognize them from a personal (though for now, cloud-hosted) database for people who need help tracking those with whom they interact. The best of us can lose a name or fail to place a face — honestly, I wouldn’t mind having a Loro on my shoulder during some of our events.

Right now the team is focused on finalizing the hardware; the app and capabilities are mostly finalized but the enclosure and so on need to be made production-ready. The company itself is very early-stage — they just incorporated a few months ago and worked with $100,000 in pre-seed funding to create the prototype. Next up is doing a seed round to get ready to manufacture.

“The whole team, we’re really passionate about empowering these people to be really independent, not just waiting for help from others,” Hojah said. Their driving force, he made clear, is compassion.


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Black Friday only: 2-for-1 Innovator passes to Disrupt Berlin 2018

We love a great deal almost as much as we love early-stage startups. So, we decided to combine both into an awesome Black Friday mashup for Disrupt Berlin 2018. Europe’s premier tech startup conference takes place next week on 29-30 November, and this is your chance to save some serious euros.

For the next 24 hours, you can buy two Innovator passes to Disrupt Berlin for the price of one — that’s €1,184, VAT included. The clock runs out on this Black Friday special at midnight, CET, so don’t wait. Buy your 2-4-1 Innovator passes now.

Innovator passes are perfect for software engineers, product managers, marketers, consultants and all-around tech enthusiasts. They grant you access to all the Disrupt stages where you’ll hear from tech titans, startup veterans, up-and-coming founders and innovative investors.

Don’t miss compelling topics from the likes of Raycho Raychev, EnduroSat’s CEO — he’ll discuss making satellites more affordable. And that’s just one example of our stellar speaker lineup. You’ll find the full Disrupt Berlin agenda here.

Use your 2-for-1 Innovator passes to go watch Startup Battlefield, where a cadre of exceptional founders will launch their early-stage startups to the world while competing for the legendary Disrupt Cup, $50,000 in non-equity cash, media exposure and life-changing investor love.

Since 2007, Startup Battlefield has helped launch 778 companies — including the likes of Mint, Dropbox and Yammer — that have gone on to collectively raise $8.5 billion and generated 105 exits. Be in the room to cheer on the next generation of Startup Battlefield warriors and, who knows, you might witness the birth of the next tech unicorn.

Innovator passes also open the door to Startup Alley — our famed exhibition hall — where you’ll find more than 400 early-stage startups plying innovative tech products, platforms and services.

When you’re in the Alley, be sure to visit our TC Top Picks. These exceptional startups represent exciting innovations in the following tech categories: AI/Machine Learning, Blockchain, CRM/Enterprise, E-commerce, Education, Fintech, Healthtech/Biotech, Hardware, Robotics, IoT, Mobility and Gaming.

You’ll find networking opportunities everywhere at Disrupt Berlin, so take advantage of CrunchMatch and save your shoe leather. Our free business match-matching platform makes quick work of connecting you with tech service providers, product managers, developers, marketers or engineers, founders or investors — the choice is yours. CrunchMatch is curated, automated and efficient, and it’s all based on the criteria you provide.

Disrupt Berlin 2018 takes place on 29-30 November, and this is your last chance to get two Innovator passes for the price of one. Our Black Friday mashup offer disappears at 12 midnight CET, so buy your discounted Innovator passes right now. We’ll see you next week in Berlin!

Only one week left until Disrupt Berlin 2018 begins

Heiliger Strohsack! Holy smokes — Disrupt Berlin 2018 kicks off in exactly one week! We’re beyond excited to welcome thousands of startup movers, shakers and makers to Europe’s premier tech startup conference.

We’ve packed a ton of top-notch programming into 29-30 November, and we can’t wait for you to arrive in Berlin and get the party started. And for any last-minute decision makers out there, we’ve got you covered. Pull the trigger and buy your pass today.

Here’s just some of the glorious startup action in store for you at Disrupt Berlin. For a pure adrenaline rush, you can’t beat Startup Battlefield, our renowned pitch competition. We’ve selected a cohort of exceptional early-stage startup founders to compete head-to-head for a shot at the coveted Disrupt Cup and a $50,000 non-equity cash prize. On top of that, all Battlefield competitors bask in a potentially life-changing spotlight of media and investor attention. Don’t miss your chance to be in the audience and see it all happen live and in person.

Let’s talk speakers and panels. The Disrupt Main Stage is home to some of the best minds in the startup, tech and investment worlds, and you’ll get to hear them share their entrepreneurial experiences, their insights and their take on critical issues facing the startup community. Be sure to check out the conference agenda here.

If you’re hungry for interactive discussions that delve deeper, you’ll want to attend our Q&A Sessions. These are smaller, more intimate panels moderated by a TechCrunch editor, and many Main Stage speakers will be on hand to answer questions from the audience. Get to the Sessions early to secure your seat, because we don’t record or live-stream these events. The only way to hear the discussions is to be in the room.

Of course, no trip to Disrupt is complete without spending time in Startup Alley, the expo floor, where you’ll find more than 400 early-stage startups showcasing the very latest in technology products, services and platforms. While you’re there, be sure to check out our TC Top Picks — a group of exceptional startups representing 12 tech categories.

No matter where you roam or who you want to meet, Disrupt Berlin is networking nirvana — a trove of opportunity. With thousands of attendees, we figured you could use some help connecting with the right people, so we’ve made CrunchMatch — our free business-networking service — available to all Disrupt Berlin attendees. Registered attendees will receive an email explaining how to access and use the service. It’ll help you find the right people quickly and efficiently. Networking made simple!

Only one week left until Disrupt Berlin 2018 rocks your startup world. If you don’t already have a pass, buy your ticket today. Heiliger Strohsack, people! Come to Berlin and connect with your community. Opportunity awaits!

Last Chance to get a table in Startup Alley at Disrupt Berlin

Going once, going twice for tables in Startup Alley! Disrupt Berlin is less than two weeks away, and registration is about to close for startups looking to showcase their product or company to thousands of people on the Disrupt floor. According to Crunchbase, startups that exhibited in Startup Alley at Disrupt Berlin 2017 raised more than $42 million in seed and Series A funding post-Disrupt.

For €895 + VAT, you’ll get one full day to exhibit in Startup Alley, two full conference Founder passes to Disrupt Berlin, admission to our After Party, and all women will get to attend the Women of Disrupt Lunch. Ready to join us? You can secure your exhibit spot here — last year we sold out of tables, so get yours before it’s gone.

Remember, being a part of Startup Alley means you’ll also get access to CrunchMatch, Disrupt’s startup and investor matching program. It’s designed to make it easy for startups to meet investors based on a curated analysis of which startups fit with a given investor’s profile.

Also, Startup Alley companies have the opportunity to be selected as a “Wild Card” and participate in the famous Startup Battlefield competition. The TechCrunch editors will pick one company out of Startup Alley to be part of this opportunity. At Disrupt NY 2017, RecordGram went from Startup Alley to the Battlefield stage and ended up winning the Startup Battlefield competition — and took home $50,000!

Over the course of the two-day conference, you’ll make tons of connections with other tech enthusiasts, and listen to panels covering topics ranging from artificial intelligence and machine learning to hardware — and more.

So, if your company is less than two years old and has less than $2.5 million of funding, Startup Alley is the place for you. Secure your table here!

Win a shot to compete in Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin 2018

Still crying in your Red Bull because you missed the deadline to compete in Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin 2018? Don’t despair. You have one more chance to step onto the Main Stage and go head-to-head against some of the best pre-series A startups across Europe.

How? Grab an exhibitor’s table in Startup Alley. Every exhibitor has a chance of being selected as a Wild Card winner. Who does the selecting, you ask? Our crack TechCrunch editorial team designates the Wild Card from among the hundreds of early-stage Startups in Startup Alley, and that one amazing exhibitor will compete for $50,000 cash, the Disrupt Cup and potentially life-changing investor and media attention.

No one says this will be a walk in the park, but the opportunity is very real. Just last year at Disrupt NY 2017, RecordGram decided to exhibit in Startup Alley. They were chosen as a Wild Card company and wound up winning the Startup Battlefield competition. What have you got to lose?

Whether or not you win the Wild Card, Startup Alley is a landscape full of opportunity. More than 2,500 attendees pass through the Alley, and it’s the perfect place to find your future customers, investors, partners, advisors, employees, marketers, media coverage — holy cats — the list is endless. You’ll find the names of companies exhibiting in Startup Alley here.

Here’s what two founders told us about their experience as Startup Alley exhibitors.

“We met so many people, I still can’t get over it. We got to demo our technology in front of hundreds of people. I’d say it was one of the coolest things we’ve ever done.” — Caleb John, CEO of Cedar Robotics.

“Startup Alley was full of all the people you could possibly hope to meet at a tech conference. They spanned diverse backgrounds and industries. We talked to people looking for partnerships, investments, new ideas, and collaboration.” — Vlad Larin, co-founder of Zeroqode.

And you’ll have access to CrunchMatch, our free business match-making service that makes networking easier than ever. Plus, you’ll enjoy a terrific lineup of speakers, panels, Q&A Sessions and workshops. Check the full agenda here.

Disrupt Berlin 2018 takes place on 29-30 November. We believe in second chances and wildcards. Sign up for an exhibitor’s table today, show the startup world exactly what makes your company Wild Card-worthy and take another swing at Startup Battlefield. We’ll look for you in Startup Alley!