Startup Founder Says Even Prep Work for Presenting To Kids at AlligatorZone Was Helpful

January 13, 2015

AlligatorZone, the free public program where kids meet cool startups held its 8th session in Tampa Bay last Saturday (January 10, 2015), the first in the year 2015.  We expect 2015 to be an interesting year for a few reasons.  The first ever AlligatorZone session was launched in June 2014.  We have learned a lot since that day.  After showcasing 24 startups to kids in Florida and Silicon Valley in 12 successful sessions of AlligatorZone (including one held in Miami in September 2013 but was not publicized at the request of an elementary school for whose students it was held as part of their field-trip), the program has been gaining a robust following with libraries in more and more communities eager to host AlligatorZone.  Soon to be added to this list, is an awesome library in the Greater Philadelphia area.  Stay tuned and watch for updates at

Meanwhile, let’s look for lessons learned at AlligatorZone in Tampa Bay last Saturday, in the form of this picture-essay.

We decided to keep most things consistent to allow AlligatorZone to bloom in Tampa Bay.  The one thing we are still keeping variable is the timing.  AlligatorZone in Tampa Bay was held at the Jan Kaminis Platt Library in South Tampa in their open space.


As you can see in the picture above, the library’s open space has cozy seats for children to gather around the startup founder who’s presenting.  The open nature of the space allows for curious patrons who are passersby to linger and stay if they find the proceedings interesting.  We haven’t seen anyone who stops by not grab a chair and stay to listen and, often to participate in the discussion.


Pictured above is a poster that we reuse.  It gets placed at the entrance to the library on the day of the event.  We are not sure if it serves any purpose because it’s hard to measure its effectiveness, especially when displayed prominently only on the day of the event.  In a library, there are several programs, so that is just the way it is.  At some point we hope to promote the program directly to parents of school-going children.


The first presenter was Mark Hembree, an experienced serial entrepreneur who sold two companies before starting Resell Solutions (check out


The early morning timings on a Saturday seemed to work well in summer when we first launched AlligatorZone, however, based on the slow warm-up of the audiences trickling in on a Saturday morning during the hectic school-year, and based on some informal polls of parents who signed up but still couldn’t make it, we will be trying out a different time of the day on a Saturday (for Tampa Bay) next month.

Mark said after the session that the prep work for AlligatorZone in itself was very helpful, however, we hope to bring him back in front of more kids during another session of AlligatorZone in a different location.

Here are some observations about showcasing business-to-business (B2B) products at AlligatorZone.  To keep the audience of kids engaged, even a B2B product is great, provided a working product is on display for the kids to see and grasp.  The other aspect that startup founders seem to struggle with is not knowing if or how much they should simplify their messaging for the young audience.  In our view, not much.  Avoid the jargon but keep things matter-of-fact.  Kids understand a lot about the world of technology and business, and constantly surprise us at AlligatorZone.  Verdafero was a utility-consumption dashboard for use by businesses, and kids still had great input and engagement with the product because the founder Dr. Alastair Hood showed the product to the kids even as he was explaining it.  As we mentioned in an earlier post, there’s no script when talking to kids, and no other way to learn other than to endure some time in the AlligatorZone and listen to the kids asking whatever is on their mind.


The second presenter Wayne Rasenen was introduced by a 5th grader in the audience.  Wayne is the founder of in10did (see and the inventor of the product.  Kids are kinethetic, as pointed out by a previous presenter.


It wasn’t until Wayne pulled out the latest version of his product that the kids got really interested.  We have seen this over and over again; slideshows with words do not go far at an AlligatorZone.


As always, the parents in the audience stay very engaged along with their kids, and that is one of the things that makes AlligatorZone such a heart-warming program — it is a family-event.  In the picture above, a dad also participated in the discussion with the startup founder.


Kids had many questions and suggestions on what they thought would make the product cooler.  We believe that it pays to listen to the kids who, as my friend Sean Murphy pointed out, are after all, digital natives.


As with every session of AlligatorZone, whether big or small, we find it turns out to be a wholesome community gathering of the like-minded …


… and people are rarely in a rush to leave.

Some of the lessons learned from this session of AlligatorZone include:

  • Pictures and Touch are better than Words on a Screen.  Discourage startup founders from bringing a slideshow that has words in it.  Only images, and actual product displays, because the library usually has free web connection.
  • Aim for a broader visibility through a wider promotional campaign.  Parents consider this program so valuable that they do not hesitate to drive 20 to 25 miles to bring their kids to an AlligatorZone on a Saturday.
  • Make AlligatorZone cool to attend.  This is perhaps the hardest to accomplish because to a large extent it entails shift in pop culture.  However, it is worth striving for.  For example, there’s no reason for Tampa Bay parents and kids to know more about Children’s Gasparilla than about AlligatorZone.  Maybe AlligatorZone ought to go through the AlligatorZone to learn from the kids about how to make itself better known among the parents, who after all, are the ones who drive the kids to the library.

We are indeed excited about the upcoming sessions of AlligatorZone.  A dedicated website is expected to be in place soon at, so that visitors who are keen on learning how to participate can have all the information in one place.

Hope to see you soon at another session of AlligatorZone.  Check out the running calendar at


For your reading and viewing pleasure, here are links to previous articles about AlligatorZone, some of which also contain embedded videos:

Follow AlligatorZone on twitter at  Join us for the next session of AlligatorZone.  A running schedule and reservations are at  AlligatorZone is one of several impact-programs being designed at SiliconGlades.  If you know of startups that would make for interesting presenters to an audience of kids, teens and families, please send your suggestion to events [at] siliconglades [dot] com.

This report was posted by a volunteer from SiliconGlades, an innovation firm that designs, among other things, hyperlocal social impact programs such as AlligatorZone.  In other words, SiliconGlades designs programs that bring communities together for a common uplifting purpose, right in your neighborhood.