The confetti has been swept away. The champagne bottles collect dust in the recycling bin. The resounding trumpets have quieted. And the enthusiastic, cheering crowds have now, respectively, gone back home.
I spoke with Toby Rush, EyeVerify CEO, after his return trip back to Kansas City from his wild, momentous ride which began at the Kauffman Foundation on Monday, November 18 and concluded with his winning Get in The Ring: The Investment Battle in Rotterdam last Friday. His total winnings from Global Entrepreneurship Week: $10,000, a $1,000 Apple Card c/o of national event sponsor Sprint Corp., two (GITR) Belts, a trip to the Netherlands, International Recognition and a chance to secure $1.4 million from potential investors.
He has barely had a minute to breathe, as his company EyeVerify-a biometrics company founded in January 2012 that replaces your passwords with eye print verification through your smartphone camera to identify you by matching the blood vessels of the whites of your eyes through patterns, has been swept up in a fervor of non-stop publicity and media-attention–both at home and internationally, since winning the final competition.
Denise Myers, EyeVerify Director of Marketing, doesn’t appear surprised by all the attention they have received in the last week. “The pain of passwords is universal and our product delivers quite a punch in that we are secure and convenient”, she said. “Our scalability and IP protection both resonated well.”
Rush said the experience of representing the U.S. for the pitch contest overseas was exhilarating, and the atmosphere was a fun place that gave them (EyeVerify) great visibility. “There is no other competition like it,” he said. “It was the Olympics for Start-Ups.” Rush repackaged his pitch and focused on every detail of his every word-sentence of the content for presentation. He had the luxury of a different format as well. “They gave us a 45 second opening this time, so I was able to ease into my intro differently,” he said. His pitch finished with a 25 second closing explaining why EyeVerify is a Start-Up worthy of investing in. He won through a 600-person audience made up of investors and entrepreneurs.
The world stage for the final competition had a more high-tech focus in nature and transcended more ‘cool and edginess’, according to Rush, than the National Competition at Kauffman, which featured such competing start-ups as Drazil Tea for kids. “Europe tends to be far less aggressive towards investing in younger companies than the U.S.,” he said. “They [The U.S.] have more of an appetite in new companies with only a few years of funding.”
Rush and Myers clarified the misconception that his Start-Up had received $1.4million in investments, when it is the opportunity to put your name out there to receive up to that amount from from potential investors. “A number of investors have stepped forward after the competition,” Myers said. “However, the arrangements are still being worked out.”
Their strategy going forward hasn’t changed, according to Rush. “We are going to continue staying focused, drumming up customer interest and putting the word out.” And Myers backed him up by confirming plans to commercialize in the first quarter of 2014. “We’ve also had some great word of mouth, so we hope that this keeps up next year”, she said. (This isn’t something I, personally, think EyeVerify will be fretting about anytime soon thanks to the international accolades, and welcome reception nationally and at home here in KC. And they already offer their software to banks and various financial institutions).
EyeVerify credits their home (headquartered) in the Start-Up Village for honing their success. (Rush, also, noted he enjoyed the tailgate/rally the KCSV hosted in the Kauffman parking lot prior to his National Competition on the 18th). “The intermingling, pushing, competitiveness, helping and support bring an environment to the local entrepreneurial ecosystem like nowhere else,” he said. “[The Village] is a big encouragement on the rollercoaster to starting a Start-Up.”
Myers agreed. “We are fortunate to be part of such an entrepreneurial community that truly supports each other,” she said. “We, obviously, believe we have a great product and are very excited about EyeVerify, but I don’t think we were aware of how many people were there supporting us.” They were moved by the outpouring of Facebook posts, Linkedin messages and tweets. “It was awe inspiring, yet humbling,” she said.
Now, Toby Rush will hopefully squeeze in a little family time, turkey, pie and a catnap this Thursday, before continuing to dive back into the accelerating momentum EyeVerify has achieved the past few weeks. He’s earned it.