This past week was the 5th annual 2011 New England Venture Summit. This event was New England’s largest VC summit and man do I wish I had a startup to pitch there. The Hilton hotel in Dedham was crawling with investors and entrepreneurs, and was one of the best networking events I’ve been to in recent memory. The wonderful people at Foley Hoag hooked me up with a free pass to attend, which was key given the $500 ticket price. Maybe $500 is a good deal for the target audience, but free is my kind of price.
Seeing real early-stage companies was an excellent opportunity to learn about the business process and even throw in my 2 cents. Everyone I met was easily approachable and truly interested in sharing ideas and seeing how we could help one another. It was a great feeling to be able to talk with company xyz about their business model and how they’re attracting investors to reach the next gate in growing their company. I could even look at the data on projected cash-flows and use that in conjunction with competitive analyses to analyze the potential. In my head I was saying things like, “Oh that’s interesting but I’d never invest,” or “wow this is going to make some people very rich,” or even “there’s too much risk involved,” to “I like the company and the technology but they need a marketing guy because what they have just isn’t working.” VCs do that everyday so it’s important to think like one if you want them on your side.
That being said, I imagine playing a venture capitalist is more fun with real money.
Some of my top takeaways I learned from the conference were:
- If your technology or company is million dollar grade, your presentation better be too or you’re wasting your time. Marketing is cheap but can make a world of difference.
- Don’t BS your cash-flows. Stand out with honesty and if you don’t know so, state so. People don’t invest because you wrote $ 100 Million in income 5 years from now in your business plan. They invest in you, your team, your idea/product and in your passion.
- Don’t spray and pray with business plans. Every VC group has a targeted portfolio so find ones that are interested in your industry and level of risk. Also find a way to make a warm-intro because they gets loads of unsolicited plans and that’s an unsound strategy. Also, if they give you 5-20 minutes to present your plan, take it and stop by the agreed time. If they like you- you’ll get all the time you need.
- If you expect an NDA to be signed, then you clearly don’t know the game.
- Money isn’t hard to find, good companies worth the risk are. If your attitude sucks it will effect your performance when soliciting investors. Stay positive and utilize your network. Linkedin anyone? If your idea is a good one then you will find investors who agree.