Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pitching a Fit

Today, the F50 held a pitch fest for their first season of firms (http://f50.io/) at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.  The founders of 25 companies presented their business ideas to over 200 investors along with a large room full of interested business founders and ecosystem participants (e.g. consultants, attorneys, and press).  F50 identified these firms as some of the “most fundable start-ups” and then matched them with investor mentors to help them raise capital.  Thus, it is no surprise that many of these firms have revenues and some have angel or VC funding already.  Many have been through Y-Combinator or (and) 500 StartUps Accelerator. Many founders are serial entrepreneurs.  This is not the typical start-up crowd.  They are experienced, savvy and ready to take on the world. 

“The best of the best of the best, Sir.”

It was a really interesting pitch fest with a wide range of ideas.  Some good, some excellent, some just plain bad. 

Almost all of them had something to do with the internet.  If the firm wasn’t completely contained on the internet then they relied heavily on it for reaching customers.  Seven were “platforms”.  Seven were market places (think ebay).  Eight were social such as dating, networking, or photo sharing.  (There is some overlap in these categories.) Other start-ups ideas included on advertising, gaming, and sensors.

What not to do while pitching:

Oh yes – it is back - the list of what not to wear (see previous post).  This time I have included what not to do based on what I saw here and comments that I heard.  I got to sit up front with the investors and VIPs and listen to their comments.  It was hilarious. 

#1 – Don’t dress like a slob.  Seriously.
Holy Guacamole!!
For the love of ironing boards everywhere – get one.  Half of the presenters were dressed like “slobs”.  (Direct quote – I can’t make this stuff up.)  One VC said that he was so distracted by the presenter’s horrible clothes that he completely missed what the company did.  Face it, the dress down look is so 2001.  Actually, if you want to stand out, dress well. All of the investors dressed professionally.  If that is who you are targeting, take note. 

Rule of thumb – First Date Attire or Better.  Dress as least as well as you would on a first date.  That is what this is, your first date with someone with whom you will have a long intimate relationship – if it goes well.  Dirty athletic shoes do not impress.

And do us all a favor – take a shower and shave.

One of these things is not like the other...

#2 – Don’t wait until minute 3 out of 4 to tell us what the firm does. 
We really don’t care if the firm has backing if we don’t know what your product or service is.  Same goes for your pedigree.  Give me a clue of what you’re doing before telling me that you are from Ivy League University. 

#3 – Don’t take your phone.
You think that I am joking.  Nope.  It was probably to help keep time, but boy did it look bad.  How long have I been talking?  Wait, let me look at my phone.  Oh, and Mom called.  (By the way, there is someone in the front row with 1 minute and 30 second left signs.)

#4 – Don’t be mysterious about how you will use the money.
Far too few of the presenters discussed what they would do with an investment.  Just because the firm has traction doesn’t mean that you know how to scale.  For all we know, you will spend all of the next round of funding on t-shirts for marketing.

#5 – Don’t read the slides.
Many venues have the technology that displays your slides in front of you in addition to the larger screen for the audience in back of you.  Unfortunately, some presenters now think that just because the display is in front of them, they can read it like a teleprompter.  Not so much.  And the audience might not know that there is a display on the floor in front of the presenter, so it just looks like he or she is staring at the ground. 

#6 – Don’t go over the time limit.
This is really difficult since the time is so very short.  However, you don’t want to be the one where the organizer walks on stage to usher you off.  The audience understands that you don’t have much time.  The audience is also watching another two dozen presenters (or so).  Don’t be rude.  Share the podium. Play nice. 

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