The name pretty much says it all. Tonight I attended a *phenomenal!* (yes, it was that great) workshop put on by RocketSpace* and Wharton over at RocketStudios in the San Francisco Financial District. *Disclaimer: I work for RocketSpace and love my job to death.
Although I’ll get to write about it for RocketSpace’s blog tomorrow, I’m slightly depressed that I won’t be able to churn out the lengthy but oh so comprehensive post you’re currently sinking your teeth into since, to put it bluntly, readers tend to be intimidated by long content (especially in blogs, which are traditionally more bite-size media.) I just received way too much wisdom and good advice to selfishly keep to myself tonight, so this is my very grateful and gleefully lenghty account of tonight’s Perfect Pitch Workshop.
RocketSpace CEO Duncan Logan led VC Alex Kr… (darn my terrible memory!) and Chris Redlitz, Founder of Transmedia Capital, first in a panel, then in giving feedback to the entrepreneurs who pitched tonight. Alex and Chris gave A LOT of very useful, insightful advice but I’ll do my best to control my enthusiasm and limit it to the most critical advice.
1.) Keep it simple. Something Chris and Alex came returning to is the need to explain in simple but compelling terms the need your startup addresses, how it goes about doing that, and why you’re so passionate about it. You need to identify a compelling need a significant number of people really want relief from (pretty self-explanatory), demonstrate clearly how exactly it is that your startup fixes this problem (read: your grandmother should be able to understand this, most VCs aren’t engineers or biochemists), and then convince the VC your passion for this issue will carry you through the ups and downs startups must weather on their way to success. Duncan very memorably reminisced about Uber’s stay at RocketSpace – one of the many reasons they’re inspiring is that it took them 10 years to get to where they are today, but they never gave up.
2.) Research, research, research! Not only do you need to understand the ins and outs of your market to convince a VC you know what you’re doing, you also need to research the VC and his or her firm before you go in. Know the startups in their portfolio. Have they invested in a similar startup in the past? Is this an industry they don’t typically invest in? And lastly, research your competition. EVERYONE, has some kind of competition, whether it’s direct or some kind of alternative. Knowing your competition is a learning opportunity – see what they do well and innovate what you can do better.
3.) Sell. Last but not least, you need to be able to sell yourself, and in later stage investments, your startup. In earlier stage investments, it can be tough to really know whether a startup will make it, especially since they often change so much before they officially make it, so it comes down to you as an entrepreneur. Are you committed? Can you listen to advice but also know which 20 – 30% actually makes sense for your startup? Will you persevere? Will you have the perspective necessary to reign your emotions in and pivot when necessary? The team is everything. There’s no way to tell where a startup will go from the initial idea, so you have to have faith in the people building it. Once you’re further along, it becomes a mix of selling yourself and also your knowledge of your industry (back to #2, research!)
I summarized and grouped a decent amount, but these little pearls of wisdom are worth sharing too:
- A rising tide helps all boats. In a good market, even an OK team has pretty good chances.
- Focus on partnerships; they’re a very effective way of getting exposure to many customers early on.
- Getting seed funding isn’t all that hard, getting customers and recruiting your team is the real challenge!
- You can get funding with no minimum viable product, just an idea!
- Don’t show up drunk. Surprisingly, this actually happens!
Last but not least, the startups that pitched tonight!
Doorman – you will never come home to a UPS sticker instead of a package ever again. With doorman, you can choose a 1-hour window during which your package will be delivered. Genius!
Scholate – Scholate puts research communications back in the hands of physicians and researchers (instead of publications.) Consume, create and curate relevant research content, and receive recognition from your peers.
Totspot – expectant mothers and elementary stage moms alike can now discover, shop and sell pre-loved items on Totspot. Extra perk? The social network aspect will keep you coming back for more!
That’s all for now! Cheers to generous people with great advice to share!