The Perfect Pitch

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!

DoormanDoorman – 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!

ScholateScholate – 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!

Visiting Barcelona, Part 2

Alex and I happened upon this church during our ride on the tour bus. Unfortunately, we don’t remember what the area was called! However, we did learn it’s famous for having the best sweets. I have to admit the slice of chocolate walnut cake I had there was delicious.

This dragon iron gate was designed by Gaudi if I remember correctly.
The Royal Palace.

Barcelona’s soccer stadium, Camp Nou.

Beautiful balconies.

This nice building was right next to (and may very well have been part of) a really cool university we found.

A university we found.

Isn’t its interior gorgeous? It had the look and feel of ancient architecture: stone, columns… and there was a park in the middle/in the back where I managed to find some cats!

The park inside the university had fountains, benches…

Easy and Simple Way to Get Financial Aid for College? Yes Please!!

The Alltuition stand at LAUNCH

I was psyched to discover Alltuition at LAUNCH. The girl who launched this is a genius! This app makes it easier for students and their parents to find money for college. Need? (One of the most important criteria necessary for a startup to be successful) Check!

Practical tools I actually WANT to use? Oh yeah! Check it out:

  1. Alltuition provides you with a “simple, intuitive online financial aid planner for managing the entire financial aid process.”
  2. It makes it so you don’t need to scavenge the web, magazines, university websites, etc. for information anymore. Alltuition doesn’t make you wade through endless amounts of information you don’t need. It simply finds and presents you with the opportunities that actually apply to you. Time saver!
  3. Alltuition also helps you estimate how much financial aid you’ll get at each university you apply for
  4. It helps you fill out your FAFSA and apply for grants and scholarships
  5. and double checks your work to make sure you don’t have any errors to slow down the process or keep you from getting the most financial aid possible

Sounds pretty good, right? I thought it was pure genius and am going to send my little brother the link =]

It was about time someone made this process simple and understandable!

SJSU Freshmen, take Sci 2!

The other day, one of my best friends’ little sister sent me a text asking about Science 2: Success in Science (Sci 2) so, being the undisputed authority on all things Sci 2, (HA! O=] ) I promised her I would write a post describing why she should take the class.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to remember how confused you were when you first went to university and tell the freshmen you know getting ready to attend San Jose State University (SJSU) to take Science 2, or at least read this post.

Here are only a few of the many reasons all incoming freshmen at SJSU should sign up for Sci 2:

I. It is chock full of resources! In this class, you will learn tons of things that will help you be successful at  SJSU (hence the name):

  1. Which offices and departments are in charge of what, including where to go for help depending on the sort of trouble you stumble into
  2. Where to find important documents and info on the SJSU website (not as easy as it sounds, trust me)
  3. Important rules and regulations most students don’t learn about until it’s too late
  4. A list of resources found on campus such as free tutoring and help with paper-writing
  5. The CSU formula used to calculate student GPA (useful in determining how much effort to put into which classes)
  6. Self-analysis regarding work and study type and relevant tips (for maximum efficiency so you have more time to spend enjoying university life)

II. Science 2 is a great class to meet other freshmen and make friends in. With both a lecture and an activity section, you have 100+ potential new friends in this class alone. Coincidentally, this is where I met some of my best friends =]

My 2 best friends from my time working as a PA

III. Each activity section has a Peer Advisor (PA). This is an older student who has already taken and done well in Sci 2. Each PA is assigned to a class s/he co-teaches, grades assignments for, and meets with each student one-on-one every week to evaluate individual student progress and help with any problems before they spiral out of control. I like to think that we’re very helpful and great role models, but that’s up to you to judge for yourselves.

IV. It’s a great work opportunity: if you do well in the class you can apply to be come a PA. PAs do a lot of work attending their class section, grading assignments and meeting with students every week, but it’s generally under 20 hours a week, pays better than most jobs on campus, and is very rewarding. I really loved getting to know the students in my section, helping them become more familiar with SJSU, and seeing how much more confident I’ve helped them become at the end of the semester. Other PAs and I have become friends with many of our students and still keep in touch with them. It’s really a great job for anyone who is organized, sociable, and enjoys mentoring.

So there you have it folks! This is one of the best classes I have taken in university. It should really be called success at SJSU rather than success in science since it’s so helpful for freshman of all majors, and enrollment is not limited to science majors. It’s a little more work than most freshman classes, but it saved me from spending endless hours looking for information, gave me the tools and knowledge to stay out of trouble, and helped me graduate on time (I’m sure my parents appreciate the savings!)

So do your friends and relatives coming to SJSU a favor, tell them to sign up for Sci 2 (or Sci 90T for transfer students.)

*** Wanna get ahead of the curve? Check out my Job Search Toolbox for tips to set yourself up with a job by the time you graduate! ***