Connecting Companies and Capital

Last week Innovation Breakfast and Mass Innovation Nights supported an event sponsored by IBM and Accounting Management Solutions, under the auspices of Boston Region Entrepreneurship Week (BREW).  More than 150 entrepreneurs and startups RSVPed for the free, all day event which featured presentations by a number of area VC and Angel VIPs,  entrepreneurs, and business plan experts, as well as an awesome panel on bootstrapping but we know the big draw was the promise of “speed dating” with potential investors.  At just five minutes, these sessions offered the chance to shake hands with a potential investor, give the elevator pitch and see if there was any connection at all.  It was left up to the angels and VCs to extend an invitation to a further discussion. 

After talking with hundreds of entrepreneurs, we know access to VCs and angels is top of their list.  And while many investors do an excellent job of making themselves available (can you say “office hours”?) it can be intimidating to march up to a potential investor and spit out “The Pitch”.  At Connecting Companies & Capital, we provided lots of networking opportunities beforehand and then, at the appointed hour revved everyone up and shoved them in a room.  Pitch or die.  Yes, it was mayhem and yes, it would have been nice to have 6 or 7 minutes or more but if I had a dime for every VC or angel who has told me they “know” a potential investment within seconds of speaking to someone, I wouldn’t need investors for my startup!

So, if you had five minutes with a potential investor, would you know what to do?  Five minutes isn’t very long but it can be plenty of time if you plan ahead.  Mass Innovation Nights provides featured entrepreneurs with 5 minutes to tell their story in front of the audience and we encourage people to:

  • Focus on the important stuff.  What makes what  you are doing unique and different?  Why are you going to win in the marketplace?  What problem are you solving?
  • Focus on a specific message.  What do you want your audience to do?
  • Sound like you have thought about your message previously and it isn’t the first time you are telling this story.  You want your audience to have confidence in you.
  • This is not the time to pull out your Powerpoint presentation and start to run through slides or a complex demonstration.
  • Be personable and warm.  Use your sunny personality and smile!
  • If you have a strong accent or a speech  impediment or speak softly or too quickly, find someone who can communicate clearly for you.

If you are speaking to an investor, add these tips:

  • Why are you looking for an investor?  Tell them.
  • What are you looking for?  (Yes, we know “funding” but if you can say, “I am looking for $x to fund x,y & z because it will bring me to market before anyone else so I can sew up this particular opportunity,” this is good.)

(Full disclosure:  Bobbie works part-time for Accounting Management Solutions and IBM has hosted Innovation Nights several times.  We consider Joe Perry and the rest of the crew at the IBM Innovation Center in Waltham to be “special friends of MIN”.)

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