Earlier this week, I attended the Southeast Venture Conference in Charlotte, NC. I was actually going to support a fellow startup-accelerator company, BountyMiner, and their solo-attendee/presenter, Nina, in her first big investor pitch for $20k at the Charlotte Venture Challenge. I had no idea that the challenge was actually a part of the venture conference and that I’d find myself in a room of hundreds of investors, professional service providers, entrepreneurs, and graduates of some of the nations top universities including Harvard, Stanford, and Yale to name a few. I also didn’t realize that I’d be 1 out of approximately 20 female participants (that I could count) out of the hundreds of other conference attendees.
Anyways, Nina got stuck in traffic so I was left to wander the conference until my job as supporting role started. Somehow, the conference got the name of my business, Non-Scents, and printed it on my name badge for all to see. I didn’t think much about it to be honest (I didn’t get breakfast and I was just starting on my first cup of coffee) until a gentleman asked me, “What is Non-Scents”. Of course I jumped into my whole spiel about our origami flowers and the issue in restricted hospital units, and so on and so forth. Where most people usually just smile and nod afterwards, this man kept at it with questions about our production process, revenue model, plans to scale, marketing strategies, and just about anything else you can think of. As the questions came to a close, he asked, “Are you looking to raise money”.
I couldn’t believe it. I had just rambled on like I was talking to just anyone off the street and there in front of me was “one of those” big investors you always talk about or read about in school when studying entrepreneurship. All the time and planning I put in to the perfect pitch with all the numbers and statistics were nowhere to be found in my mind. So you’d think train wreck, right? Wrong.
I may not have had the polished pitch that covered all my bases but I had my pitch that I give to my friends, colleagues, and new business aquaintences. And you know what, the investor liked me. Of course he gave me a good list of homework to do before I decide to go out seeking financing from investors but he liked and respected me.
In a meeting with David Jones from investment group, Bull City Ventures, he told us what he wanted the biggest take-away to be: investors invest in people more than ideas.
So my takeaways from this encounter are:
- Always be prepared to pitch
- Know your numbers and statistics down cold
- Be yourself and don’t be afraid to show an investor the real you.
Now, it was also a pitch competition so, although I lost my notes to the cleaning people at the hotel bathroom, here are ten of the questions that the investors were asking the pitching companies:
- Do you have any intellectual property? Is your system/solution/product protected?
- What is your revenue model?
- Who are your competitors?
- Can you tell us in detail how you reached your financial projections?
- If you have licensed materials, when does that license run out?
- How do you plan to “get the word out”, a.k.a. market your product/service to the masses?
- Have you done any market testing?
- Will your tech. work everywhere?
- What is your total attainable market (TAM)? How did you arrive at this number?
- What is your ask? (what are you asking for from the investors/audience)