Force of Good

Reflections on Venture Atlanta

Oct 19, 2012

So on Wednesday I wandered down to the big fish tank for Venture Atlanta. A fine event. One of the best of startup things a guy, or gal for that matter, can do. I was there as the non-paid entertainment, pitching Half Off Depot as we gear up for our Series B in 2013.

And I gotta tell you the truth it was a little surreal. I skipped Venture Atlanta in 2011 as I was running around the Southeast expanding our business. But before that from the year it was formed in 2007 through 2010 I attended the event for the lack of a better term, an observer. I was not pitching and I was not investing. I was coaching the companies that presented. It's a fun job if you can get it and it's always easy to be a critic.

And it started out the same way as it always had. At some point or another I had coached six of the first ten early stage companies to present. They did great.

But coaching and doing are two distinct things and I was slated as the second venture company to present right after my pal Braxton of Clearleap. I had not stage pitched my own company since 2005 and the last time I did something as big as this was when Venture Atlanta was known as ION and somehow I got elected to pitch CipherTrust. I got elected again. 

I was a little like the President the first time back in the bright lights and a room full of people. Rusty. It really sucks when you can not see how the people that you are speaking to are reacting. Instead of a confidence monitor with the slides they need a confidence monitor with a camera shot of the audience. Regardless I think I got my main points across. We are building a platform that enables local merchants to market online, we have a lots of revenue, we are making money, and with a little more capital we can sell more and make more money. Overall I gave my performance a B. There were better and there were worse. 

More reflections.

My friend Taryn of Synkup gets best of show (or at least best of Wednesday) from me. I don't know if she is going to raise any money but that girl can pitch.

The early stage folks seemed much better prepared than the venture companies. I ascribe this to them having more time on their hands.

Presenters wore jeans. We are learnin to relax a bit down here.

Venture Atlanta is a great forcing event. It forced me to create an executive summary. It forced me to create a pitch. It forced me to practice.

The networking time with the VCs was fantastic. Talking to them about our business was more practice. They asked great questions, some for which I had no answers (but I will get them), and I got an offer or two to help.

It was great to spend some time networking with folks that I had not seen in awhile.

Some of the folks that I had not seen in awhile (which is almost like two years) were in the exact same place with their startup as they were two years ago. If this is you stop.

There was one out of town investor that said "all the pitches sucked." Tool.

Sam Williams talks too much. He talks so much the mayor called him on it.

Not sure how many if any checks get written as a result of a conference like this. 

If you get a chance to present at something like this do it. It's worth it. And if you do it take the time to do it well.

Update:  I forgot one thing. The coach became the player. I benefited greatly from my coaching session. Great ideas for improvement from experienced entrepreneurs and investors that I tried to incorporate into my presentation and slides. You can always learn and should be willing to do so.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Half Off Depot, Networking, Presentations, Venture Capital
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