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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Boston Business Planning & Pitching Workshop

Workshop #2 for the Boston SLP fellows was this past Saturday, January 29. We were lucky to have a dedicated cohort led by Matt Volpi put together this fantastic day on Business Plans & Pitching.

After a quick breakfast and some catching up, we quickly launched into startup pitches to a diverse panel with a current VC, a former VC, and Angel, and an entrepreneur. Our panel was:
The three fellows did an amazing job and you could tell they were well practiced. Without calling out specific fellows, there were some recurring themes in the pitches that the panel kept calling out. The most interesting commentary was about the performance aspect of the pitches. It is something we probably don't think about enough, but you have to remember that you need to connect with the VC, look the in the eye, engage them, and never forget that you are selling. The slides should only reinforce what you are saying. Some other key themes:
  • When you are asked a question, answer it. Do not beat around the bush or add flowery language. Just answer it.
  • Don't add too many words to your pitch deck. Use imagery to illustrate your presentation. Keep the details in the appendix.
  • It is critically important to have a very clear financial slide. It doesn't need to be extremely detailed, it just needs to give the VC's a sense of the economics of your business.
  • For software, if you are showing user numbers, it is very important that you show user retention and activity, not just user counts.
  • Don't take too long to get to the "what our company does" part of your pitch. Hopefully, you will do this in the first 2 minutes.
After the pitch feedback session, the panel opened up for questions. Most of the questions & answers elaborated on their feedback during the sessions, but there were a couple of funny parts. Every VC had a story about their worst pitch they have ever seen, and most of them involved a VC sleeping during the pitch or an argument breaking out in the meeting. Note to self: do not fight with a VC. Not a good thing to do!

After a quick lunch and some more networking, we had an open pitch session where any fellow could pitch a portion of their pitch deck and get feedback. It seemed like we all fell into the same pitfalls as many of the comments were similar to the morning sessions. One area we dug into was competitors. It is critically important to have a clear competition slide and to pick one main competitor. Any more than that and they can think you are unfocused.

To round out the day, Sri Krishnamurthy led a business canvas exercise. Many of the fellows hadn't seen this format before and it seemed to be helpful to them. It allows for an entrepreneur to break down their business model into digestible parts so they can clearly and concisely articulate their revenue opportunities and costs of doing business.

After the all-day session, some of the fellows went out for a few "adult beverages" across the street to wind down. All in all, it was a great session with practical advice from all.

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