Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Now presenting

I am drowning in business plan bake-offs and investor presentations this week. BigBang! (UC Davis' business plan competition) executive summary review Monday, Golden Capital Network's West Coast VC Conference (44 cool companies; participated in two investor panels) Tuesday, UCD's Center for Entrepreneurship/Graduate School of Management's Business Development Clinic (seven presenting companies) tonight, a two-hour session with 17 Venture Island Chico contestants tomorrow eve, and Saturday morning with the Sacramento Entrepreneurship Academy (six teams pitching their companies to the board). Cool stuff.

With visions of PowerPoints dancing in my head, a few observations from the Golden Capital conference:

  • Lens: The venture-capital-or-bust mindset of many companies (and most all investors) is not healthy. If there's a there there (a business), the question should not be, Can I raise venture capital?, but instead, What's the most effective way to raise money to grow my business? Build the business and the money will come.
  • Fatheads: When you play golf or hoop with someone who's good, their game does the talking. IBID for investors; I had the pleasure of sitting on panels with private equity pros from Blumberg Capital, Khosla Ventures, and The Band of Angels, among others. Good, genuine folk sans an air of self importance. The reverse is true for fatheads: VCs who hoist their nose in the air and speak in non-deserving, demeaning, if you only knew what I know because I'm a VC and you're not tone. As my friend Anthony observed (of one such FH): He's proud of something.
  • Presentations: Too much info, too little time, too few stories. It's predictable. A few echoes:
    • I don't know if you can see the chart ... (if the audience can't see/read/absorb it, do not use it).
    • This slide is a bit confusing ... (abort the slide if it's apt to confuse).
    • Our projections are conservative ... (if so, what are your true assumptions?).
    • I won't even try to go through this ... (they why even try/show the slide?).
The most effective (and memorable) presentations were (are!) those that commenced with a handful of key points (say, three-to-five), transitioned into a story (ideally employing analogies, metaphors, parables, visual aides ... anything that helped the audience relate and remember), and then wrapped with the three-to-five key points. Such companies talked about the hole they are drilling, not the drill they're creating, and how and why it's a gotta have for customers.

A few of my favorites/companies to watch: Insera Therapeutics (a medical device to cure strokes), HauteSpot Networks (wireless broadband for secure video delivery), Zero Motorcycles (quiet, light, cool dirt bikes), Vitalea (micro-dosing in humans for clinical trials), Pediatric BioScience (diagnostics for autism in children), BazuMedia (mobile messaging for races and events; awesome), and Gydget (a cool social marketing platform; we voted it "best of show").

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