RVC Colorado Capital Conference Recap

I was asked to sit on the panel for a couple of sessions at the Colorado Capital Conference this past Thursday. Our task was to review six companies that we knew nothing about based on their 10 minute investor pitches. One was PositiveWare which I have discussed before. I found a couple of the other companies to be somewhat interesting and I hope to blog about them soon as well. Most of the pitches were well rehearsed but of course some exhibited the common mistakes I’ve now seen too many times such as:

  • Not telling the investor what’s in it for them (ROI, time frame, comps, etc).
  • Jumping into the solution before describing the problem.
  • Not sizing the market or the opportunity presented.
  • Focusing too much on the product specifics and not enough on the deal.

Of course the goal of these things is simply to excite the potential investor enough to get a chance to say more. I have frequently been asked about the perfect pitch (in fact, right after the second session I was asked that by an attendee – great question!). I usually describe a 9 slide pitch when asked that question, but since reading Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 approach to a perfect pitch I have now added a tenth slide which is to ask for an investment. It might surprise you to know that many entrepreneurs never ask for the investment. I figure that if you can’t do that, you don’t understand how to sell yourself, your product, or your company.

The highlight of the conference for me was listening to the lunch keynote by Reid Hoffman (CEO of LinkedIn). Reid prefaced his whole speech by stating that he comes out of the consumer internet space and so this is his real expertise. I love learning about that space so I was more excited than the VC (who shall remain nameless) sitting next to me who fell asleep in his chair during the speech.

I thought Reid was uber-cool, but then again I’m a geek too. LinkedIn is by no means a first act – Reid has been involved with some pretty successful companies such as Paypal, Friendster and Flickr. He didn’t use any slides and honestly it didn’t feel like he had prepared for more than 10 minutes. Reid talked about what he viewed as the 5 deadly sins of startups and the 5 principals of successful startups. One thing I really liked was his inclusion of “luck” as one of the factors contributing to his past success. You always know you’re talking to an experienced entrepreneur when you hear them talk about how they were helped out by luck time and again. This is because good entrepreneurs are often humble, credit everyone around them but themselves, and aren’t driven by the need to take personal credit for how smart they are all the time.

I wasn’t able to stay for the afternoon sessions as I was leaving for Amsterdam the next morning*. If you attended, leave a comment about the afternoon if you found any of the sessions particularly worthwhile.

* By the way, if anybody can recommend a good offline blogging tool please shout. I’m writing this on the plane in Word, and there has to be a better way.

file under: Blog, Startups