If you're a new founder or trying a new approach to your pitch, pitch events are a great opportunity to practice. The best way to get familiar with the startup ecosystem is to attend or participate in a pitch event. PitchForce events and Founders Space Demo Days are good entry points to startup-land. It's good to see how people pitch and they types of questions judges ask.
For founders and startups with a more developed idea, only in a rare case should you actually pitch. It's most often a waste of time. Updating an old pitch to a new audience can be time consuming and you have to remain at the event for the entire time. Pitch events are usually lengthy and you have a business to build!
Attending pitch events can be a good use of a founders' time if you attend a pitch event with a plan.
Research the VCs or angels who are listed as judges to see if it would be connect with any of them. Target one or two people at the event. As a female founder, I always make a point to meet any woman angel or VC in the room. When I'm researching other VCs, I take it as a bad sign if there is zero diversity except for the executive assistant.
My strategy is to know what they look like and say hello before the main event of the evening. If you wait until after the event, there will likely be a line to talk with them. I've been successful connecting with people after the event when I'm the first one to move. It's like rushing the stage, but it works. Make your interaction as sort as possible.
Keep it quick
Peak their interest so they give you their card, then get out. My interaction is one sentence why you think they would be interested , then a 2 sentence elevator pitch, then suggest a short call the following week to continue the conversation. Take their card. Here is an example of an exchange:
Elena: "Hi Ann, I'm Elena Lucas and I'm co-founder and CEO of UtilityAPI."
Ann: <she has some response> "oh they're just great, aren't they. It's great to see how their portfolio is developing." <Usually it culminates in:> " What is UtilityAPI? " or "What are you working on"
Elena: "We're a universal API for energy data. We get data out of utilities for solar and storage companies like SolarCity and Tesla. We're the Twilio for energy data. We have paying customers and we've grown from a team of 2 to 11 this year."
Ann : <she says something.> "Are you working with so-and-so?" <She could say that it's interesting or she's not too familiar with the space, but she's like to learn more about the industry. >
Elena: "I'd love to continue the conversation. How about a short call or coffee next week? Do you have a card so I can follow up?"
When I'm researching people, there is usually one investment in their portfolio which makes me think that they might be interested in my startup.
Follow up with them afterword since they'll be busy at the event. My emails look like this:
Subject: Following up for X event, UtilityAPI
"It was great to meet you at X event. How about a short call early next week? I've attached our executive summary so you have more context about where we are and where we're going. "
Other power-networking tips
Meet the organizers of the event and let them know what you're working on, then ask if there is anyone specifically who you should meet.
Do not spend too much time with any one person at an event. Get their contact info and follow up with them later if you like them, but while you're there, ask them if there is anyone else in the room who you should meet. The point of attending the event is meeting and getting contact info for as many people as you can, and filtering them out. It's much better to get 1 good person vs 5 mediocre ones. :)
If the event is long, only attend the networking portion at the beginning or end. Talks and content can be found online.
When to pitch
I'm pitching Nov 10th at an event for a couple of reasons
What's not on my list of reasons: winning the money.
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Stay in touch. I send out an email once in awhile.