6 Takeaways From Recent Venture Capital Conference

By Jonathan McFadden
The Charlotte Observer.

Startup founders know it takes money — and lots of it — to launch their next big idea.

That’s why they look to connect with wealthy venture capitalists willing to invest in their businesses, in exchange for getting a return on that investment once the business skyrockets.

With this hope in mind, 30 companies pitched their ventures to more than 600 venture capitalists, angel investors and tech talent scouts last week in Charlotte at the Southeast Venture Conference, the largest assembly of entrepreneurs and top-tier investors in the region.

Here are six takeaways from the conference for startup founders:

1. Don’t be mysterious about money: Dazzling PowerPoint presentations and props aside, the best pitches included a key piece of information: how many dollars founders needed for their ventures. Jeff Jenkins, co-founder of Atlanta-based TeamWorks, an automated fundraising service for high schools and sports teams, told a roomful of investors his firm needed $1 million in capital this year to enhance its products. After the conference, co-founder Jeff Glover said the firm is in ongoing discussions with at least six investors they met in Charlotte.

2. Keep listeners entertained: Let’s be honest, some pitches can be dry. To keep the audience engaged, presenters in Charlotte used props, stories and fire (yes, fire) to make their presentations pop. Such was the case for Vojta Ciml, who founded SlidesLive, a digital storage service for video and audio presentations, conferences, and lectures. To illustrate his argument that world leaders’ speeches should be protected in an electronic archive, Ciml set a piece of paper on fire. And @SlidesLive guy just lit a fire. I picked the right presentation room @SE_Venture #SEVC15 pic.twitter.com/h1iD3IWo7X –Jonathan McFadden (@JmcfaddenObsBiz) April 1, 2015

3. Know the investor’s back story. Apparently, investors don’t like an uninformed pitcher. A private meeting with a venture capitalist isn’t the time to ask questions about the kind of investments they’ve made in the past, according to Joshua Siegel, general partner of Rubicon Venture Capital, a venture capital firm with offices in New York and San Francisco.
“Be honest about the data and understand the background of the investor,” added Lylan Masterman, a principal at New York-based White Star Capital. “Approach the right people.” What impresses you about an #entrepreneur?Honesty, so don’t spin the data, understand background of VC firm #SEVC15 @SE_Venture
–QueenCity FinTech (@QCFinTech) April 1, 2015

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