Raising Capital: How To Prepare The Perfect Pitch

I’ve sat on both sides of the table countless times in the fundraising process. I’ve seen some great pitches and I’ve seen some terrible ones. My highlight was doing a pitch to a venture firm in Steve Jobs old boardroom in Cupertino. One thing is constant in the world of pitching – everyone has an opinion on what makes the perfect pitch.

The guys at Incubate are hard at work preparing for their Demo Day later this month and my recommendation to them and to anyone else getting ready to pitch is to watch this video by Nathan Gold. He walks through a solid, yet simple deck of slides and gives great advice on how to pitch as well:

 

 

Here is the deck of slides Nathan refers to:

 

 

Incubate: Driving Campus-wide Entrepreneurship

I’ve been advising the Student Union at The University of Sydney on the setup of Incubate, a campus-wide startup development program. This initiative is designed to assist students get their ventures off the ground and will commence over the summer.

The launch event for Incubate is taking place at 5h30pm on the 20th September  in the foyer of the New Law Building on the Darlington campus. I’ll be chairing a panel on the innovation shift from Silicon Valley to other global centres. Panelists include Matt Barrie (Freelancer), Nikki Durkin (99dresses) and Matt Byrne (Curicon).

Come on over – it will be a fun event.

Silicon Valley Beckons, But (Some) Aussies Prefer A Blended Approach

One of the most balanced articles I’ve read on the “should I stay, should I go – to Silicon Valley” debate was published today in Business Review Weekly.

Well done Jess Gardner – solid research.

This part of her article resonates most for me and it’s solid Cannon-Brookes advice:

Atlassian’s path shows it is possible to build a successful global operation from scratch in Australia but Cannon-Brookes says the company has also benefited from a blended approach. He has spent about two years in total, out of the past six, at Atlassian’s San Francisco digs (the company also has an office in The Netherlands and developers in Poland).

“I would definitely tell them [start-up founders] to spend time in the US,” he says. “It doesn’t need to be a pitchforks at 20 paces kind of a thing. We definitely gain as entrepreneurs, as a business, a tonne from having spent a lot of time there .?.?. I’ve learned a lot but that doesn’t mean that I don’t bring those learnings back and apply them down here and vice versa.”

Entrepreneurs: Be inspired, travel and do great things!

His point is that in the early stages, entrepreneurs shouldn’t regard the decision as a prerequisite step on the start-up path.

ASIC Pours Cold Water On Crowdfunding

Australia faces a particularly acute dilemma. Entrepreneurial fervour is at its zenith. However, sources of funding for such activities remain in short supply.

In other parts of the world, solutions are being found. Crowdfunding is performing a critical role in democratising funding for interesting, creative products that may have had difficulty getting off the ground through more traditional forms of financing such as bank loans, angels or venture capital. The United States is embracing this by passing legislation to empower such activities.

But in Australia what do the regulators do? They issue a warning that crowdfunding could lead to fines and jail time?

Brilliant marketing move! If crowdfunding wasn’t already on every Australia entrepreneur’s mind before, it sure is now.

Social Business School: Harvard Points The Way

Social business, the birth of a new industry? I called it in September 2009 and since then social business has risen like a star. Sure, it has a long way to go before it becomes pervasive, but watching Harvard Business School transform itself into a Social Business School is surely a major milestone on the industry’s journey.

If you’ve read my submission to the Australian Federal Government on Entrepreneurism and Venture Capital, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of immersion-style, experiential learning. One of my key tenets is to call for the establishment of a Conservatorium of Entrepreneurship. Harvard is already moving down this path, as this article in Fast Company highlights. Well worth a read.

WeTeachMe: A Case Study In Pure Unadulterated Hustle

I often, make that very often, get approached by startup founders. I can divide them into two camps. Those who are true entrepreneurs and intuitively know how to hustle and those who are wannabe entrepreneurs.
The first camp understand that they have limited resources and find a way to routinely make things happen somehow, on the smell of an oily rag, or by pulling the proverbial rabbit out of the hat. These kinds of true entrepreneur I am always happy to hunker down with and find ways to work with them.
The other camp are usually stuck on a bitch train about how hard it is to get funding, how but for the fact that they haven’t got any capital they are going to grow this killer business. They then look at me dolefully expecting a handout. The conversation usually stops right there.
I want to illustrate what I mean by profiling a group of startup founders who are truly showing entrepreneurial gutspa and an ability to hustle themselves to success.
Exactly twelve months ago, WeTeachMe, a marketplace for real life classes, came out of Australia’s first Launch48 event.
Now a noted graduate of the Launch48 program, WeTeachMe’s quick rise from unknown to one of Australia’s most written about startups in 2011 is an interesting tale in the art of hustling by its four founders; Martin Kemka, Demi Markogiannaki, Cheng Zhu and Kym Huynh.
How WeTeachMe is generating seed capital for their startup
WeTeachMe contacted me after pulling off a sold-out event called Melbourne Startup and Business Speed Teaching.
The team, in between giving away new iPad 3s and Apple TVs (obtained through sponsorships), sold enough tickets to generate enough seed capital to keep their startup alive.
Here’s how one of the founders Kym Huynh describes it:

The entire team lived off our savings and maxed out our credit cards until we realized that our strong networks in Australia could be monetized in a big way. By taking advantage of the exploding startup scene in Australia, the hunger for startup education, and the increasing desire for a more connected startup community, the team organized a startup and business education event that doubled as a valuable networking opportunity for not only startups in Melbourne, but also startup-centric institutions that wanted to connect with each other.

 

Through key sponsorships with Optus, Ninefold, esc and York Butter Factory, WeTeachMe created an event that was not only a valuable marketing catalyst for itself, its sponsors and visitors, but also a way to net WeTeachMe the funds to keep them alive.
With demand now for the same event in multiple cities, WeTeachMe is working on systemizing its event-management operations to generate a constant flow of capital whilst it works on building up it’s platform of knowledge-transfer.
Lessons learned
According to Martin Kemka, one of the most valuable lessons learned was always be daring enough to go for the pure unadulterated hustle.
It’s one thing to say, “Where there is a will, there is a way,” but another thing to go out there and put it into practice. The team didn’t want to be another startup that complains about how difficult it is to raise capital. We wanted to take matters into our own hands and do something about it. The need to stay alive was also very motivating.
According to Demi Markogiannaki:
We’re a strong team, and not only do we know what we have been capable of doing in the past, we know what we can do in the future, and to what extent we are willing to go to make things happen.
I love their story and look forward to bringing you more of their tales of entrepreneurial hustle!

The Science of Startups and the Symbiosis between Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital

It’s been a really interesting week in Sydney. On Friday afternoon the latest cohort of Startmate startups strutted their stuff in a demo day to a capacity crowd at DLA Piper’s offices in the city.

Yesterday, Eric Ries spoke to another, much larger, audience on his Lean Startup theories. The auditorium at the Australian Technology Park hasn’t buzzed like that since the heady days of 1999!

Eric’s thesis that we should be measuring and managing startups in a much more sophisticated way totally resonates with me. I have been calling for a science of startups for a while now and in fact included this as one of my main points in a submission I put forward to the Australian Federal Government earlier this week. They had put out an Issues Paper calling for submissions (I understand this was targeted at certain people and organisations) on the state of entrepreneurship and venture capital in the country.

My submission (you can read the entire thing here) spoke to the establishment of an Australian Centre for Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital (ACEVC). This Centre will include an Entrepreneurship Conservatory that is focused on developing a results-based set of training programs for upskilling entrepreneurs using a real time, interactive pedagogy that will form the basis for a ‘science of startups’.

I also call for a VC College that can provide real life experiential training on the job for successive generations of Australian venture capitalists – an initiative designed to build up a true venture capital industry.

I believe that ACEVC is transportable to many other geographies so for all metarand readers from other parts of the world than Australia: feel free to adopt these ideas for your own country.

Besides Eric’s push for lean startups another great evangelist for the science of startups is Steve Blank with his recently released book, The Startup Owner’s Manual. I highly recommend both books for entrepreneurs.

Should/when ACEVC gets up and running, it will draw heavily on the the great work Eric and Steve have done so far to codify the science of startups.