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Kai Ryssdal: For anybody who’s ever thought they could come up with the next Yahoo or Google, that was the easy part. All you need to do now is come up with a couple of million dollars.
Enter The Hatchery. It’s a monthly money event in New York City that matches dot-com dreamers with venture capitalists. There’s one tonight featuring a panel of female VC’s and some other experts. The catch is, would-be entrepreneurs only have five minutes to seal the deal.
Sally Herships stopped by the most recent Hatchery event to talk about about the art of the pitch.
Sally Herships: I’m here at Columbia University’s Business School where Gigapixel, a Web development company, is matchmaking people with good business ideas and no money with venture capitalists who can write out a million-dollar check on the spot.
But presenters only have five minutes to pitch. Ever sine the Internet bubble burst in 2000, venture capital speed-dating has gotten tough.
Josh: I don’t like hearing you say that, you know, when you’ve just barely . . .
Andrea: What I’m not really seeing here is something particularly clever or unique. . .
But how do you get someone to pull out their checkbook?
Josh Grottstein: Tell me about the market. What is your unique solution and why should I believe that you’re uniquely capable of doing this?
Venture capitalist Josh Grottstein sees as many as 1,000 plans a year, but only ends up funding five or six.
VCs have a one-track mind. What they want to hear isn’t so much about the product, it’s about how to get around the obstacles, marketing, competition.
Grottstein: One of the biggest concerns you have is when someone says there is no competition, or we’re not worried about the competition. Because that tends to signal that they’re not that savvy in terms of starting a business.
Yidrienne Lai gives big money to companies in later stages of development. She says an experienced management team is key.
Yidrienne Lai: You know you’d much rather invest in an A+ management team with a B business then something the other way round. You know, sort of an A business with a B+ management team.
Even if you have the dream team and the dream five-minute pitch, what are your chances of getting a check?
Jason Olim: No chance.
Jason Olim is an early Internet entrepreneur who’s been on both sides of the pitch.
Olim: Probably takes 60 to 90 days before a company gets bankrolled. But that five-minute pitch is . . . can be how the introduction is made in the first place.
And that introduction is critical. Because after the bubble burst in the ’90s, venture capital investment went from a hundred billion a year to a fraction of that. It’s slowly coming back. The National Association of Venture Capitalists says last year VCs gave $26 billion to young companies. That’s almost half as much as Bill Gates is worth.
Olim: It’s definitely getting easier now.
But to the person pitching, that’s not how it feels.
Seth Gilmore: I definitely don’t think that timer was five minutes though. I think it was much shorter then that, because I timed myself in the bathroom and it was always like four minutes and 30 seconds.
Times up! I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.
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