Advice from the Experts on How to Pitch Your Startup to Investors

Startups got the opportunity to pitch their companies in front of esteemed investors and influencers from all over the world at Metabridge, a tech conference held in BC June 9 and 10.

The annual conference for Canadian startups is hosted by Accelerate Okanagan, an accelerator and resource hub for the tech industry. Several hundred people attended Metabridge 2016, which featured the Top 15 startup pitches, panels from venture capitalists, and informative keynotes. By the end of the first day, anyone who has launched, or is in the process of launching, a tech company came away with some amazing insight about growing his or her business.

For a startup, pitching your company before a crowded theatre is never easy, but doing so when the audience is comprised of potential investors multiplies the intensity factor substantially. And this year, the startups faced an even bigger challenge with a panel of judges who were more blunt and honest than ever.

Which is not to say that their advice was not helpful; judges Paul Singh (Results Junkies), Tim Eades (vArmour), Jennifer Warawa (Sage) and Marcus Daniels (Highline.vc) provided excellent—albeit very candid—feedback that will go a long way in helping the startups with future pitches. Any startup wondering how to pitch and how not to pitch would have found almost everything they needed to know just by watching and learning.

There was also much to learn from the three venture capital panels that took place. Some of the top VCs from around the world provided insightful views about what it takes to impress them, and they shared many of their stories, from horror to fairytale, about the companies they’ve worked with. One very important piece of advice for Canadian startups that came up is that getting an investor is truly an international thing: a company doesn’t need to focus on Silicon Valley for VC investment.

“If you have a good quality company and pitch, you can get investors from anywhere,” said Tom Williams, Operator in Chief at BettterCompany.

Other prevalent takeaways from the VC panel:

• Don’t be too quick to hand over the reigns of your company to a VC.

• Learn how to lead the meeting when you pitch to a VC.

• VCs will often know within minutes if they like the entrepreneur.

• When pitching, concentrate on the emotional and not the intellectual.

It was clear that if there is one thing that startups need to focus on when looking for an investor is to concentrate on building relationships. While they didn’t agree on everything, all the VCs who spoke felt that a good relationship is the most important part of the startup/VC connection.

“In the early stage, it doesn’t matter about the data and the product, it’s about relationships,” said Lee Jacobs, partner at Angellist.

Joanne Yuan, Associate Partner for Cowboy Ventures, sees conferences like Metabridge as an important way for startups to start forming those relationships.

“This environment creates a lot of serendipitous moments,” she said. “Get to know each other as people. As you surround yourself with great people your chances of succeeding increase.”

Vancouver-based company RentMoola, a service that allows customers to pay rent by debit card, credit card or online, was the big winner of the pitch competition.

Metabridge will return to Kelowna next June.

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