“For entrepreneurs who don’t pitch well — or who don’t fit investors’ mental image of a successful entrepreneur — Demo Days may hurt more than they help…The Demo Day format is not ideal for investors, either. If you’re picking who pitches best, not who runs the best business, you’re not getting the best results.”
Pitching onstage has been a mainstay of startup accelerators and demo days, but things are beginning to change as investors realize that great pitches are not precise signals of great businesses.
Studies have shown that demo day pitches often favor articulate, male, native English speaking, and sometimes hoodie-wearing entrepreneurs from California. Now, more sophisticated investors are casting the search wider and examining startups run by women, older founders, minorities, and yes, foreigners! Investors are using more definitive ways to identify the right entrepreneurs with the strongest likelihood of success.
The “mock board meeting” is a step in the right direction. Ross Baird of Village Capital writes about the road ahead in TechCrunch:
We learned the single activity that had the best results for entrepreneurs was building one-on-one relationships between entrepreneurs and investors.
So instead of “Demo Days,” we changed the signature activity at the end of programs to something we call “Investor Forums” in order to provide initial diligence for investors, help startups improve their business and provide an environment for investors and startups to get to know each other.
First, we invite investors to meet with each company in the cohort for 20 minutes and ask initial questions. Next, we host “mock board meetings” with investors and potential strategic partners, in which the entrepreneurs discuss and receive feedback on one strategic challenge. Finally, we host a dinner where the investors and entrepreneurs get to know each other better — a form of “soft” diligence.
This process is better for entrepreneurs, because it flips the power dynamic: Instead of standing onstage, racing through slides and being peppered with hardball questions, the entrepreneur and investor are sitting at the same table, the entrepreneur is leading the meeting and they are talking through the business as equals. And they get to show skills like critical thinking, relationship management and the ability to take and deliver on feedback: all more closely related to success than a slide deck.
Pitchcraft has always known that pitching is just a communication tool, a means to initiate conversations with investors. That’s why our coaching methods have focused on getting entrepreneurs past the pitch, onto more meaningful interactions, and away from the spectacle of the event. We look forward to adding in mock board meetings as well as other flight testing into our coaching services to help our clients succeed in fundraising.