Last month, the Atlanta CEO council announced a call for companies to apply to their annual ION Venture Forum. My colleague, Lance Weatherby, provided a great overview here. Lance was a past participant in ION and is a good reference point.
Unlike Lance, I have never presented at ION. I have, however, coached numerous participants and attended past events as an investor. For investors, ION is a no-brainer. Where else can you see a slew of pre-screened deals and network with potential syndicate partners all interested in investing in Georgia-based companies. The whole process is very effortless. Register on the web, book a flight, and attend.
For presenting companies, however, successful leveraging of these events requires a bit more effort. If you decided to apply to ION, which I highly encourage, here are three things you can do to maximize your Company’s participation: be real, be prepared, and be good.
Approach these forums with realistic expectations. No one is going to write you a check minutes after your presentation. However, you may receive requests for more information or a follow up meeting. These forums are excellent vehicles to hone your pitch, meet key influencers and establish a dialogue with potential investors.
Have some objectives in mind. Are there specific partners at specific funds that you want to meet? For ION, you can look at their list of previous attendees and presenters and reasonably determine which funds will probably attend. Do some research on these funds. This knowledge will come in handy during the forum’s networking events. Needless to say (but I will say it anyway) if your presence at the forum is limited to 15 minutes before and after your formal presentation, you are really missing the boat! Lastly, anticipate questions that you will receive and, more importantly, practice the answers.
You will never get a second chance to make a first impression. After all of your preparation, be ready to dazzle any would be investor with a crisp forum presentation. Typically, you will have an opportunity to pitch your Company to a roomful of investors in a very compressed timeframe of 5-10 minutes. Many presenters struggle with these constraints. Do not try to chop your standard investor presentation into the allowed timeframe. This is a sure recipe for disaster!
Start with a clean sheet and make sure that you really nail your Company’s value proposition within the first 60-90 seconds of your presentation. Also, please remember that you will probably present to hundreds of people and the chances that anyone at the back of the room can (or wants to) read a screenshot of an excel spreadsheet is fairly low. Here are some resources on ATDC’s ERC to assist:
Good luck and start working on your ION applications.