Every conference having anything to do with entrepreneurship and venture capital has the obligatory “pitching & fundraising” panel. I’ve been on enough of them to have a sense of how disappointing they can be for the audience. Experienced folks hear the same old cliches with a slight twist based on the current environment. Newbies find what they hear random and mostly inapplicable to their attempts to raise money. So it may be a little surprising that when the organizers of the MIT Emerging Technologies Conference asked me to moderate just that type of panel I was excited to do it. The reason is that we’ll try to talk about pitching and fundraising in a different way. This post explains how and why.
First the details.
- The event: Tue-Thu next week (September 22-24) @ MIT. This is part of the Lab to Market workshop.
- The time: Tue @ 3:45pm at the Kresge Auditorium
- The panelists:
- The details: follow @simeons and you’ll know
The secret to why we’ll do things differently lies in data. I asked the conference organizers to survey the audience about the types of financing they were interested in.
- A whopping 55% want to know about very early stage, non-VC financing (bootstrapping, customer-financing, pre-seed, seed, angel)
- Only 18% (1/3) were interested in early stage financing from traditional VCs (top-tier and smaller funds)
- 10% are looking to Uncle Sam for money
- The rest want to know about follow-on financings and M&A
At previous events, when I’ve asked about the split between VC and non-VC early stage financing the interest has been about evenly split. Here it’s 1 : 3. Is it just the MIT audience? I doubt it. More likely, the change is due to a big shift in the nature of startup creation as a result of the drop in the cost of building and distributing high-tech products and services. This is especially true of Web and cloud-based businesses but is also affecting life sciences and cleantech. (For more on that, stop by the panel I’m doing on cloud computing on Tuesday, the MTLC Innovation unConference on October 1st and by the Democratization of Innovation conversation Ray Kurzweil and I will have at the MIT Enterprise Forum on October 14.)
It’s a good time to have a conversation about what’s the right funding path for companies and the value-add of various investor types. The dialog has been heating up. The NVCA recently made some outlandish claims about the economic impact of VCs. TechCrunch responded with a guest post from Vivek Wadhwa. The summary is “when things go well, VCs take too much credit.” My two cents are that if VCs are guilty of claiming or receiving too much credit when things go well, they certainly get too much blame when things go poorly. And I certainly think it’s foolish to only blame VCs for investing too much money in companies. It takes two to tango. In the background there is the “the venture capital industry is broken” refrain delivered by groups with alternative investment models and Bill Gurley’s data-driven commentary (the strong will get stronger, the weak will find something else to do). All in all, a great setup for a no holds barred discussion about fundraising.
I recruited the panelists with the audience’s interests in mind. They have all been successful entrepreneurs. They all are or have been investors and they all know early stage well.
Come armed with hard questions and help make this a great event.