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Earlier this week, I attended the VANJ Entrepreneurs Expo & Elevator Pitch Olympics, (VANJ stands for the Venture Association of NJ) primarily to explore paths for a current client. This was a healthy mix of education and marketing, from multiple perspectives including: business and entrepreneurship support entities and associations; professionals; consultants; investors; and early-stage startups and some ventures a bit futher along. Among the support entities was an alphabet soup of communities, associations, publishers, and institutions such as NJBIN (a network of 12 incubators), NJTC, NJEF, NJSBDC, NJBIZ, NJ Entrepreneur, FDU’s Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurship and NJIT’s Enterprise Development Center, and NJ Angels.net (among others). There was a helpful panel comprised of professionals and investors (both VC and angels) – each of which first provided an overview of their perspective on what they look for in a pitch and investment opportunity. They then judged the 20+ pitches which followed, judging them on pitch presentation and their sense of the fundability of each opportunity.
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I won’t go into the individual companies that presented, but their presentations each consisted of a brief (2 minutes), clear and concice explanation of what they do (in terms of the problem they seek to solve and how they solve it), the challenges they face and how they intend to overcome them, the success they’ve experienced thus far in a quantifiable form and where that is relative to the size of the opportunity, how much they need to get there, and how they intend to use the funds they seek in order to get there.
In addition to being informative, it was a good opportunity to self-assess in the terms that the other startups were looking to satisfy in their own presentations, and to exercise some proclivities – which for me, includes naming and word play… (I was, after all, sitting next to the person who came up with the name for Viagra!) The atmosphere certainly got the ideas flowing – yielding my own suggesting to VANJ president, Jay Trien, a phrase for describing their efforts: that “VANJ is doing a service by being an eVANJelist for business and entrepreneurship in the state”.