How To Run A Successful Tech Start-up/Networking Pitch Event

After 10 years of attending events by Gold Coast Venture Capital, the EDC, The Funding Post, MIT, eMerge Americas, SFIMA, SFTA, New Tech Community, Miami Innovation Fund and probably 5 or 6 other groups in South Florida, I decided we would run our own tech pitch event here at @dsxlabs in The Greenhouse in Boca Raton.   We ran the first event on Wednesday, October 15th. I heard it was a great success from the attendees.  We are running a follow up event on Wednesday, November 19th at 6pm at The Greenhouse.  To learn more click here.

Would I Pitch?

I am definitely not new at giving pitches to raise capital myself.  I have proven to be quite average.  But I keep on trying.  I have given about 4 pitches this year alone for my own start-up.  What I was trying to do with this event is to make sure the attendees get what they need from the event, the best I could help them.

More About Pitches

I am trying to classify these pitch events in his blog article. I attended 2 events this year.  They are good at what they do and really serve the venture and angel community and not the entrepreneur community well.

Most of these funding events are centered around a successful entrepreneur, an Angel Investor speaking or a Venture Capitalist speaking or a panel or a combination of both.  And typically 75% of the event revolves around these speakers and panels.  These types of events are good.  I have been to quite a few and learned a bunch of stuff.   Some allow for pitches after the event, some don’t.  Some charge, some don’t. They are all different.

Problem for all the entrepreneurs with these typical events is they don’t really get the exposure they need and usually there is not enough time at the end for the entrepreneur to make the contacts with potential investors that is needed. What people don’t understand is trust is probably the number one issue when investors look at tech start=ups.  Will this tech start-up survive and can this guy, gal do the job?

What Is A Tech Start-up Pitch?

By pitch, I mean a person gets up and sells their concept to a crowd, which could have a bunch of investors, angels, etc.  So we have established pitching for seed capital, for instance, requires getting up and saying what you do, the market, how you are going to market, how much capital you need, etc.

What Is The Difference Between Pitch Types?

There are 3 types of pitches.

A Pitch Deck Pitch

There is the old standard Pitch Deck presentation.  It would typically be a 10-30 page powerpoint presentation.  There are a few alternatives out there like Prezi and Google Presentations.  At this time I would highly recommend against both those alternatives.  Prezi is a terrific app, but it is a bit of black hole in terms of your time and it can be distracting to viewers if not done well.  Google presentations may have gotten better but last time I tried it, it was just useless.  Plus you need a screen and hardware to run a pitch deck presentation.  This is an old school way of pitching now.

A 3 Minute Elevator Pitch.

In 3 minutes you need to cover 5 core areas for most investors to peak their interest.  They are what is it?  what’s your business model? what is your market size? how you get to market?  and what do you need and why are you pitching?  Not easy to cover in 180 seconds.  That is the pitch I prefer though for investors to get a sense of what you do and your capability to explain it.

A 1 Minute Pitch

I did one of these at a recent event in Miami.  For about 50% of the people pitching it just turns into a disaster.  At the event I attended where I pitched 2 entrepreneurs never got past saying hello. They were totally not where they should have been at the 30 seconds/half time. It is virtually impossible to get  your points across in this manner, so I don’t recommend running a 1 minute pitch.  It is a waste of time.

My Philosophy

We are focused on running events which help entrepreneurs, by giving them time to pitch and giving them the time they need to network with potential investors, advisors, co-founders, tech partners, business partners and other resources.  So, we spend a little bit of time on letting companies pitch, have no or little speaking (that’s what other events do) and we let people mingle using CEO Space techniques.

So, when are we doing the next one.

We just announced our 2nd tech start-up pitch event and networking on Wednesday, November 19th at The Greenhouse run by @DSXLabs and The BRIC (Boca Raton Innovation Center). I am starting to search for the 10 companies that will pitch.  At the first event about 1/3 got their pitch on track.  2/3 were lost.  A few did not use our format to answer those specific questions or got nervous.  It truly is nerve-racking to get up in front of an audience, especially your peers.  So I understand the nerves.  That is why I recommend to people pitching to have a piece of paper in front of them that keeps them on track if they lose their mind when they talk in public, like me!

If you are interested in attending or pitching at our next event then keep an eye on both our EventBrite and Meetup Group.  The best thing for you to do is join our Meetup Group, see below:

We also have a separate EventBrite listing:


Don’t Be Ordinary

As one friend of mine goes back to work after a year or two of being officially unemployed, I offered some words of wisdom, “Don’t Be Ordinary”.    You can take this to mean many things, because it is a general statement about our condition in life.   You can just do things “the company” way and churn out what is expected of you, or… you can show that you have ideas, that you can communicate and this means you have more to offer and are wanted by the organization.  We need to show our value more and more, and communicating that value is critical.  And there are people who like to be ordinary.  That’s fine. I don’t.  But that’s me.  But my reference to Don’t Be Ordinary refers to how others view us. My specific advise to an employee going back to work means don’t be the person you were (if it was an issue) when you last worked.  Be a different person, one who is not looked upon as average.

How to be different?

First off there are a tons of ways to be different and less ordinary in our work.  There are many ways to start changing.  One is to learn to be a better presenter.  The info is out there to learn.  I personally love Diane Duarte and have read her book Slide:ology and a new one Resonate.  And there is You Got To Believed To Be Heard by Decker.  My answer is, if you were laid off from a job  and told you were not very important or added much to the organization, then change that.  Learn to be a great presenter, and each time you are given a chance to communicate, be extraordinary.   You can improve your slides, your speaking habits, your dress, your weight, your hygiene, your whatever.  We can improve and yes, the little details matter when it comes to being different.

College Rules

I always felt that the whole underlying purpose  of college and high school education was to teach us to succeed at following the rules. I quite frankly struggled at this concept.  I was constantly looking for ways to be different, and was not interested in competing to be best, but rather competing to be different.  Instead of following the rules exactly, I would always try to find ways around the rules.  In fact, I took as many classes where you got your education in the field.  In both high school and college I was an intern or worked in the field in politics.  I worked on a bunch of political campaigns in high school and eventually worked for Bill Bradley as an intern for college credits.  I wrote papers for 6 credits, to not be in class, in both my undergrad and graduate school.  I even took a 9 credit summer class where we watched movies all day long and wrote criticisms.   To me that was a lot better than studying.

When Different Is Not A Good Thing

My friend Scott, who is no longer with us, was a case of person who was different, but not always in a good way.  He could not focus at work, he had trouble completing tasks.  He was generally a problem.  I know, he worked for me.  If you can get up and give an amazing presentations and solve problems and be viewed as a person who thinks differently terrific.  But there is a fine line.  There are people who are non-conformists, and can not follow any rules.  These people should know who they are and where the boundaries exist for them.  It is almost like they consistently make bad decisions and don’t know when to stop at a red line and don’t know when to start moving when the green light changes.  That person, yes they are different, but not extraordinary.  But that person can easily transform from odd and different to extraordinary, by doing the things in life they are good at.  Not everybody is good at a day job…  We need to understand our limitations.

Conclusion On How To Be Extraordinary

While working 9 to 5 in an office makes us money (if we have to do it), we are not living in a totalitarian society where we have to do things by the book.   And yes, I’ve been at over 20 years of jobs where we had to do what we are told and do it by the book, so I know that some things you can’t change in life…  But there is no reason why we can’t improve ourselves, read up on giving better presentations, speak better, communicate better.  You are often pigeon-holed by organizations as you work your way up the ladder.  This can be good or bad.  My early career I was known as the Garbage Man, because you could throw any task at me and I would get it done.  I had to.  That was my mantra back then.  But as time went on I learned more about communicating, I realized that you need to differentiate yourself to succeed.  And quite often this is not easy to do, since my technical jobs required little or no need to be different, in fact, I just had to meet the rules all the time.  But as I have been breaking out of my technology back-ground and into marketing, branding, speaking, selling, managing, create product, raising capital, I have concluded that I need to be a better communicator.  Presentations skills is the first place to start.