Friday, February 10, 2006

A day with the Venture Capital Investment Competition


I spent the day today at the University of Colorado participating in a unique and interesting program. The Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC). Imagine, a room full of about 40 MBA students and 5 or six local venture capitalists. Also in the room: CEO's from 5 local early stage companies looking for funding.

Each CEO gives their pitch, limited to 10 minutes. Wrap up, next CEO. Audience of said MBA students, VC's and fellow CEO's watching. OK.. interesting, cool even. Fun watching other CEO's pitches (it’s unusual for CEO's to do this together at a VC oriented event).

Next, the work. Break out the MBA students into teams of 5. 8 Teams total. Each team grills you like they were a VC to determine if you're someone they're 'fantasy' VC firm would invest in. Two minute break between each 15 minute session.

1 CEO, 1 or 2 VC's 'monitoring' on the sideline and 2 solid hours of grilling broken into 15 minute chunks with a new group every 15 minutes cycling through.

Pretty eye opening, actually. These are the future junior VC's we'll be dealing with 2, 3, 5 years from now.

Some where funny. Some where naive. Some where hard and nasty (well, they tried to be). Some were arrogant, Some got it and some didn't. Some were intensely intelligent. Some, not so much.

Kinda like dealing with VC's, actually. Under developed. Didn't really know the lingo yet, but pretty much the same general themes.

What's interesting is I could SEE the kind of VC each of these guys would make in the future if VC work is something they actually went into. You know how you can tell what the personality of a child is when they're very young? Even under a year old?

Same thing here. You could spot the ones who were going to be assholes in 5 seconds. And you could tell which ones would be insightful and fun partners who could also make the hard decisions when needed in the first 30 seconds.

In terms of what I learned, well, some, but nothing earth shaking. Mostly validation of things already known. I didn't get any laser like insights. All of them told me they 'loved' my business (but who knows... part of their job was to get me to like them and rate THEM highly).

Maybe they were practicing that time honored VC tradition of 'the slow no'. Heh.. yea.. some definitely where. “be nice to the little startup guy.. you never know”. Some honestly liked the business. And with some of them, the space (consumer software with a business and social network twist) obviously confused them.

I did learn that some of them actually found this blog (which as I've noted before, I'm pretty sure no one reads but me and a few close friends). That, actually, impressed me. I don't advertise or link to this blog from any of my company related sites. You have to dig a bit to find it.

A few even logged into ClickCaster, my startup company's site, and created podcasts. All who did (seemed) impressed that it actually worked as advertised.

Style varied widely. One group shook my hand, sat down and started pounding me on the financials. I damn near said something like "what.. no foreplay"?.

Another glad handed and joked around for the first few minutes, selling me on why they were a great group to work with, then pounded me on the financials (among other things) and got reasonably deep reasonably quickly but never intrusively so. (they got my #1 vote).

There was the early evening mixer with VC's, CEO's and student advisors from CU as well. Good folks. Colorado has some very together VC's. I have yet to meet one I didn't like (not something I can say for every VC I’ve met over the years).

I talked with the other 4 CEO's. Several of them agreed we need a 'startup CEO' regular get together in the Denver Metro area. Think I'll put that together in the next few weeks, see if we can get something interesting going.

Overall, any startup CEO that gets a chance to do this shouldn't hesitate. It's a very mental kind of event and you're likely to feel a little like you've been the ball in a pro tennis match by the end of the day, but it's fun and you're giving back to the universities that sponsor the event (and the students) in a way only you, as a real world startup CEO, can.

1 comment:

Helen said...

that sounds very cool.
I'd love to have been a fly on the wall... even though I don't see needing VC anytime soon. (Like any VC would want to fund another new yarn shop - HAH).

Ah well, just verifying that your friends read your blog. Do you read ours?

email me sometime.... hint hint...