Event: Angel & VC Pitching at WeWork
Date: Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Venue: WeWork Cambridge
Host: Boston Startupalooza
Sponsors: McCarter & English
Organizer: Alan Brody
Igor Belagorudsky, Private Investor
Justin Homes, Animal Ventures
Amar Hirani, Ben Jen Holdings
Ben Jen, Private Investor
Jeremy Mays, Transmyt Marketing
Laurie Stach, LaunchX
How I learned about Startupalooza Pitch Night?
For the last 2 weeks, I've been working at WeWork Cambridge office, and like any co-working space, wework sponsors events for members and for the local startup ecosystem.
If you're new to my blog, then I will share that I have a method of finding events, connecting with key players, and attending events at a discounted rate (since I'm a blogger), or for free (I won tickets see Blockchain World Conference), or just attending at a regular price.
Also, every week I go on meetup.com, evenbrite, and Facebook to see what types of events, from tech/startups, fitness, and community, that I should attend.
I learned about Startupalooza on meetup.com and on the weekly "what's happening" emails from wework. On meetup.com this event cost 35USD for non-nomembers, but it was free for wework members!
However, I wanted to connect with the organizer so I asked the wework event coordinator to connect me and make an introduction.
This is key, to building relationships, as people are more open and reluctant to talk with you via an introduction, and with an introduction doors open.
Though the original plan was to only blog about the pitch night, and the organizer was more interested in me pitching my startup.
So I agreed to pitch and blog.
So there was about 6 startups, including Yummy Blair, that pitched that night. Which was interesting, because there were 6 judges!
The startups that pitched:
Biolabs: Founder Yixiao Jiang
"Like what Apple did for computers in the 80s, we want to empower people with personal biolabs"
PinOn: Peter Wolfinger
PinOn allows your customers to view an enhanced menus on their mobile phones. PinOn can help you boost sales by offering Menu+ and Augmented Reality.
Debbit, CEO Vinko Buble
Debbit is a peer to peer payment solution for instant group purchase splitting. before paying for any shared purchase, Debbit allows friends to connect their accounts and pay for the purhcase together, straight from their debit or credit cards.
ThoughtMetric, Mike Signorella
ThoughtMetric is a social media monitoring platform built for digital marketing agencies. We provide analytics and reporting and companies social media presence.
Yummy Blair Cosmetics, Blair Cadet
Yummy Blair is a BeautyTech startup based in Bangkok, Thailand that matches people living in SE Asia to quality natural and organic hair products that meets their hair care needs.
Life Insurance Startup,
Helps make it easier for people to buy life insurance.
My thoughts about the pitches
I've been to many pitch nights, but as a blogger or an audience member.
That night I was now going as a startup who would be judge by investors and people that were unfamiliar with my brand and story.
So, I was happy to see that there was a small audience, the other founders were looking at their pitch decks, audience members were looking at their phones or casually talking.
So what was I doing?
Well, before the event I was practicing my pitch, and looking over my "Asia specific" pitch deck that very few people beside my team and friends have seen.
I say Asia specific because it had my Yummy Blair sticker character, and in the U.S. or Europe, those that are familiar with "cuteness" as a brand, might find my pitch deck strange.
So before I spoke, I told the judges and the audience to be prepared of "cuteness" think of Hello Kitty!
Initially, I was nervous, but once I started, I got into my "teacher mode" because my experience asn as an English taught me that people have short attention spans, I need to be entertaining, and make the content easy to understand.
So the pitches I saw prior to my presentation, were of nice pitch decks, solid numbers and quality pictures, graphs, and information.
What most, if not all the pitches were missing was: energy, salesmanship, and excitement about their startup!
Pitching Yummy Blair Cosmetics
It was my first time pitching.
And if it was solely based on presentation, attention, and uniqueness of my brand, I would have won.
I had everyone's attention, my cute Yummy Blair stickers and the story of going from unhealthy hair to beautiful hair, to building her startup was unique and memorable.
However, I wasn't prepared for one of the most important key aspects of a pitch:
number of sales.
I did have the numbers for how big is the global organic cosmetic market, how big it's in ASEAN, but I didn't have the numbers, off the top of my head of how many products I've sold, or how much in USD in profits.
Is that silly? How could I miss this?
Well, I'm new in Boston, and people don't know my brand, blog, and most importantly what it takes to build a business in SE Asia as a foreigner.
So when judges asked me specifics about how many of my shampoo bars I sold?
How much money in USD (not that much compared to THB), I stumbled and came off defensive.
I tried to provide context given my "low sales" explaining that I control my whole supply chain, I make everything from scratch, I've built the necessary relationship to get my startup where it is today, that even people with money cannot buy, etc.
And, the judges were sympathetic but wanted numbers.
And I simply didn't have concrete numbers, or profits that made my startup appear as scalable or as a business.
So when I shared I sold about 200 bars (without sharing how many fresh products I sold), they immediately changed their perspective.
How can I say I have a business with selling so little?
And that's when I realized I'm in a "chicken and egg" bind:
For me to scale, I need to have the capital to register my business, get FDA approval, and a warehouse to store my products.
I want to scale and sell more products, but I don't have the money.
So what does a founder like me do, who is in a regulated industry?
What will I do?
I've learned to asked for help and advice from successful peers and friends.
What friends who are themselves foreign founders in Asia or studied business have advised me to do is use my own money to get past this stage of my entrepreneurial journey.
Simply put: work in the corporate world, save money, and use that money to invest in your business.
Or, I will have to give up 20-50% of my startup at this stage, but in the long term this will hurt me, because if I am able to successfully scale and get a valuation of, let's say $1 billion, I will have lost, because I had to give up a chunk of my business to raise $10K.
Better to use my own money!
So friends and readers, I will get a proper corporate job and work to save up money to build the necessary capital.
Will it take me longer to build my startup, yes!
But that's not a bad thing, I'm in this for the long-run :)
As always, thank you for reading!
Event: The Fourth Annual Women In Investing Summit
Date: Thursday, November 29,2018
Venue: Harvard Business School (HBS)
Host: a Student Club at Harvard Business School
Kristin Mugford, Faculty Advisor,
Hortenese Badarani, Conference Chair & Co-Chair
Caitlin Riederer, Conference Co-Chair & Co-President
Kate Mitchell, Co-founder & Partner, Scale Venture Partners
Tom Lister, Co-Managing Partner, Permira
Panel Session Discussions:
Private Equity Panel
Venture Capital & Growth Equity Panel
Public Investing Panel
Improving Gender Diversity in Investing Panel
Event Metrics: about 100 attendees
Harvard MBA students, Harvard MBA alumni,
professionals, and business owners
How I Learned about Women In Investing Summit at Harvard Business School?
I'm new to Boston, despite growing up and attending university in Massachusetts, Boston was a city that I only went to for theatre, ballet, site seeing, and meeting friends from the Boston suburbs.
Now, as an entrepreneur, like any city I've travelled to over the last 4 years, I have a game plan when it comes to exploring, meeting new people, and finding opportunities.
The last two American cities I explored as an entrepreneur were NYC ('2017), and San Francisco (2016), both with unique startup ecosystems.
My strategy for finding events, is looking on eventbrite, meetup.com, and Facebook.
And when I attend events, I connect with organizers who know about other fun events that aren't always publicly advertised or well-known outside certain circles.
This strategy has worked very well for me, when I was in South Korea in March/April this year, to explore the startup and K-beauty scene (see Startup Weekend Seoul Women)
So, coming to Boston, went on eventbrite and found the 4th Annual Women In Investing Summit. And was so happy to see that is was free (some of these events can get pricey), and was a summit, thus enough time to network and talk with attendees.
Why I Attended the Summit :)
I'm on a mission to secure my first series A seed fund ($100K to be exact), and I want to learn more about the mindset of people in the finance world (the background of many Angel and VC's).
And from my experience in Bangkok and securing pre-seed funding, I've learned there is a very different mindset of "finance people" even when they become entrepreneurs.
Even further there there is a disconnect how investors think, communicate, dress, and expect entrepreneurs to build and scale a startup,
in comparison to how entrepreneurs think, communicate, dress, and expect to build and scale their startup.
My Experience: Part I
Earlier in the day I was at wework on Massachusetts Ave., so I walked HBS, which took about 20 minutes in the cold, and wore my personal brand look: under amour, hair in a bun, sparkly hair ban.
Now, I expected that people would dress business casual (which was the dress code), however, I attended as an entrepreneur, so I stood out, I think in a good way :)
About all the attendees were dressed business casual/posh (also, most people were quite good looking, male and female), most of the attendees were MBA students, alumni, and a few professionals.
About 95% of the audience were women, of all types of backgrounds: Asian, Middle East, South American, African, and Caucasian American women.
So there was good representation, and a good turn out as the room for the panel discussions were nearly full.
The first talk, was by the keynote speaker Kate Mitchell, co-founder & partner at Scale Venture Partners.
Hearing her story, and building a career in finance and tech, I almost forgot where I was.
I say this, because I forgot that I was sitting in the most exclusive and competitive business in the world. So of course her education starting at Stanford University,
which people humorously referred to as "the other school," I was happy to get a solid start on understanding finance people and leaders in the VC world.
In her presentation she shared her story of how she got into Venture Capital in the early days, before it was called Venture Capital,
how women today can build their careers in finance, risks she wished she took, how companies want to/need to have more "women of color" and "minorities,"
and she talked about understanding the mindset of an entrepreneur today.
Then there were questions.
I was the first to ask a question, and I enthusiastically introduced myself as an entrepreneur, based in SE Asia, with a BeautyTech startup, and specifically asked:
"How can entrepreneurs pitch to VC's?"
Before she answered my question, she thanked me for attending as an entrepreneur, as her talk mostly directed to MBA students,
then she explained how VC's think, what they are looking for, and how to pitch my idea to them.
Afterwards there were 3 more questions, and a break.
Venture Capital and Growth Equity Panel
Jessie Cai, Vice President at General Atlantic
Lisa Cuesta, Principal at Nextgen Venture Partners
Payal Agarwal Divarkan, Principal at .406 Partners
Lily Lyman, Principal at Underscore VC
Sophia Popova, Vice President at Summit Partners
Sarra Zayani, Investor at Greycroft
This panel discussion was very insightful, as each of the guest spoke about finding a job after completing their MBA at Harvard, or "the other school,"
talked about how important it is to build professional relationships and getting mentors/sponsors to climb from associate, to principal, to partner,
how to know what field in finance they want to work in: private equity, venture capital, investment banking, etc.,
how to build soft and hard skills that they aren't necessarily taught in business school,
how to work with entrepreneurs and how selective VC and investing is when they narrow down which companies and startups they will invest in
how to measure success when starting your career in private equity and venture capital, and emphasized that the key is to look at the long term view of one's track recording picking successful companies,
and discussed balancing personal life and career (two panelists were married and mothers).
Overall, this panel discussion I began to understand how "finance people" think, operate, analyze success and failure, and most importantly how they work with entrepreneurs.
However, when it came to questions, I was quite unsatisfied (I could have worded my question better, to be honest)
If any of their firms invested in Asia, and how can entrepreneurs and investors see "eye to eye" when it comes to scaling the startup, especially in a region that the investor may be unfamiliar with?
Again, should've phrased my question better, but after the talk, I reflected how the best way for me to get a Series A investment will take more than research.
It's really about building a relationship with an Angel or VC, because
people don't invest in ideas, they invest in people who they believe can build those ideas!
Public Investing Panel
James David, Managing Director at Baupost Group
Alessia Falsarone, Managing Director at PineBridge Investments
Anne Mathias, Global FX & Rates Strategist at TheVanguard Group
Elena Matthews, Vice President at Goldman Sachs
Katherine Shaw, Research Analysit at Fidelity
Valerie Valtz, Senior Vice President & COO of Fundamental Equities at DE Shaw
This panel discussion was a bit dry at first, as the panelist briefly talked about how they build their careers and what their companies did,
rather they focused on topics and subjects I wasn't too familiar with (which I honestly couldn't remember, as I was trying to formulate question)
but things got more interesting when they talked about current events and the market.
One MBA student asked what is the panelists thoughts about Saudi Arabia's Aramaco going public?
what are their thoughts/knowledge of big VC's in small startups that eventually go public, for example, Softbank investing in Alibaba,
even further, what their thoughts if China is developed or not a developing nation, and it's success plays a role in more companies becoming public, how will the effect the global public investing landscape?
From these questions, the panel became more lively and other students became more engaged and asked further questions in relation to political affairs and the market.
Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to ask all the questions,
but I did end up speaking with one of the panelist who shared how happy she was that I brought up China, and wanted to go further and talk about crypto-currencies!
Closing Keynote and Conclusion of Summit
I would have to say this was my least favorite talk, as the focus was primarily about Permira, it's global business, how the finance industry struggles to maintain women in leadership and managing positions,
and how the overall industry suffers from maintaining people who want to have happy and balance professional and family life.
Perhaps this talk wasn't directly for me, and more relevant for the MBA students, so overall I just sat politely, I didn't ask a question, and afterwards I briefly networked and left.
I will say, I'm glad I did attend, I learned a lot, and hope to attend more events by the HBS during the time I'm in Boston :)