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!