Monday, August 18, 2014

Succeeding at the Seattle Angel Conference -Guest Blog

Guest Post by Zach Simmons  Discuss.IO

For those that aren't already familiar with Seattle Angel Conference (SAC), it is an angel investment group with a unique investment process.  It connects promising entrepreneurs to a syndicate of local angel investors.  A "winner" is selected after a rigorous 2 month selection process which results in a six figure investment.

It was an honor to be selected from the great set of teams in SAV V. Discuss.IO received the $160,000 investment first prize, while another great finalist, SocialGlimpz, received over $80,000 from SAC investors.

I would highly recommend that Seattle entrepreneurs to participate in this great process.  The competition is tough.  Here are a few tips based upon our experience 

·         Nail your 1st pitch - 

 The first 3 minute pitch is the hardest.  You need to be memorable out of a crowd of 20+ pitches. Try and focus on the following high level points 1) quantify the size of the problem 2) briefly explain how you solve it 3) explain your progress/traction so far.  Don't worry about details.  Just say enough to pique the audience's interest.  There is plenty of time during the process to dig into the details.

·         Find A Champion - 

 It is really important to find an investor early in the process that believes in your vision.  The investors meet weekly during the selection process to eliminate teams.  You must find a least 1 person that is going to standup and argue that you are the best bet in a crowded field.  This requires actively soliciting feedback on your business during the process.   

 ·         Welcome Feedback -

 You will be posed with a lot of tough questions.  This is especially true if you make the finals.  Embrace it!  You aren't cut out to be an entrepreneur if you can't take critical feedback. The diligence process is the best reason to participate in SAC. Angel investors are often entrepreneurs themselves. Their experience, perspective and connections are often more valuable than the checks they can cut. 

·         Get Organized - 

Find time to draft your business plan and financial model.  The act of writing down your vision will help clarify your thinking and ready yourself for investor questions.  These docs don't have to be poetry and you can have unknowns.  We used Google Docs so that our diligence team could post questions and poke holes in our logic directly within our doc.  This iterative collaboration yielded a final doc that was easy to share with the other investors.  Remember, you need to get the most votes to win. A succinct business plan gives your diligence team an easy way to communicate your value with the other 80% of the investors that won't be very familiar with your business. 

·         Find Paying Customers -

 Traction is the single most important selection criteria.  Investors naturally want to see a clear path to profitability.  You will become dramatically more exciting if you can prove that consumers will pay money for your product or service.  Nothing proves the viability of your product like clients lined up and ready to pay for it, even an early "minimally viable product" (MVP).  Showing customer demand growth over the 2 month selection process is very helpful, even in your pre-revenue stage.

Don't lose hope. Keep Going!

My last suggestion is to not lose hope if you get eliminated.  Plenty of great businesses won't win SAC VI.  In fact, Discuss.IO came up short twice before winning in May 2014.  Good things come to those who exceed their consumer expectations. Good luck!

by: Zach Simmons @ Discuss.IO Winner of SAC V, after two prior attempts.

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