Change the world or go home!
San Francisco. Silicon Valley. The Valley. It’s Disneyland for entrepreneurs and investors alike. This is the crucible for entrepreneurship and innovation, and today we provided the teams with an opportunity to pitch their businesses to John Scull MD Southern Cross Ventures. A 30-year veteran of The Valley who has worked as a marketing executive with Apple, started his own businesses and now working in Venture Capital: a career that makes John very well placed to provide feedback.
His comments are a very good insight into what it takes to pitch in the Valley.
Number one: if you are going to pitch to John, you better have done your research. Know the focus of Southern Cross Ventures and the deals they have done – especially the ones that John has been involved in specifically. Check his LinkedIn profile. Do an online search. In today’s world this should take a maximum of 30 minutes, and it’s time well spent if you want to make the most of your opportunity. In other words: Be Prepared.
Number two: be personal. It’s about Australians and our culture, there’s no time to be shy, and don’t be bashful. In John’s words “be proud, be confident, and be real.” To quote a speaker last year: “the word pride has no negative connotations in the US. Take pride in your achievements.” This does not mean be arrogant or rude, more that it’s important to utilise your confidence. Investors in The Valley want to know that you believe you are creating the next billion dollar business. If you don’t show that you’re confident, and believe in what you are doing, why should investors believe in you?
The third theme in John’s feedback is something that is special to venture capital on Sandhill Road: show that you will change the world. These firms want to invest in the next BIG thing. You need to show with passion that something is wrong or broken, and you are going to fix it. If you’re not doing this you won’t get any attention.
Number four: clarity of the business model. You need to know the difference between a service, a product and a business. The key to this is being able to articulate who your customer is, what is their problem and how you will solve it. As an entrepreneur, you will see multiple possibilities for your product and areas you can expand into. What the VC wants to hear is crystal clear clarity of focus: Customer. Problem. Solution. Your job is to set priorities limit the options and reduce complexity to simplify because then you get things done.
Finally, how do you get in front of a VC like John? Warm introductions. Venture capital in the Valley see hundreds of decks per day, and if you want a meeting, then you need someone who John trusts to recommend he meet with you. Access to deal flow and pipeline in the Valley is not an issue, so you need to build relationships, network and establish credibility. This also requires a commitment of time spent in the Valley.
In summary: if you want to change the world and have a meeting with VC in the Valley, do your homework, know your business and be focussed.
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9.45am - 10.30am: Presentation | Market & Customer. Led by Kirsty Traill, VP Customer Support, Hootsuite.
10.45am - 11.15am: Presentation | Marketing your Product Gloablly. Led by Deepak Ramanthan, Global Head of Product Marketing, Twitter.
11.15am - 12.00pm: Presentation | Sales: Exploring enterprise sales models. Led by Jason Seed, CEO, TableLocate.com.
12.00pm - 12.45pm: Interview | Equity Specialist. Led by Luba Lesiva.
1.15pm - 2.00pm: Presentation | Venture Captial: US vs AU. Led by Cameron Yuill, Founder & Managing Partner, Propeller VC.
2.00pm - 2.45pm: Presentation | Establishing Customers and Legitimacy by Association in the US. Led by Peter Grant, Founder & CEO Safesiteapp.com.
3.00pm - 4.00pm: Presentation | M & A: The Do's and Don'ts. Led by Jack Gonzalez, Co-Founder & CEO, Map Jam
5.00pm - 7.00pm: Networking Event | Advance | Australian Chamber of Commerce | Austrade | Led by Chris Oldfield, Australian Consulate General, San Francisco to Open