Yesterday, me and Dan went to the monthly Sthlm Tech Meetup. Coming straight from work, I was late (sigh). In a rush, I chained my bike just outside of the Hiltons, where the event’s usually hosted, puffed my hair and went inside. But as I ran up the stairs, it didn’t take me long to realize I wasn’t in a hurry at all.
A long line of well-dressed business men and laidback tech savvys stood outside the conference hall, eager to get one of the few first come/first served seats still available. As I’d bought a ticket for a modest 100 Swedish kronor, I casually walked passed the crowd and entered the room, where Dan was sitting with a couple of green tea lemonade drinks that had been handed out for free. Within the next five minutes, the room was stacked, and the event kicked off.
“500 STARTUPS is commonly referred to as of the world’s #2 top accelerator, based in Silicon Valley with offices around the world and doing more deals and having more mentors than any program anywhere.” Sthlm Tech Meetups
Referring to VC’s like themselves as vampires, and the perfect entrepreneurial candidates as nutjobs, Sean and Nikolaj shared some valuable insights on what to pitch and what to ditch, when trying to get investments.
“Since 2007 Sunstone have built a portfolio of 50 companies and have completed several trade sales and IPOs. With ~ EUR 700 million in funds, Sunstone is one of the leading and most active independent VCs in the Nordics.” Sthlm Tech Meetups
Here are the three key takeaways:
Every team needs thatmagnetic, corky character – a Jobs or a Zuckerberg. A center of the universe, who knowingly or unknowingly brings the members closely together, and creates a startup solar system that outshines its neighbor galaxies (the competitors). That’s the one and only thing Nikolaj looks for when being pitched to, he told the crowd. A nutjob will simply differentiate and attract, from the inside and out.
“The question isn’t, ‘What do we want to know about people?’, it’s ‘What do people want to tell about themselves?’” Mark Zuckerberg
During the evening, we actually got to witness one ourselves, as three new and hot Swedish startups were invited to pitch on stage. Patrik Jutterström, IT student and manager of Sales and Community at Lifee, was energetic, odd and very likable. A slight stroke of jitter went unnoticed thanks to his curly hairdo, dorkiness and passion for the product. The idea of another digital wristband, which Patrik promoted, suddenly felt fun and unique. And the VC’s hailed him for it.
Fast-growing technologies, strategy-changing investors and shifting customer demands makes a moving market impossible to predict. Test internally for max 3 months. Then, roll it out. Perfecting your idea will only leave it overtaken by new conditions.
A former New Yorker/current Stockholmer from the crowd raised his hand and said something like: “I’ve been working here for almost a decade now, so let me give you some perspective. It won’t matter that businesses speed up their processes, if the society isn’t. And you know, the Swedish society…Well, Sweden is all about safety”. Laughter and applause.
Sean and Nikolaj filled in, expressing their worry about the Swedish ecosystem being too safe for its own good. The guys compared our pace to the American one, stating that “in the Valley, there is no such thing as Beta anymore. Beta is done”.
An example of this was shown in one of the other startup pitches on stage. Lunchback is a new networking app connecting people to trade feedback for lunch. The idea is to gather mentors, professionals and students within the app that encourage users to initiate meetings with people they can learn from. The UI is far from perfect, but that’s not what Jimmy Zhao, CEO of Lunchback, put emphasis on during his Pitch.
Jimmy was a storyteller, and he spoke about the value of “Guanxi”. The Chinese word translates to “deep, meaningful connections”, and Guanxi more less captures the idea of Lunchback. Jimmy ends his pitch with handing out an exclusive invitation to Lunchback, and it makes me and the rest of the audience sign up immediately and without hesitation.
Summed up: Iterate fast. Perfection can wait.
When pitching your idea, avoid using too much external data and market forecasts, because as Sean said, “they’re shit”. Endless yapping about numbers will come across as smoke and mirrors. “Instead, run tests and present your own data”, the investors explained. It’ll be more ambitious, trustworthy and relevant for the product you’re trying to sell.
The first pitcher out on stage was Elie. I can’t remember the name of his business (but Dan did, it’s called mi6app), and that says a lot. Elie was trying to pitch some kind of in-app advertising service, but his slides were messy and full of data, and that took the edge of the juicy parts. The poor guy was interrupted during the entire session, and the vampires didn’t want as much as a bite.
“Present your traction. If you don’t have any, then you present your vision.”
Accordingly, get straight to it. “Investors easily lose interest, and our minds will start wander”, Sean says in a slight superior tone. Keep it short and sharp, be energetic on stage and make sure to get your listeners full attention. How? Start off by presenting your traction: big partners, customers or sponsors are great to address. Saving things like that for the 12th slide will make the investors go “why the f didn’t you say so!?”. If you don’t have any traction, then (and only then) you focus on your vision.
“We can sniff desperation”
Lastly, push other sources of investments, such as crowdsourcing. Investors get terrified by the thought of being replaced, and playing the “we don’t really need you”-card evidently works on VC’s as much as on dates…
Ok, so in order to attract the vampires; be a nutjob, center the stars, iterate fast and present your traction. Personally, I can’t wait to see what insights the upcoming Sthlm Tech fest will bring.
We will be attending the F8 Facebook Developer Conference from May 1st – 2nd in California, USA. This 2-day event is where developers and businesses explore what’s next in technology and learn about the new products and innovations Facebook is… read more