The good news? There's a

by francine Hardaway on September 15, 2005

The good news? There’s a lot of innovation in Arizona, and many companies that have struggled to get started are now getting traction. A suprising number have made it through the lack of seed capital, the dot-com bust, and the vicissitudes of starting a business, and have brought their products to market.

The bad news? No one has taught them how to make a decent investor presentation, so that even when presented with an audience of angels and other potentially helpful people, they persist in mumbling into their beards like auctioneers. This is a common problem of entrepreneurs, who usually lack the relevant experience (as TV personalities, standup comics, or drama students) necessary to make good presentations.

I offer my advice after attending the annual TIE-AZ Angel event, “DeMystifying Angel Investing.” TIE is a wonderful group that started in Silicon Valley in 1992, when a group of entrepreneurs from the Indian subcontinent decided to help their fellow entrepreneurs by educating and mentoring them. TIE expanded to Arizona about five years ago, and has an equally good track record of convening the best and the brightest, being relevant, and — more important — being actually helpful.

Last month, TIE-Az gave entrepreneurs the opportunity to apply for a spot in the “Rapid Fire Presentations,” section of the program. These presentations, because of the number of companies chosen, were held to one minute and were aimed at a panel of angels. There were, I think, about twenty presenters, many of whom I knew. Before the presentations, the entrepreneurs listened to the angels talk about how they choose investments and what they look for, as well as answer questions from the audience.

Arriving fashionably late as usual, I saw that the room was already packed. In fact, it was so crowded that even the technology reporter for the Arizona Republic, usually a guest with a reserved seat, was sitting in the very back against a wall in a hastily procured chair.

Apparently, TIE-AZ had twice as many attendees as they expected. There was a heightened level of interest on the part of the community, probably because there were four REAL angels on the panel, including an investor from the Mars family (Snickers)who said he has already made five investments in Arizona companies and thinks we have better companies than his native Orange County.

The winning applicants were told they could have only one slide, in addition to the limitation of speaking for only a minute.

What would you have done?

I’ll tell you what the presenters did. Almost to a person (one woman presented), they threw up a single Powerpoint slide with almost an entire business plan inscribed on it in agate type. From the rear of the room, where I was sitting, no one could read a thing.

They then began to read the slide, or some variant of it, aloud as quickly as possible, in a nerve-wracking race against the bell signalling the end of a minute. Most of them didn’t finish. Many of them spoke to the screen, or to the microphone in their shirts, instead of to the audience. I don’t think I saw a single person address the panel of potential investors.

Not one of them took into account what had been said for the past hour by the panel of angels, nor could I see evidence that anyone’s pitch had been influenced by what he had heard.

Now, given that same set of parameters, what COULD they have done?

First, faced the investors and spoken to them. Let the audience, largely non-investors, be an audience. Take advantage of the opportunity to get feedback from people who actually put money into companies.

Second, used a slide with very few words on it that functioned as a billboard, with a call to action: to find out more about our company, visit Made the type on that slide large enough to be read by everyone, and read at a glance. Why make the audience read your slide while they are trying to listen to your presentation?

Third, given an elevator pitch that focussed on three things: 1)the benefits of the technology to its market 2)the expected ROI to the investor and 3)the current status of the company (how many customers, how much current revenue).

And now here’s MY pitch: this is the kind of training we give our own clients and the participants in our Fasttrac programs. Juding from the TIE meeting, I think there’s still a need for our services.

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