So this is the big day, and a significant part of the attraction of journeying across the Pacific on United Airlines (hey, the tickets were on sale and I can defend myself).
Anyone of the speakers on Day 3 could have commanded their keynote at any number of conferences, and Adeo and the FI team landed them all under the one roof.
On the one day. With coffee and lunch provided. At Microsoft.
First was Seedinvest who are an equity crowdfunding management company. Equity Crowdfunding is a little bit like Kickstarter and a little bit like the sharemarket and allows small investors to invest in startups before the shares become too expensive. Obviously, there is risk involved, unless the company is a crowdsourced same-day delivery startup for omnichannel retailers. Equity crowdfunding actually seems like a perfect match for Passel, but I believe the laws in Australia would force Passel to go public first.
Don Dodge followed up with a mountain of advice for startups in angel or seed rounds. He spoke for ages and shared a tremendous amount of experience from his personal investments (“They all look great when you write the cheque”) to the state of startups in general (“It has never been easier to start a company but it has never been harder to build a business”).
Shervin Pishevar joined in live via Skype from London. This was a very entertaining chat about tech in general and Hyperloop specifically. I think if the Australian government is serious about the inland rail freight line, then they should be talking to Hyperloop. Next day Melbourne to Brisbane?
Christine Herron followed up with a presentation “Why you really got turned down” where she equated meeting investors to dating and told us what investors really mean when they say things like:
“We’d like to see some customers” (I don’t get your business, so show me something I can understand)
“It’s a competitive space” (We don’t believe you can do it).
She also cautioned Founders to be careful when meeting with investors because, just like with dating, where there is a difference between coffee and dinner, there is a difference between coffee and a meeting. If you have a laptop open at any time, it’s a meeting, and you’re pitching! As Passel is opening our seed round in the next couple of weeks, this information was especially beneficial.
There was a panel discussion about Udemy and fundraising, with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (better known as WSGR), who were the drinks and food sponsor for the BBQ on day 2, and Vijay Nagappan from MHS Capital. Investment seems to rely heavily on getting the right introduction to the right investor at the right time and then absolutely nailing the pitch. This reinforced the work we are doing with FounderLab where we have been reminded again and again that there is no second chance with an investor.
“Maybe” almost always means “No, but I don’t want to make you cry”.
Jed Katz from Javelin Venture Partners helped increase the pressure with his advice that fundraising has to become a religion and it won’t happen if you’re not focused. Exactly right. Startup Founders need to be 100% focused on traction, 100% on sales, 100% on building a world-beating team and 100% focused on fundraising. This is why there 168 hours every week!
He introduced me to the concept of Strategic Value – the amount someone is prepared to pay for your business because they can’t imagine letting their competitors have it.
Steve Jurvetson was all about the big picture – extending life, space exploration, etc. Really talked about what the NEXT BIG THINGS will be. I loved this quote – “I don’t know any rich pessimists”.
On top of all that, I met a BD for Evernote. I didn’t hug him, but I did admit that I used Evernote Premium although I don’t know what it does. I just love Evernote. I also showed him Bonjoro, so if anything happens there, you guys owe me a coffee.
I had lunch with a NASA startup guy. Because, why not? NASA and Founder Institute have launched a global space fellowship program. It’s an awesome idea and also, as a lifelong nerd, I am totally excited at the prospects of private space flight and research.
Of course, this is FounderX where the party never ends, so it was off to another bar for more drinks and eats. I met yet more awesome startups including Chicly, an AI service that helps blind people understand and interpret restaurant menus and a startup that wants to use AR on your band t-shirt so the band members can appear in your selfie.
I know I have left people out, and I’m sorry!
But I must express a huge, huge thanks to everyone at Founder Institute head office.
I felt warmly welcomed and cared for, even on Thursday when I camped out for a few hours. FounderX was a sensational event, and I really can not fault it.
I’ll be back, whether you invite me or not!