We threw four of our 2012 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge winners and finalists into our inaugural Geek Tank to see if they would make a splash with investors.
We added this presentation event to our annual entrepreneurship contest because perfecting presentation skills is important for any startup. To get as far in the contest as they did, these teams had to have good business plans. But we wanted to find out how they would do pitching to investors.
Our partner in this event, the Miami Innovation Fund, evaluated the plans, selected four technology startups and asked each of them to make a 10-minute investor presentation. After each presentation, the startup fielded 10 minutes of questions from the panel of judges as well as members of the fund in the audience. The Miami Innovation Fund is a group of about 20 accredited investors, including technology executives, entrepreneurs, lawyers, accountants and equity finance specialists. It provides small equity investments (generally $20,000) and mentoring to a number of promising very early-stage technology companies.
The judges were all from the fund. They were: Jack Karabees, president of Miami Beach-based Consult A Doctor, and Douglas OKeefe, a lawyer with expertise in mergers, acquisitions and corporate financing transactions, who are co-founders of the fund; and fund board members Franc Nemanic, Ralph Musgrove and Ricardo Weisz, all investors with years of technology expertise. Weisz has also been a Business Plan Challenge judge for the FIU Track for the past three years.
Taking the plunge in our Geek Tank, in order of appearance:
• Smart Access Solutions: The team of mainly FIU engineering students Mohammed Al Assafi, Fabian Olivo, Alex Chong and Pradeep Shinde aims to advance and modernize the check-in experience for business class hotels. SAS was a semi-finalist in Challenges FIU Track.
• Bimotics: CEO Roberto Landrau and COO Areeya Lila lead Bimotics, which seeks to drive business intelligence capability for small- and medium-sized businesses by enabling analysis of operational and financial performance. The company was a semifinalist in the Community Track and third place winner in FAUs business plan competition.
• Geopon: Led by CEO Ido Meros and product development vice president Rachel Fiegler, Geopon is a single-source mobile application for geo-targeted coupons, weekly ads, loyalty programs, rewards, payment processing and more. Geopon took First Place and Peoples Pick in the FIU Track.
After giving their power-point presentations, the contestants fielded the judges questions about their technology, competition, marketing and distribution strategies, financials, valuations and more.
Some general feedback and advice given to the entrepreneurs:
• Edit your presentation down and practice. Dont try to overload slides with too much type watch the point size. And dont try to pack too many slides into a presentation 10-12 slides is about right. If you need to pare down your deck, Weisz suggests putting some slides at the end that could be referred to during the question and answer section.