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.
: Lead by CEO Darren Atinsky, WedWu is a Priceline-like service for booking photography, video and DJ services for weddings. WedWu took 3rd Place
winner in the Challenges Community Track.
: 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.
: 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.
• Conversely, dont be too skimpy with the details. WedWus Atinsky for instance, provided a slide on his team, but didnt include anything about them there was room to include a sentence or so with each one. The management teams relevant industry experience is crucial to investors. And Atinskys own background as a bridal industry publisher didnt come up until the questioning.
• Be realistic with financial projections. Smart Access Solutions team members were praised for their financial model. Its realistic with what companies can do at this stage, Karabees said..
• Market size matters. The judges said investors are generally interested in big markets, at least $1 billion. Bimotics, for instance, is seeking aggressive funding, so the judges suggested that the team may want to consider going after a bigger target market than the one it identified. It sounds like your plan is robust enough, OKeefe said.
• One presenter please. SAS included all four team members in its presentation. To the judges, that was distracting. Choose the best presenter and go with it. Other team members can contribute to the question-answer section.
• Dont run out of time. Geopon did. While its understandable that entrepreneurs are passionate about their products and their technology, dont spend all your time talking about it. What happens when you run out of time is you miss talking about your team, your financials, how much money you need and what you are going to use it for all pretty important issues for investors. You need to create a compelling vision for why this particular opportunity right now, right away is the one we should look at, and that has to start with a lot simpler presentation and a lot less geekiness, said Nemanic.
After the presentations and questioning, the judges deliberated.
Investors invest in a large and growing market, a billion dollars or more, they invest in a management team with deep and relevant experience in the business , Karabees told the participants. Another element that is extremely important is an understanding of valuation... And the last thing they invest in is competitive advantage do they differentiate themselves dramatically from the competition?
Then they declared a winner, WedWu, believing that company hit the four factors best and presented well. After the event, the fund offered WedWu a term sheet.
Our accompanying video includes a few snippets from the two-hour Geek Tank (we edited out proprietary and financial information) and offers lessons for all.
We hope to continue to offer interactive events such as our Peoples Pick video competition for elevator pitches and this investor presentation event as part of our annual Business Plan Challenge, which will call for entries again in January. Get your business plans ready!