On Thursday, August 27, RubinBrown hosted a panel of St. Louis venture capitalists at Venture Café. Steven Harris, Partner-In-Charge of RubinBrown’s Entrepreneurial Services Group, facilitated a panel discussion featuring Jennifer Ehlen of Prosper Capital, Carter Williams from iSelect Fund, Kyle Welborn from Cultivation Capital and Scott Bernstein of Lewis & Clark Ventures.
The following are highlights from what was a great, interactive discussion.
Venture Capital Investment is Critical to Economic Growth
Startups and innovative companies drive a significant portion of activity in the economy and are responsible for significant job and output growth. Venture capital is the fuel that drives startups. Startups need capital to succeed, ergo, venture capital investment needs to be active and sustainable in order to create a thriving economy.
Pitches are Important, BUT…
They are necessary but not sufficient. In other words, having a great pitch can help get you to the next stage in the due diligence process, but it won’t land you an investment (by itself). However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hone your message. Keep these points in mind:
- Be clear – If your audience doesn’t understand you or your concept, you won’t get anywhere.
- Get to the point – Be concise in your message. Get to the point quickly without providing a ton of unnecessary background. It just becomes noise.
Build Your Team
Experience and success goes a long, long way. Investors love to see a team that has a track record of success. Have they successfully started companies before? Do they have experience in this industry? Having a loaded team is one of the most important criteria many investors look at in early stage companies. If you don’t have team with relevant track records and industry experience, assemble one.
Validate Your Commercial Prospects
Whatever you can do to validate the commercialization prospects for your product or service, do it and show it. Revenue, purchase orders or other indications of market acceptance and improving traction can go a long way towards proving your concept to prospective investors.
Know Your Targets
When you are targeting potential investors, do your homework. Do they invest in your industry or market? Does the size of the investment you’re seeking fit with the fund’s typical investment level? Don’t waste time and energy targeting funds that aren’t a fit for your company.
Leverage Accelerator Programs
Participation in recognized accelerator programs such as Capital Innovators, SixThirty and BioGenerator provides validation of your company and informs prospective investors that you have already been through a vetting process and that these programs see potential in you.
These are a few pointers from some of St. Louis’ venture thought leaders. Many thanks to Prosper Capital, iSelect Fund, Cultivation Capital and Lewis & Clark Ventures for their participation and commitment to St. Louis’ innovation ecosystem!
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