Saturday was “TechStars For A Day” here at HQ. It’s a day where many of the applicants are invited to come learn more about TechStars, meet some of the mentors and alumni, and generally get a better feel for what the program is all about.
I’ve been to TechStars For A Day before, but that was as an applicant. It was quite different as an alum.
This time around, I wasn’t jostling for position and a chance to speak to one of the mentors - instead, entrepreneurs were lining up to talk to me. I guess now I kind of know how VC’s feel. ;)
In the process of being pitched quite a bit, I thought long and hard about which applicants I actually connected with and why. Further, I considered how we presented ourselves as applicants last fall and came up with a few tips that anyone can use at events…
#1. I’m a human being, not an ATM.
This may fly in the face of most quick-pitch-VC-funding-shark-tank-like-events, but the first words out of your mouth should not be your elevator pitch. Say “I appreciated your thoughts on the panel…” Say “I’m a big fan of your product…” Say, “I read the story about your funding…”
Hell… just say “Hi, how are you?” … anything that shows you know who you’re talking to (me, a human being) and not pitching to deaf ears.
In this age of the internet, info is everywhere. Look people up before you meet them. Don’t know who’s going to be at an event? You’ve got a mobile browser… look ‘em up when you get there. Just been intro’d by someone else? Ask questions and get to know them.
#2. Don’t overstay your welcome.
This is simple, but often forgotten. Be mindful of the time - your time with your listener and the time of the other people around you. Everyone wants a chance to chat, so get your points across and once you do, say thank you and give the next guy a chance.
#3. Establish credibility.
This one is tough to do without sounding like a douche-b, but get your credentials into your story - the earlier the better. Explain why YOU are the right person to do what you do.
Note - this isn’t bragging about all your accomplishments, it’s just establishing credibility so I understand WHY you’re going to spend the next 5-10 years of your life building this business.
Yesterday I met a couple of people with good ideas, but I kept thinking - “so… why you?” And that is especially important when you’re in a crowded space. Some people can save this for the end as the icing on the cake (one of you did this very well yesterday), but if you’re a first time entrepreneur you’ve got to hook your listener early.
#4. Team first: You are not alone (you can’t be!)
Who are your cofounders? What’s the team like? This is really f*ing important and is often forgotten in the hype of a first meeting.
As an entrepreneur, you have to be able to build a team, so demonstrate that by saying “my tech cofounder’s been hacking the CIA since he was 10 and my sales guy sells ice to eskimos" …or something like that. ;)
Point is, who’s coming with you on this journey, because you certainly won’t be doing it alone. Your team is your BIGGEST ASSET in the early days. Pimp them hard.
#Bonus - Follow up, mofo!
If you get someone’s time, follow up with a thank you email. Whether or not they give you a business card, you should be able to find their email and ping them with a three-line email that says “great meeting you. really appreciated our discussion. thanks for your time.”
I gave my email out to a bunch of people yesterday and am startled that only one person has followed up with an email so far.
Remember, this whole game is about momentum. So if you meet someone, follow up and create momentum. Get them interested and wanting to help you. Get that next meeting. Make it happen, because no one’s going to do it for you.