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Reverse Demo Day: Angels Pitch Entrepreneurs (chrisyeh.blogspot.com)
56 points by chrisyeh on Feb 17, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 14 comments

I'm an active angel investor and a lot of my incoming leads are from founders, I guess I bring value, but I never really thought about how to explain how I'm different (if at all) from anybody else.

I'm terrified of doing this.

"I'm terrified of doing this."

I'm not an angel investor but I'm a good salesman. What we are really talking about here is selling yourself. I'd be glad to offer advice on that. Feel free to contact me.

Good luck! As a founder I would want to know which particular markets you're strong in (either have experience or personal relationships). It will be hard to stand out talking about track record alone, so try and appeal to specific founders who you'd bring the - most - value to.

Eg. if you're particularly experienced with gaming, don't bother trying to sell yourself to a SaaS startup, there will probably be someone there specialized in that.

Sounds like you should probably do it, just for the experience and opportunity to improve your understanding of what these things are like for founders. :-)

Not sure what you mean - I'm a two-time founder currently. Or do you mean going through the YC-style demo day pitching?

I didn't mean you personally so much as angels and VCs in general. But sure, given how much the funding environment is changing I can't imagine that it would hurt to experience what it's currently like even if you've been through it in the past.

Of course I'm speaking here as a founder who has never raised any funding, so everything I say on the topic is deserving of multiple grains of salt.

The number of people with business ideas greatly exceeds the number of angels with money to invest, so the notion of angels pitching to entrepreneurs as an event signals that angels have too much money.

This is not to say that angels don't pitch to entrepreneurs; they do, but they do it after the entrepreneurs pitch to them (and a pitch can be a purely reputational discussion/email (e.g. "if you want money, ask for advice") rather than a session in the elevator, so let's not be constrained by silly definitions).

To see that process run in reverse is insane and signals a serious problem in the market.

Note: I'm an entrepreneur and am in this game with some success, so I'm not speaking out of jealousy...

On the other hand, the number of GOOD people with GOOD business ideas is almost always far less than the available capital. Angels don't want into any old deal; they all want into the best couple of deals. That is why YC Demo Day is so well attended.

I have to offer an alternative perspective; the number of angels greatly exceeds the number of opportunities they are collectively going after. The best entrepreneurs are often in a position to choose one angel over another. Unlike the PGs of the world, most investors must market themselves to have access to a stream of quality deals.

This event is a marketing tool for angels to garner the attention of as many startups as they can in areas they are interested in investing. The title of the event makes it seem as though the tables have been turned on the entrepreneur and investor, but in the end everyone can guess who is going to be approaching who.

This is a brilliant idea.

As a young, first-time entrepreneur still learning the ropes, it'd be interesting to see just exactly how angels differentiate their 'value prop'. Which is interesting, because as startup or founder, you're always looking for unique ways for the 'right' investor to help you.

I'd be surprised if 90% of the investors didn't just pimp their successful stories or portfolio exits. And the next logical step after that is just, 'well, we work really hard for you'.

Though angels often seem to be nice people they are hard-bitten dealmakers (while first-time entrepreneurs are not).

No serious angel would participate at such an event.

And you say this from what sort of experience? Investing is all about deal flow and this is a chance to gain additional visibility. Visibility turns into deals.

Are you Tim Ferris of 4 hour fame?

The fact of the matter is "the best" companies naturally have investors competing to get a piece.

What defines "the best" and what creates true competition is quite fickle. The private equity market, despite all recent changes, is still inherently inefficient. So I'd venture to say there are several dynamics going on:

1) Social Proof: Many investors are just lazy and won't look beyond who is introducing or vouching for the deal. Nothing wrong with that, it is a legitimate defense mechanism, but this limits what they actually pay attention to and creates frenzy around half-baked projects with "superstars" onboard. Think Color.

2) Right Fad: This is closely related to the previous point. If an investor has a theory that something "just like XYZ" is the next big thing, they might be willing to overlook a LOT of legitimate red flags. This could create a frenzy around a certain space or make them avoid another because "it is played out", which is often wrong.

3) Their Knowledge: On one hand this is what they legitimately understand about the space to make their own intelligent judgement of why there is an opportunity. That is the type of investor with the most potential to bring something useful if they can explain: "because I've done this and this, I can contribute this". Flip side, experience often means pre-conceived notions, with Exhibit #1 being YC's bias against solo founders.

4) Actual Metrics: If your numbers speak for themselves quite a few investors would want in just on this basis. The flip side it might be too late. Another flip side is investors might think a deal is overpriced or they cannot get enough control, etc. Best companies though are able to execute regardless of who invests or not invests. That's where you can have a legitimate competition on who is allowed to invest, based on what they offer.

5) Hidden Gems: Investors can often get the best deals by being early enough but that's where you have to find something new, that has a good chance of success, bring something to the table and get a better deal. But this requires to pay attention and do some actual work, so not everyone wants to do this vs. try to co-invest in the latest syndicate someone else is putting together.

If you are an entrepreneur you want to maximize your outcome, but if you focus all your time on jumping through the hoops of investors who do not actually understand what you do or have much to contribute you are being distracted from actual business. Note, I am not using the word "startup" here, because every successful startup is a business. Ignoring this simple fact is what gets people into trouble, leads to bad deals or puts them on the road to failure.

So yes, investors pitching to entrepreneurs could be a great idea but it works only if both parties bring the right mindset to the table and can articulate their value proposition.

PS: As entrepreneur you have to be extra careful with people who invest mainly based on social proof / fads. Do not expect them to do much for you, though their involvement might be a social proof for someone else who would make an actual contribution.

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