https://innovateuk.blog.gov.uk/2017/06/23/are-pitching-events-value-for-money/

Are pitching events value for money?

I have run a lot of pitching events and they are always adrenaline fuelled and great fun – but are they value for money? They can be a great social event – with good food and wine and great conversations. But do they result in deals done?

Microphone at an investor pitching event

The problem with pitching events….

Having run an angel network in the past I fully understand the need for pitching event and have tried a number of formats.

A mismatch between companies and investors

There is often a mismatch between companies and investors. The organiser needs to fill the room and can often end up dragging companies in off the street! The show must go on.

The ability or willingness to invest

The quality and interest of investors in the room can be mixed. Often the focus of the organiser is to get a large audience.  The “room full of investors” will include some who have money and will be really interested, but also many who never have any interest in investing.

Investor on phone during a pitch

Maintaining engagement is tough

It’s really difficult to stretch an event to more than 2 hours. It’s a big chunk out of the day and attention after 4 or 5 pitches starts to wane. Even well intentioned investors start to check their phones.

Investor with megaphone

Avoiding broadcast mode

Encouraging real dialogue with the company is also a challenge. The brief post-pitch Q&A may provide some opportunity, but can also be an excuse for a vocal investor to show how much they know, while a really good investor might well keep their real insight to themselves.

Quality and credibility in presentations

The quality of pitches can be variable. Too often the pitching company just wants to talk about their ground-breaking technology – when the investor wants to know if there is likely to be a significant exit. We’ve all heard the “… only 0.5% of a world-wide market worth $68B” line!

Investor not listening

Selective hearing

Finally a company can think it is getting positive feedback from an investor and a hint at a follow up meeting - but that never materialises as the reality is that the investor already has a pipeline of 50 companies to review and missed the unique selling point or business model in the pitch.

Our solution: Investment Showcase

With these thoughts in mind, we created the Investment Showcase. This is an investor-led process in which a panel of investors indicate what they are interested in.  We invite the companies – the investors select their short list and it concludes with pitching in a closed door panel format.

Investors and companies have commented that the closed door panel format – with a 10 minute presentation followed by 20 minutes of in-depth Q&A really allows the investors to understand the business and to be able to say whether they are “in” for further discussions or “not interested”.

The next Investment Showcase: Therapeutics Theme

We are now in the process of forming a panel focusing on innovation in therapeutics technologies for both humans and animals.

If you are a VC who would be interested in joining the panel for the next therapeutics focussed Investment Showcase then please get in touch at: support@innovateuk.gov.uk

Further comment

Having received some feedback on my blog I feel that I should make a few clarifications.

Firstly, pitching events do bring success and well established angel networks are an essential part of the angel ecosystem. Good angel networks provide opportunities for high net worth individuals who are not familiar with angel investing to gain from the experience of experienced investors and potentially to syndicate. It is however important that businesses should be aware of their pitfalls in order to make best use of angel networks and pitching events.

It is also important to recognise that our investment showcases are aimed at our portfolio and are VC-led – and thus are complementary to the angel investing and angel network activities.

You can follow Bruce @BruceColley1

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