Early Stage East, like many venture fairs, offered entrepreneurs several opportunities to pitch investors. First, there was the opening reception, held the first evening, where entrepreneurs and investors circulated freely. Says Freschman, "The better you are at working a room, the more successful you'll be in this environment." But regardless of your networking skills, these fairs give you a target-rich environment in which to work.
Next, there were the display booths. Each of the 24 companies that presented at the fair had the opportunity to showcase their wares and work the show's investors as they filed past their booths, stopped to ask questions, or picked up the freebies that some presenters offered.
Another big opportunity for entrepreneurs to meet and interact with investors was during lunch. Tables were "owned" by the presenting companies and clearly marked. Investors who wanted to meet with the small-business owners had only to find the table of the company that most piqued their interest. Sometimes investors sat at tables for reasons related more to musical chairs than interest in a deal. But, says Freschman, many investors proactively used the situation to get to know a company better and to ask questions in a setting that didn't tip off other investors to their plans. "Whatever the motivation," says Freschman, "meeting an investor over lunch represents a golden opportunity for entrepreneurs who want to raise capital."
Finally, there were the formal presentations, which Early Stage East held during four sessions scheduled throughout the second and final day of the conference. Here, each presenting company at the conference got the stage for eight minutes to tell their story. Says Freschman, "The formal pitch is important because it often gives companies the highest-quality exposure to the greatest number of investors at one time."