Fair Game

Playing To Win

Having been there and done that, Tofano would urge any entrepreneurs looking for capital to attend a venture capital fair, if you can get in. And once you do get in, take his advice:

1. Look for a good match between the investors and your company. Make sure you're attending a fair where the investors are likely to take an interest in your company, says Tofano. For instance, he says, if you own a low-tech company and all the investors in the room are high-tech investors, it will likely be a frustrating experience for you.

2. Fight for a good time slot. If your formal presentation is near the end of the day, by the simple mathematics of the situation alone, you can guess there will be fewer investors in attendance, and the ones who are present may be worn out from listening to so much information in one day. As a result, Tofano advises presenting as early as possible.

3. The positioning of your display booth matters. Whether all the companies are placed in one room or disbursed in a labyrinthine hotel conference center, make sure your booth is in a traffic-heavy location. "Numbers are the name of the game," says Tofano. "If your booth is [on the perimeter], you just won't meet as many investors."

Above all, he says, entrepreneurs need to be realistic about the process. In other words, a requisite number of "nos" are required to get to "yes." A venture capital fair may not immediately yield the "yes" you need, but it will likely speed up the process.

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This article was originally published in the October 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Fair Game.

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