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Where Ideas Meet Investors

Entrepreneurs and major investors meet face to face at the Venture Capital Showcase.

Recession, what recession? You'd never know there was an economic crisis judging by the 450 entrepreneurs making their way around the crowded Credit Suisse ballroom at FundingPost's New York City Venture Capital Showcase on Feb. 11. What was even more uplifting than the hundreds of entrepreneurs lining up to pitch their ideas was the fact that behind the tables lining the perimeter of the room were venture capitalists, angel investor networks and other professionals representing key business service providers, including legal and accounting services.

Perfect Your Pitch
If you plan on attending future VC showcases, director of FundingPost Joe Rubin talks about how to pitch investors.

While you can't tell your entire story in two minutes, you can formulate a clean and easy-to-understand pitch that will give the investor a greater understanding of what you do. Emphasize your strength in your market, your development stage and your needs, and let the investor decide if this is a business he would like to learn more about.

The single most important thing you can say, in one clear sentence, is what it is that you do, Rubin says. "You don't know how many pitches we hear, and investors hear, that end with the investor asking: 'So what is it that you actually do?' "

"It was a great turnout; we were very pleased," says Joe Rubin, director of FundingPost, the Connecticut-based firm that has been connecting thousands of angel and venture capital investors with entrepreneurs at nationwide events over the past eight years.

"Along with these events, we do different formats. We have panel-style events where investors sit onstage and discuss the state of early-stage investing and give advice to entrepreneurs. We also have pitching workshops where we coach entrepreneurs on their elevator pitch to investors," adds Rubin, who also publishes Deal Flow Magazine and runs an interactive website where investors and entrepreneurs can communicate.

This particular balmy Wednesday evening in New York City brought out a wide range of entrepreneurs, from those seeking funding for ambitious, rapidly growing software companies to those looking for seed money for their home based manufacturing efforts. As attendees sipped complimentary wine, water or soda, ate hors d'oeuvres, and networked with fellow entrepreneurs, their enthusiasm in no way reflected the economic woes of recent months.

For Darek A. Gallar, president and CEO of COR Systems, which makes sustainability planning and monitoring software for environmentally minded business owners, the event provided an opportunity to talk face to face with some high-level investors. Gallar was optimistic. "I think they're still looking for innovation and the right ideas. The success gates may be tighter than usual, but good ideas are still getting funded," Gallar says.

"I actually developed an interactive educational spa experience for children," says Kim Swan, a former biology and chemistry teacher who launched her own online store at SundaeSpa.com. With sales presentation in hand, she was waiting in line to talk to a venture capitalist about funding an actual store for her product line.

Eric Meltzer, president of Telecom Capital Corp., an investment bank that assists early-stage media companies, was looking to raise additional funding for one of his clients. "I've never been [to one of these shows] before, but I think it's wonderful, especially in this time, with the economy in the shape it's in. We need as much lubrication to the system as we can get. This is about as good as it ever gets," says Meltzer, who equated the concept of many short meetings between investors and entrepreneurs with speed dating.

On the other side of the table, Katherine O' Neill, executive director of Jump Start New Jersey, an angel network, was very positive about the evening's festivities. Jump Start invests in technology businesses in the mid-Atlantic region.

"This is a great time for early-stage technology companies. They're forming even in down times," notes O'Neill of the hundred-plus entrepreneurs who stopped by the table to meet and pitch. Trends included educational ventures for students, and sustainable and environmental businesses, particularly those with new software applications.

In the end, neither Rubin at FundingPost nor anyone else will know exactly how many deals resulted from the three-hour event. But all of the investors left with several follow-up meetings lined up. What's more, the numerous entrepreneurs had, if nothing else, the experience of pitching several venture capitalists and angel networks face-to-face all under one roof.

In addition, they mingled with many entrepreneurs and other business professionals, and networking is always an important part of attending such shows.

Upcoming FundingPost VC shows include Silicon Valley, Calif., on March 5 and Philadelphia on March 25. More information is available at fundingpost.com.

Rich Mintzer is a journalist and author of more than 50 nonfiction books, including several on starting a business. He hails from Westchester, New York, where he lives with his family.

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