In Good Forum

The Challenges of Qualifying for a Forum

Akropolis.net, a Web portal in Irvine, California, for architects, in-terior designers and landscape architects, is still going through the process of presenting at venture forums. The company, which has already presented at several Southern California venture forums, was one of the first to complete Venture Point's review process.

"The first one we did was the California Venture Forum in November 1999," says Jeremy Kisner, president of Akropolis.net. "First, we sent in three copies of our business plan. They received about 45 and picked the top 13 or so. We were selected. Then we went to a mandatory one-day workshop, where they talked about how the presentation was supposed to go."

During the workshop, Kisner and partners realized just how clueless they were about this whole venture-forum process. "At the one-day workshop, companies should have had a rough of their presentation," remembers Kisner, who's still trying to raise between $7 million and $10 million from investors. "We didn't have ours."

At the workshop, Kisner learned each company would have seven minutes to give a PowerPoint presentation covering their product, target market, management team, financial projections and business development strategy. A dress rehearsal was held about a week before the forum, and at that point, everyone was timed.

The second venture forum Akropolis.net presented at was WestStart-CALSTART in February. "The format was the same as the first one, with the one-day workshop and rehearsal," says Kisner, who liked the WestStart forum because more investors attended.

So although Akropolis.net hasn't found an investor yet, Kisner is in negotiations with several and insists he and his team didn't walk away empty-handed. One important thing he learned: how to refine the presentation. "We learned you have to memorize your presentation and be very succinct," he says. "You have to cover the major bullet points of the business in a logical fashion."

In addition to polishing the presentation, the forums allowed Kisner and his team the opportunity to network with individuals who might know the right investors. And thanks to the knowledge and confidence he's gained from the experiences, Kisner says they now might have a better chance at presenting at larger, more sophisticated venture forums.

Like Kisner, many entrepreneurs don't succeed at their first venture forum. But there's never a quick fix to capital needs. Don't forget: If you want to raise money, you usually have to do some learning--and some legwork.

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This article was originally published in the July 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: In Good Forum.

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