Crowdfunding Myth Busting Series – Negotiation

Peter Adams, Executive Director at Rockies Venture Club

Let’s tackle crowdfunding myth busting to better prepare for raising capital. What are the most commonly believed myths in crowdfunding? Let’s look at many of them to find what’s truth and what to debunk. Here we consider whether or not negotiation is needed. We’ll examine several more myths over the next week or two, so look for subsequent blog posts in the coming days.

Myth #3:

Private placements and Angel groups have typically involved a back-and-forth negotiation that allowed deals to get done through discussion and creative deal making.

Reality:

With hundreds of investors involved, and a national scope where investors and entrepreneurs don’t have the opportunity to meet face to face,  it is nearly impossible to negotiate a deal once it has been offered and one or more investors have jumped on board. Typically all investors in an investment round will invest on the same terms with the same term sheet. The funding portals make an “offer” to sell securities at a particular price and it is up to investors to take it or leave it. The results of this kind of transaction, especially when it is not vetted by a professional investment banking or venture capital firm, is that either the entrepreneur will not receive investment or worse yet, they will receive investment, but they shouldn’t have received it at the terms offered.

The benefit of negotiation is that it gives parties a chance to test the premises upon which the valuation is based.  If the valuation is too low, then the entrepreneur gives up too much equity and they may be challenged in raising further rounds which may be necessary for the survival of the company.  If the valuation is too high, the investors may be pushed down in a “down round” where their equity is significantly diluted. Angel groups with experienced participants have benefited from using that experience to negotiate deals that are good for both investors and entrepreneurs alike.

Unless funding portals can find a way to crowdsource the negotiation process as well as investment, there will be many unhappy investors and entrepreneurs who are not getting what they had hoped for from the crowdfunding experience.  Unfortunately, many people will not realize what has happened until several years later when things go awry.

 

Stay tuned for the next crowdfunding myth busting blog post on due diligence

Crowdfunding Myth Busting Series – Fraud

Peter Adams, Executive Director at Rockies Venture Club

Let’s tackle crowdfunding myth busting to better prepare for raising capital. What are the most commonly believed myths in crowdfunding? Let’s look at many of them to find what’s truth and what to debunk. Here we ask if fraud is as concerning in crowdfunding as many believe. We’ll examine several more myths over the next week or two, so look for subsequent blog posts in the coming days.

Myth #2:

The SEC and others are concerned about the potential for fraud. It is a valid concern.

Reality:

We need to build in systems to prevent or minimize fraud, but fraud is the least of our concerns and will likely be a rarity. There is an even greater threat, however.  With unsophisticated entrepreneurs pitching deals to unsophisticated investors the opportunities for well-intentioned failure are enormous.
Funding Portals do not provide the vetting process that Angel Groups or Broker Dealers do, so unqualified companies will be on-line seeking funding. When unqualified investors invest in these sure-to-fail companies, everyone will be unhappy. There will be charges of fraud made, but in most cases the money will vanish due to poor strategy and mismanagement rather than fraud or intentional deception.

A majority of early stage companies are going to fail and the loss of money may look like fraud when the losses are due to other factors related to the operation of the business such as competitive pressures, regulatory changes, technological shifts, etc.  How are we going to be able to tell the difference when the time comes?

Just because money is lost does not mean that fraud has occurred.  If the company hired staff, developed product, and spent money on marketing, but never really took off, then that’s a simple company failure. If the company raised a first round and was depending on another round twelve months later that never was raised, then the company may have to shut down, even if its prospects were good. That’s not fraud either. There are dozens of scenarios where companies close – and in many cases shutting down sooner rather than later is the best option.

Investors need to be wary to protect themselves from fraud, but before they invest, they should be taking courses and workshops from groups like Rockies Venture Club in order to teach themselves about how companies are valued, how to identify risks, how to evaluate a deal and negotiate a winning term sheet.  Smart investors who invest with angel groups earn up to three times more on their portfolios than those who randomly point and click at crowdfunding offerings.

 

Stay tuned for the next crowdfunding myth busting blog post on negotiation being outdated…

Art and culture at Thrive LoDo

Guest post by Griffin Ignelzi, Thrive LoDo

Art in a Thriving Business

Art: Local Denver artist, Moses “Sonny” Valdez established his artistic roots over the course of 20 years working as a custom automotive painter. During his time as a renowned custom painter he has had more than ten cars featured in high profile national automotive magazines, most notably in Low Rider magazine, where he was honored with the cover and featured centerfold. His experience as an auto painter inspired the, “Contemporary Abstract Art,” he creates today. His work can appropriately be described as the fusion of sleek ‘industrial’ design that encompasses the flare and visual vibrancy seen inside elite showrooms on the custom body work of high-end vehicles. Using sheet metal as his canvas, Sonny creates unique and reflective modern artwork. The surface of each piece is uniquely etched with various grinding patterns that is then accented and finished with the experienced personal touch and masterful usage of a variety of vibrant, “candy coated” paint colors. The aptly named, “iCandy” artwork is currently on display at THRIVE.

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Venue: Rising local business, THRIVE– a premier LoDo Denver Co-working office space, has taken its appreciation for the arts and incorporated it within the daily business culture of its progressive workspace. THRIVE’s goal is to provide a creative and innovative environment that enhances membership and stimulates business growth by showcasing the inspirational works of local artists inside its walls. Thrive is currently displaying the vibrant, “iCandy” wall art by Sonny Valdez- the first of many local talents to be displayed within their within its energetic and rapidly evolving modern workspace.

In addition to enhancing the everyday experience for members and visitors with lively artwork, THRIVE stretches its daily operations past the monotony of the traditional workplace by regularly hosting after hour meet-ups, networking and social events designed to bring people from the professional community together in an appropriate setting to market, pitch, educate and expand their businesses.

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Event: Friday, February 22nd at 7:00pm- THRIVE will be hosting an Open House to promote local arts and bring together local business professionals, community and Denver nightlife. “iCandy” art will be on display, accompanied by a silent auction, music, food and beverages. [THRIVE at LoDo- 1830 Blake St. Denver, CO. 80202)]

Griffin Ignelzi is the Office Manager at THRIVE Workplace Solutions, when he isn’t writing blog posts for Rockies Venture Club, he just stares at the mesmerizing art on the walls. 

RVC Academy kickoff a huge success

I’ll admit to having spent an inordinate number of adult years in academia and I hold two advanced degrees to show for it. I’m no stranger to the teaching part of higher education either; I’ve been in front of many hopeful faces looking for knowledge. But there is something very inaccessible about traditional higher education that I just don’t like.

I took a single graduate class a couple of years ago in a well-known university. The school made me register as a special, non-degree seeking student. The Dean of Students had to OK my registration and it took over a month to actually get the signature. Then I had to take time off work for 15 straight weeks to attend the class. Let’s just say the whole process was a pain in the neck and I don’t wish that hassle on anyone.

Last year I heard comments from conference goers at both the ACS2012 and the CCC2012. People said that they always love the seminar parts of the conferences. The most common complaint was that the seminars were too short and we were only scratching the surface of the topic. This got me thinking.

What if Rockies Venture Club were able to provide continuing education classes taught by industry experts just like the Universities do? Although we thought we might have a couple of modifications to the traditional course plan. RVC Academy classes would be stand-alone, two-hour events so you don’t have to worry about scheduling months in advance. The classes would be focused on issues surrounding private equity since that’s what we do best. Since these issues are important to both entrepreneurs and investors we’d make sure that all classes were open to both types of folks to learn side by side.

Our classes are open to the public. You don’t need to be accepted to the program like TechStars or the Founder institute, just register quickly online and attend. Although we do have to charge tuition for the classes, we are planning to schedule once a month classes that are free to all RVC members. Also, all classes are free to Keystone Members so we do feel good about providing the community with affordable options.

We just started the regular series of classes this month and frankly, we didn’t know how amazing these classes were going to be. Not to toot our own horns but, holy shmoly these classes were a good idea! It turns out that our community is just crawling with expertise.

  • Mid January, Brian Tsuchiya gave an overview of the little known ways to register your investor deal with the state of Colorado. Colorado has form RL and SCOR which allow you some freedom in advertising your deal publicly and legally.
  • January 28th we had Lauren Ivison from Clear Creek Partners and Kelly Matthews from RWO teach a room of investors and entrepreneurs about structuring their investment deal. Lauren occasionally has to turn away folks seeking A Round investment because they’ve so badly botched previous term sheets. Her class will certainly help folks prevent this kind of avoidable flub.

We saw great attendance at both of these classes and people’s wheels were really turning as they scribbled notes furiously. The format is such that we have lots of time for discussion and interaction. Also, we want students to go home with new knowledge, but not so much new information that they can’t process it.

We’re super excited about the pipeline of great classes in the next few months.

In the beginning of February we’ll learn about Market Strategy and Branding from Access Marketing Company.  At the end of the month, we’ll get an in depth view of Due Diligence from Lauren Costantini (CID4). She’ll school us on how much due diligence angels should reasonably be doing, how they should  go about it, and how can entrepreneurs can make the process easier to accomplish.

Even the Angel Capital Summit in March will be affected by our new view on continuing education. The workshops will be longer and get deeper into the nitty gritty of the topics presented.

I’m particularly excited about this spring’s educational lineup. Michael Armstrong from Front Range CFO will hold two classes on accounting. The first will be a basic course to get all of us non-accountants up to speed on accounting basics like quickbooks, debits/credits, balance statements, and statements of cashflow. The second class will be focused on challenging and defending pro formas. Having never taken an accounting class in my whole life, I’m pretty excited to see what Michael can teach me.

RVC Academy is in pilot stage. We are completely open to suggestions for future classes! In the comments, let us know what topics you’d like to see or teach this year.

Nicole Gravagna, MS, PhD, is the Director of Operations for the Rockies Venture Club. After having spent way too many years involved in formal educational programs, she is happy to be guiding the RVC Academy, which can best be described as an “informal educational program”.

 

 

Crowdfunding Myth Busting Series – Capital Flood

Peter Adams, Executive Director at Rockies Venture Club

Let’s tackle crowdfunding myth busting to better prepare for raising capital. What are the most commonly believed myths in crowdfunding? Let’s look at many of them to find what’s truth and what to debunk. We’ll start with crowdfunding as a flood of capital. Then we’ll examine several more myths over the next week or two, so look for subsequent blog posts in the coming days.

Myth #1:

Crowdfunding will open the floodgates of capital for their business.

Reality:

It’s a lot more difficult to raise money than entrepreneurs believe. There is not a huge, untapped market of investors out there just waiting for the opportunity to invest in startup companies. Those who have the interest are probably already involved in Angel Investing groups like Rockies Venture Club. The rest are unaware of the opportunities for angel investing, and crowdfunding is not likely to produce immediate activity among these investors.

Entrepreneurs have difficulty raising capital for lots of reasons. Rarely is it because they simply can’t access unaccredited investors or public solicitation. There are many other reasons that keep entrepreneurs from getting their investment – primarily surrounding their concept (is it a lifestyle company or a venture company?) or their readiness level.

The most common problem is that entrepreneurs want to jump into fundraising before they do the work. Even on a crowdfunding site, backers are going to want to see an experienced and proven team, a product or prototype, paying customers, proformas, and other finished homework before funding occurs. You may not need these things when approaching friends and family for investment, but when you are convincing people you’ve never met before – you need to be prepared.

Companies will still need to spend huge amounts of time and money to bring people to their portal sites and invest.  This is not a “build it and they will come” situation. Even if the company has gone through a thorough readiness preparation, the marketing of a public security is complex and expensive. Just having a page or video on a portal is not likely to sell equity in your company or gain you donations. You will need to mobilize your social media network, reach out to individuals and groups, advertise, promote through speaking and making appearances at angel groups, and more.

Entrepreneurs who realize that funding portals are just one tool among many resources that they will need to marshal in order to receive investment will tend to do the best when crowdfunding sites are launched.

 

Stay tuned for the next crowdfunding myth busting blog post on fraud

 

(Crowd) Funding Frenzy

When the SEC missed two deadlines in implementing the JOBS Act, it seems to only have heightened the buzz of crowdfunding. Locally, we’ve seen crowdfunding-focused events on all the calendars. John Eckstein spoke to a room full of CFOs about what we can expect in the near future. Brian Tsuchiya (of Vim Capital) has been educating Denver and Boulder about how they can register with the state and do some crowdfunding right now before JOBS Act laws go into effect.

The crowdfunding craze has seeped into my free time too. I was enjoying a rare night off at a party and a woman sidles over to me and starts talking shop. “I’m going to do that thing where you put your business online and get donations.” Further discussion revealed that she’s got a new acupuncture practice and a whole lot of student loan debt.

“What are you going to give your backers?” I ask. I was thinking for a $50 donation she could send backers an informative self-published guide about acupuncture or some wellness materials.

“I’m not going to give them anything. That’s the point. It’s a donation.” She quipped.

Unfortunately, this is a common perception about crowdfunding. Folks think they can come up with an idea, a need, or a sob story and other folks will line up in droves to fork over their hard-earned cash. A quick look at Indiegogo suggests that they could be partly right. One group raised $1500 to save hens from slaughter; another $7169 to get heart surgery for a little boy in the Philippines.

You can have a sob story like the doomed hens or you can have a legitimate product such as the Misfit Shine. Either way, you need to get your backers involved and feeling like they are part of something. Even the hen keepers send you a picture of the hen you saved and allow you to name your hen if you wish. $25 for a picture of a lucky hen and the warm feeling of happy clucking? Hey, it inspired the 34 folks who backed the hens.

Let’s get back to Misfit Shine before I wax poetic about the farmyard for too long. This is a product like a Fitbit that allows users to set fitness goals and keep on task using the iPhone as an interface. Sure it’s a great product; who doesn’t want to be more fit? All around popular, it just won second place for best gadget at Las Vegas CES (Consumer Electronics Show). But what I love about this Indiegogo campaign is that they did it right and raised $846,438 with an initial goal of only $100k. The Misfit Shine campaign pre-sold their product through the crowdfunding site. Now 7 days after their campaign closed, we’ll see if they can keep those backers happy. You can already find the excitement wavering on their Indiegogo page with comments like, “I’m with Liran on this one. Getting a bit nervous. How about addressing your backers’ questions?”

Although it remains to be seen whether Misfit will fulfill their backer’s dreams, or take the money and run, there’s a few things that made them stand out. These are the same things we talk about in Pitch Academy where companies learn how to pitch to angel investors.

  1. Team – They have a experienced team of over 25 people between San Francisco and Vietnam.
  2. Use of Funds – They tell you where they are in the product development process: the prototype is made, the supply chain is determined. It sincerely sounds like they are honing the product, not bumbling around with an untested idea.
  3. Promotion Strategy – They have 34 articles written about them which cannot be attributed to dumb luck. This team knows a little something about getting press. My favorite is the article from WIRED about how Misfit failed on Kickstarter only to make a comeback on Indiegogo.

It will be a great success story for Misfit and Indiegogo if the project ends with happy backers and a lot of good press for a new company. We’ll have to wait and see how it goes.

As for using Indiegogo to fund an acupuncture career like the hopeful woman at my cocktail party…  There are some projects in the Indiegogo queue right now focused on acupuncture: getting education for an acupuncturist, bringing acupuncture to developing nations, and using acupuncture to help specific people who have been injured. In looking for something akin to the project that came up at my cocktail party, the closest campaign I could find was “Keep Acupuncture Affordable“. This project was designed to help a sliding-scale community acupuncturist stay current with her credentials as the Canadian health regulations change out from under her. She’s doing a service for the community and she’s about to be shut down if she doesn’t get some support in terms of financial backing for a required course. She raised only $1,621 of her $5,000 goal. I can’t be sure, but I’m guessing most of her backers were current clients and friends, not random folks who have too much money in their wallets.

The best thing to do when creating a campaign is to put yourself in the shoes of your potential backers. Why would you fund one project over another? The people backing these campaigns are real folks, just like you, who live on a budget and have to make hard financial choices when they realize it’s time to get a whole new set of tires on the car. You are asking these people to hand over $25, $50, or sometimes even $500 with absolutely no recourse if you take the money and run.

All I’m saying is that people don’t give money randomly or freely. Everyone wants something when they back a project. You’ll be much more successful in crowdfunding through Kickstarter of Indigogo if you can find a way to get your backers to feel connected to your project. Whether it’s naming a chicken, getting a gift box from Alphonso’s aunt in the Philippines, buying the Mistfit product months before it’s available to the public, or even getting an emailed mp3 of a workday meditation from the acupuncturist. There is still no such thing as a free lunch. When people give you money, they want something in return.

 

CFOs updated on JOBS Act

CFO EVENT ON JOBS ACT – Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Guest Post by Chris Baron for Rockies Venture Club

The Denver Chief Financial Officers Group met at IMA, Inc. offices in LODO Tuesday to hear a presentation by attorney John Eckstein on the status of the JOBS Act.

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act was Act signed into law April 5th, 2012 by President
Obama to provide cost-effective access to capital for companies of all sizes. Finalization of the Act’s
details has been anticipated by both companies wanting to work in the space as well as by those
wanting to raise capital.

The measure would provide a new form of financing to small companies. Through crowd-funding, or the
sale of small amounts of stock to many individuals, companies could solicit equity investments through
the Internet or elsewhere, raising up to $1 million annually without being required to register the shares
for public trading with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Eckstein, of Fairfield and Woods, P.C., spoke to a filled room, and described the Act as, “the most
important deregulation in securities and finance since I became a lawyer.” “This proposal will allow
small businesses to go direct to general advertising and general solicitation, without any intermediary
whatsoever, and this is for businesses of any size, and it includes hedge funds and private capital.”

Typically crowd-funding attempts to raise capital for new projects and businesses by soliciting
contributions via three types of crowd-funding models: (1) Donations, Philanthropy and Sponsorship
where there is no expected financial return, (2) Lending and (3) Investment in exchange for equity, profit
or revenue sharing.

Eckstein provided a high level overview of the Act’s progress and status. The Act consists of 7 sections,
including Title II – Access to Capital for Job Creators; Title III – Crowd-Funding; Title IV – Small Company
and Capital Formation.

While elements of the Act have been solidifying, everyone is waiting to for the SEC to finalize the crowd-
funding section, expected sometime in 2014.

The main concerns in Congress and the SEC revolve around protecting investors. Eckstein joked that
Congress’s definition of the crowd-funding Act is “Capital Raising Online While Deterring Fraud and
Unethical behavior.” “That’s Crowdfunding from the view of the SEC and Congress but that’s not how
the people in Boulder and the people at companies like Kickstarter think of it,” he said.

About the Crowdfunding Industry

In what is already a multi-billion dollar industry, the equity part is poised for significant growth upon
completion of legislation due to very tight capital markets and the publicity of project success stories on
platforms such as CircleUp and Kickstarter.

CircleUp announced January 10th, 2013 that it had helped raise five food-related businesses raise over
$5 million. It combines the popularity surrounding small-production, high-quality products with the
momentum of crowd-funding. It’s an equity-based platform that enables accredited investors to make
direct investments in up-and-coming consumer products businesses.

Accredited versus non-accredited investors is something that those seeking capital need to be aware of,
as there are different requirements for different offerings.

On January 8th, 2013 Kickstarter, which focuses on creative projects from Games to Film and Music to
Fashion announced it’s Best of 2012, which highlighted $319 million raised for 18,000 projects and 2.2
million backers.

Perhaps the most publicized project to date was the Pebble watch, which raised over $10 million and is
scheduled to ship early this year after some delays. And earlier today, the world’s thinnest watch, the
anti-Pebble, has raised over $500,000, or 250 percent of its funding goal and the founders aren’t sure
how much they will eventually raise beyond their $200,000 initial goal. The watch is due to ship this
September.

It’s these kinds of numbers that have entrepreneurs excited by what will happen when the crowd-
funding provision of the JOBS Act is finalized. And as crowd-funding leaves narrow niches and becomes
available to businesses of various sizes and industries, it will provide a completely new space for
entrepreneurs and investors to meet.

Chris Baron is a guest reporter for Rockies Venture Club.

Investor Pitch Deck Series #2 – Exit Strategy

 

Dear reader,

This is the second of many blogposts in a series that I’m calling the Investor Pitch Deck Series. I am creating a post about each investor pitch slide, why it is important, the common errors, and how to communicate that you have what it takes to achieve your goals for this company.

Posts in this series


The mantra for this series will be, “Above all, make sense.”


The Exit Strategy Slide

The exit strategy is one of the top three things that a potential investor wants to know about your business. There are two facets to an exit strategy – human and economic. The human element is simply whether the founders are interested in selling the business in a few years. The economic element is whether the business can be sold to a buyer in a few years. Your exit strategy slide must convey your desire to use this business to make money for yourself and investors. It also must directly describe the path that you are taking to create value in your company and to secure one or more potential buyers. Remember, the majority of your company’s value is gained at the exit.

Cringe Factors

Cringe Factor #1 – You describe your exit strategy as an acquisition by a large company like Google, Amazon, or Facebook.

Why this makes us cringe – Acquisition, IPOs, and mergers are goals, not strategies. If you are banking your time and your investors’ money on a lucky break, then everyone should be nervous for the future of this deal.

How to do it right – Research the recent acquisitions for at least three companies similar to yours in the last three years. Have the details of these exits in your back pocket to be used for follow up Q&A if you don’t mention these comparables directly in the pitch. Another great step toward a solid exit strategy is to have conversations with potential acquiring companies prior to the pitch. Savvy entrepreneurs will put out feelers in conversations with multiple companies months or years in advance of an exit.

Cringe Factor #2 – You don’t want to exit for 10+ years.

Why this makes us cringe – Venture investors are primarily interested in making their money grow quickly. If you think that an early exit for a few million is a sellout move, then your company might not be suited for venture (or angel) capital. Perfectly good companies make a lot of money for the owners without ever taking investor capital or exiting.

How to do it rightResearch your options. If you are seeking seed stage capital to grow your company, then check out the other ways to grow your company even if you are pretty sure investor capital is for you. Determine whether your goals are aligned with those of investors. Approach investors only after you are certain than you see a quick exit as a success and not a sell-out. Some people would rather be King than be rich and those people should really consider whether they should be seeking investment capital at all.

The Controversial Exit Slide

The exit strategy slide is rarely discussed in VC blogs, online forums, and other centers of intelligence on venture capital fundraising. Art of the Start Guru, Guy Kawasaki doesn’t include it in his 10 VC slides. ReOverthinking’s example pitch deck, while really good, neglects the exit slide completely. So, why is Rockies Venture Club pushing for an Exit Slide?

In our community, entrepreneurs can find themselves face to face with an interested investor at any moment – in the bathroom during an RVC event, in a class, over appetizers and drinks, or in a mastermind meeting where entrepreneurs discuss strategy. Many of our investors are entrepreneurs who exited well in their last venture and now they jump the fence on a daily basis back and forth from entrepreneur role to investor role. Entrepreneurs rarely know when they are surrounded by investors. When we accept a new RVC company, we want them to be ready to pitch at a moment’s notice anywhere, with slides or without, in 30 seconds or 30 minutes.

The exit slide is simply an embodiment of real research on acquisition partners and shows the future goals of the founders. If you’ve done the work and made the slide, you never have to show it to anyone. Investors can tell that you know what you want and you are capable of doing the work to get there.

Bijan Sabet from Boston VC firm Spark Capital argues that there is no way to predict the ultimate buyer of your company, so don’t even worry about the exit when you are seeking seed stage capital. This to me is like saying you can’t predict your exact career trajectory so don’t even worry about your college major. I’m apparently not alone in my disapproval of this perspective. The point is, don’t spend all your time planning the exit. However, you DO need to have given it enough time that you don’t get that deer-in-the-headlights look when the investor asks about it.

 

Article by Nicole Gravagna, PhD, Director of Operations for the Rockies Venture Club as part of a series on the elements of an investor pitch deck. The next post is on the Team Slide.


It's Angel Capital Summit Time Again!

Register for Angel Capital Summit 2013
Date: Tuesday March 19th and Wednesday March 20th
Location: University of Denver, Sturm Hall, Room 346, 2000 E. Asbury Ave. Denver CO

Registration is open!

(Updates added on Jan 28th, 2013)

Angel Capital Summit is a two day conference designed to bring together angel investors and vetted companies that are serious about raising private equity.

Apply to Pitch

Now accepting applications to pitch at the March, 2013 Angel Capital Summit. The ACS has more early stage companies and investors in one place than any other event in Colorado all year!

New Single-track Format

The single-track format brings both sides of the negotiating table together on important legal, financial, and social implications of private equity deals. Entrepreneurs and Investors are faced with different challenges surrounding the same topics. With all the players in the same room throughout the workshops and pitches, we hope that the discussion will powerful and that more connections will be made throughout the day.

Workshops

Angel investing and raising money from angel investors both require a specific set of skills that are not common knowledge. Experts in each field lead in-depth workshops on topics such as understanding the termsheet, preparing and executing due diligence, vetting exit strategies, go-to-market strategy, and developing the board.

Pitches

We have access to the best up-coming companies in Colorado and around the country. We will identify the companies that are serious about raising capital, connect with the ones that best suited for angel capital investment, and coach them to begin developing relationships with investors.

 

Shark Tank

RVC Shark Tank Forums

Shark Tank

The holidays are a time of reconnecting with old friends and much-missed family. Inevitably, over the last month, my conversations have turned to work and how things are going in the new job I began this year. I’ve been with the Rockies Venture Club since the end of January 2012. We’re a small staff (only two until very recently) and the job has been hectic, scary, fun, amazing, and rewarding for all kinds of reasons.

My friends and family don’t really understand what I do for work. I tell them that I run a non-profit that connects entrepreneurs and investors. When I get to the part about helping companies pitch to investors, my friends faces light up with recognition. “Oh!”, they exclaim, “Like ‘Shark Tank‘ on TV!” I generally shrug and make comparisons and differences and wave off the idea that Rockies Venture Club is anything like the Emmy nominated reality show by Mark Burnett.

But then I reflect on the unique vantage point that we have here at RVC. From our small office in Thrive LoDo, we see incredible quantities of early-stage company dealflow. We know the (often secret) identities of the 200+ angel RVC Forum Investors in Colorado and elsewhere. We get to witness the leaps and bounds of improvements made between Friday afternoon at Pitch Academy and the following Tuesday at the Monthly Pitch Event. We are sometimes the first to find out that a company has closed a round, sometimes the last. And we know the truth when three companies in Denver simultaneously think they are the ONLY ones solving a given problem.

There are some similarities between Rockies Venture Club and ‘Shark Tank’. In the television show, the Sharks are angel investors. They are playing with their own money so they can make go, no-go decisions without discussing the deal with anyone. Most of the investors in our RVC Investor Forums are angels too. Their due diligence process can be expedited into a 15 hour study instead of a 15 week operation because they don’t have to answer to principals like Venture Capitalists do.

On the show, the Sharks have stacks of cash sitting next to them on their table. A viewer can get wrapped up in the drama of the stories, pitches, and negotiations and might forget to keep track of the amounts of money pledged by the Sharks to the entrepreneurs. I was amazed to read that it took 3 seasons of ‘Shark Tank’ before the Sharks’ investments totaled $15 million. They aired 38 episodes of the show in those three seasons. Our companies raised the same amount in a single year with only 12 “episodes” of RVC Pitch Events. At the rate we are helping companies raise money, we could have nearly $50 million raised after 38 pitch events!

Obviously, RVC is different than ‘Shark Tank’. We tend to look at early-stage companies, but the Sharks entertain embryonic companies with undeveloped teams and even inventors working alone. We don’t have a panel of investors at the pitch events who banter with each other and the entrepreneur; instead we let the whole community ask questions of the pitching company. Further, our negotiations go on behind closed doors. As for the dramatic focus, we prefer that the entrepreneur revel in the spotlight during the pitch instead of the investors stealing the show.

Shark Tank is in the middle of a very successful 4th season and RVC Investor Forum is wrapping up its very promising first year. We hope that RVC’s investors will continue to be active participants in the fun work that we do at RVC. It may not be exactly like Shark Tank, but really is a blast to get involved with all of the RVC companies. We get to meet amazing, driven, brilliant people who want only to achieve their company’s goals. It’s a pretty inspiring place to be. We’ve had a busy year, for sure, but there’s an upside to what we do. It’s downright entertaining.

 

Editorial by Nicole Gravagna, Director of Operations, Rockies Venture Club