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