Start-up Pitch Competitions vs. Real Business Discussions

 

From the desk of Bob Bridge: 

I recently have attended two Demo Days, which were the final events of multi-week accelerator programs. The start-up teams were well prepared and polished as they gave highly motivational and somewhat theatrical three-minute Demo pitches. At one of the events, up-beat rock music blared as each successive speaker rushed onto stage with a huge smile and excitedly made eye contact with as many in the audience as possible. Their businesses all sounded so high-energy and wonderful!

One of the Demo-day events also allowed investors to have ten-minute, private one-on-one meetings with the companies prior to the demo-day pitches. At these meetings there were no theatrics, only open and frank discussions about the status of the business, their successes to date and the challenges they face. These meetings were substantial and helpful.

It was interesting to me that in many cases, for a given company, it felt like a different company had been in the one-on-one and in the demo pitches. The demo pitches glossed over the real-world challenges and risk factors. 

I have the same reaction to business plan competitions for university teams. Well-rehearsed theater, with only a partial connection with reality.