Re­flec­tions on hunt­ing in the Rock­ies

Netcel­er­ateCEOon­pitch­ingto ven­ture­cap­i­tal­ists

Ottawa Business Journal - Techopia - - Hindsight -

J ack Hunt knew what he was af­ter when he packed his bags last year and headed to Banff for that city’s an­nual Ven­ture Forum. His com­pany, Netcel­er­ate, was look­ing for one or two in­vestors to pro­vide a to­tal in­vest­ment of $5 mil­lion for its next fi­nanc­ing round, expected to be in the fol­low­ing 18 to 24 months. But that wasn’t his goal in Banff. “We wanted to take our time,” the CEO said. “We wanted to start the dance a bit early and see if we could find a good part­ner­ship … We wanted to get to know them.”

GET­TING IN THE DOOR

We went through an ex­ten­sive ( vet­ting process). There were three dif­fer­ent lev­els of re­views that we had to do. We made an ini­tial sub­mis­sion and then a tele­phone in­ter­view with a panel of VCs that asked ques­tions and vet­ted our story (as well as those from other On­tario firms). Based on that, we went to the next round, which was (a) sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence ex­cept it was on a na­tional level.

They took the time to make sure they had a cross-sec­tion of dif­fer­ent types of com­pa­nies in dif­fer­ent points of their life cy­cle. There were early-stage com­pa­nies, and there were a lot (of firms with) beta prod­ucts. There were also some es­tab­lished com­pa­nies look­ing for very sig­nif­i­cant tranches of fi­nanc­ing.

PREPA­RA­TION

The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s Re­gional In­no­va­tion Cen­tre pro­vided a pro­fes­sional coach that helped shape the pre­sen­ta­tion and helped you stand out.

The trap that you can fall into is ( giv­ing the typ­i­cal) rough out­line – talk­ing about the mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ties, dif­fer­en­tia­tors, the typ­i­cal things. Ev­ery­body is try­ing to talk in the same way. So what (a coach pro­vided by the Re­gional In­no­va­tion Cen­tre) sug­gested is fo­cus­ing on some of (our) cus­tomers.

Some of the early-stage com­pa­nies don’t have cus­tomers. If you talk about a cus­tomer and talk about the value that they get from the so­lu­tion, then you can talk about how we can build a busi­ness based on those types of cus­tomers ... A po­ten­tial in­vestor can start to un­der­stand why cus­tomers would adopt this so­lu­tion and ... see the mar­ket that is out there.

UP ON STAGE

There was a main con­fer­ence room that sat a cou­ple of hun­dred peo­ple. You had 12 min­utes to talk and three min­utes for ques­tions. You’d give your spiel; your charts would be shown as pro­jec­tions at the front.

Out of that, the in­vestors would ei­ther come to you and try to get time with you, or you could net­work around and try to strike up con­ver­sa­tions with some of the VCs that you want to tar­get.

One of the things that worked re­ally well for us is that we brought a booth. We set up out­side the con­fer­ence room. It re­ally helped, be­cause in­vestors that had heard the pre­sen­ta­tion knew where to find us. We ( pitched) early (and) had a steady stream of in­vestors com­ing up (to the booth).

THE FOL­LOWUP

We’ve struck up a con­ser­va­tion with a num­ber of po­ten­tial in­vestors, both pri­vate and in­sti­tu­tional. I see Banff as ( hav­ing) started the ball rolling. What we’re now do­ing is keep­ing the con­ver­sa­tion go­ing. We’ve given them up­dates on where we are and we’re hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions with them. That was the goal that we set out to do.

When we end a quar­ter, we give them a quick up­date on how busi­ness is go­ing and some of the growth so they can get a sense that there is mo­men­tum in the busi­ness and things are hap­pen­ing.

— As told to Peter Kovessy

Jack Hunt

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