Today we attended Rice Alliance’s Life Science Technology Venture Forum. The Life Science Technology Venture Forum provides a learning atmosphere where burgeoning companies could present a progress report to investors and to explore funding options. This is a prestigious event to be included in as Rice Alliance goes out of its way to select a top list of companies doing business in the sector as well as the leading venture capital firms. In the morning we saw business plans from companies like Microtransponder and Nano3D Biosciences. In the afternoon we saw multiple elevator pitches by companies like iShoe, Lono Medical Systems, Respiratory Research Inc. and Thrombovision.
The forum provided the EDAAC team a great opportunity to shift our focus from one of engineering and design to exercising our business minds. Both the business plan presentations and the elevator pitches were enlightening to the group and without a firm grasp of the technologies involved we were able to assess each presentation simply upon its merit as a presentation itself. The criteria that merged as most important was: presenter’s energy, focal points, flow, and opening/closing.
The highlight of the conference were the two keynote speakers: Leighton Read, MD of Alloy Ventures and in the afternoon Alex Suh of California Technology Ventures. Both provided perspectives paramount to getting in and out of the funding cycle provided by Venture Capital and also how to think like an entrepreneur.
Dr. Read’s presentation could have been entitled “How to run your business on the Cowboy Code” as he went through the steps of being a cowboy and tied that to business actions. His tip of “do what has to be done” provided a nice segue to discuss the importance of identifying and acting on trends, waves and constants in business services and investing. His note “ride for the brand” addressed how loyalty can affect your career, both positively and negatively.
Alex Suh’s presentation peeled back the mystique of running a VC firm leaving a realistic cut-and-dry view of the relationship between startups and VCs. In his top ten list of “Reasons a VC says “no” to funding a company” he criticized the lack of preparation of some companies in both their business plans and background research. Several other points alluded to naivete that can cloud the projections of startups, for example, statements like “we will be profitable in two years” or “we don’t have competition we’re so superior” that demonstrate a lack of experience and realism.
We followed up the Forum with a frank discussion of what we learned and how we would act in a professional . Our personal observations were nothing surprising, mainly that companies spent too little time on their presentations which manifested itself in many ways. First, vague presentations left viewers with a dim idea of the strengths of the companies technology, market strengths and financial model. Overly technical presentations obscured the brilliance of the company, bewildering the audience and leaving them wondering why the company was superior. Too many presentations suffered from laconic or low-energy delivery. Our final conclusion was that speech writers should at least be consulted because there seems to be a low correlation between business acumen and presentation skills.
Return tomorrow for a recap discussion of our individual impressions of the Life Science Technology Venture Forum.