My First Pitch to VCs

Monday was the midterm pitch to the Connecticut Innovations board. The purpose of this session was to gauge our progress and get feedback on our pitch from people outside of Tech Start, - people who hear pitches day in and day out.  Even though we had to do a video pitch for Tech Start, the difference was that in video you can edit mistakes out, but in real life you can't. On the drive down to Connecticut Innovations in the morning, it hit me that this was actually my first time pitching to an group of venture capitalists, something I hope to be doing a lot more of in the future.

The midterm pitch was a very intense process. I am not sure how much other teams stressed over it, but in our case we did crazy amounts of preparation even the day before the pitch. Just to give you an idea, we started (re)working the second slide in our pitch at 1:30 and we had the final version of that ONE slide done by 7:00 pm. We spent an entire six hours on one slide. By 11:00 we were done practising for that night. When I woke up on pitch-day morning I practised in the shower and as I got ready. I was really exited that I was going to be pitching.

Over all the pitch went well. I was supposed to do the first part of the pitch.  One unexpected event was a technical glitch. The second slide, the one we spent six hours on, didn't showed up at all!. When that happened it threw me off a bit. I still talked to the points and did my best to handle the situation, but my mind was racing.  On the next slide I forgot the last bullet  point because my brain was still trying to figure out why slide number 2 didn't show up. Luckily my co-founder (and dad) Rajesh Patel jumped in and talked about it, and I was able to gather my thoughts and get back on track to finish my half of the presentation.

After my half, Rajesh took over the pitch. In the end one advisor said "You're Kickstarter for kids so just say that". It was really cool that they got our concept even though we didn't use the words "kickstarter for kids" - a phrase we often use amongst ourselves to describe MeritBooster. They also had some useful suggestions for our second pitch session on May 18th. For example, we had one slide in the deck that we didn't speak to because of the 7 minute time limit.  One of the advisors said that if we are not going to talk to a slide, just eliminate it from the deck.  They also suggested that we will have to think through our roll-out strategy because kids' fund-raising is mostly local.  They are absolutely right on this point and it's something we're still trying to figure out.

After all 9 teams were done pitching, Luke Weisntein, one of our advisers, reminded me of Murphy's Law, "Anything that can go wrong, will". He said "slides will fail to show up - you just have to get through it."

One high point for me was that at the end of the session, one of the Connecticut Innovations committee members told all the Tech Start teams that "Your enthusiasm about your business has to come through in your pitch.  If you show your excitement, that helps to get investors interested and I think our youngest presenter conveyed the most enthusiasm today". Dad has always been reminding me about conveying energy and enthusiasm every time we go to talk to anyone about MeritBooster, so that comment felt really good to hear.

Over all this was a great experience and I really appreciate the fact that the committee members took the time to really listen to us and give us helpful feedback.  I'm looking forward to our final pitch session on May 18th - stay tuned!

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