Tuesday, August 11, 2015

why I favor 3 minute timed pitches

In addition to my work at Long River Ventures, I'm now working with Village Capital, an international accelerator program that features peer-selected capital.

One of the practices we have at Village Capital is a three minute pitch, inspired by Ignite-style presentations.

We've typically got a dozen companies in a cohort and while pitching is not the point of the program, it's still an important skill. We do venture forums in various formats and our companies need to be able to effectively introduce themselves to people. We've found that the best way of doing this is a three minute pitch with several restrictions:
  • A cover slide that isn't timed and is on screen when the company gets up on stage.
  • Following the cover slide, twelve slides timed for 15 seconds, on auto-advance.
  • An end slide, typically with contact information that is on screen when the company leaves the stage.
When the company gets up on stage, after a sentence introduction by us and a short value proposition statement by the company, we do the "click" to the first auto-timed slide. They don't have a clicker--again, everything is auto advance. Companies are not allowed to have a slide that is anything other than 15 seconds although they can take away one of their twelve slides and do a slide for 30 seconds. They aren't allowed to put sound and video into a presentation. We find that it's just too likely to produce problems. They are allowed to do animation within a particular slide. 

Why do we subject our companies to the regime?
  • As an audience member, listening to twelve presentations in quick succession with a similar cadence allows for easier pattern recognition. Also, if you don't like a presenter you know that they'll be off stage in a set amount of time. No rambling! Feedback from people who know is universally that the presentations from the Village Capital cohorts are among the very best they've seen.
  • As a presenter, forcing you to present without clicker, on auto-advance, ensures that your presentation stays on track and, in our experience, on average makes you a better presenter.
We do often get one company saying "I don't need to hew to that format, because I'm a good presenter." Our response is:
(a) this is the way we do it
(b) it generally improves the less good presenters--you'll be glad that the overall quality is high and this will reflect well on the whole cohort including you
(c) again, an audience listening to twelve presentations with a similar cadence can do better pattern recognition and therefore you have a better chance they'll remember you especially if you're placed towards the beginning of the presenters--the whole point of this is to produce meetings 1:1 after the presentation, not to communicate everything the audience needs to know

Sunday, August 09, 2015

phone failures

I currently have two mobile phones, one on Verizon and one on Google Fi. I know. Silly. BUT ... the other day BOTH of them failed. My Verizon phone suddenly went off network. No service. And this was in downtown Boston. I turned to my Google Fi phone. AND IT WASN'T ON NETWORK EITHER. I was in a location that has good mobile coverage. The only thing I can think of is that some tower that Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile are all on went off line temporarily. And unfortunately there wasn't a wifi for the Fi to jump onto. Anyway, I know these are first world problems but it did cause me to wonder if my old BlackBerry would have failed. I know that this was probably a network or tower problem that also would have affected a BlackBerry but it caused me to think about a few things:

  1. Why do my Motorola phones periodically, randomly just restart? My BlackBerry never did that.
  2. The more I use my old Miata (now 19 years and counting) the more I'm happy with it and the less attractive the new sports cars are. It's never failed, it's closing on 100k miles and it feels as solid and planted on the road as it ever did.
  3. I look at some of the EDC forums that are utterly obsessed with the reliability of knives and other gear and I do have to wonder if there's a market for some phone that is rock solid and doesn't ever quit. Makes me want something like an old BlackBerry that could switch networks like a Google Fi including hopping on wifi but just has basic functionality--nothing to cause unexpected problems.