[Editor’s Note: For coverage of Day Three, click here.]
On the first two days of CED’s three-day Venture Connect summit, local startups and investors gathered virtually to discuss and connect on a variety of topics.
Last year, the spread of Covid-19 forced CED to quickly change its annual conference into a virtual format. This time around, with a full year of experience in a virtual-first world, CED has made some tweaks.
First, it removed the fee for companies to participate in hopes of bringing in a more diverse group. CED has also made pitches available on a company’s profile instead of streaming them all live.
On Tuesday’s Day One, the sessions included a Founder Discussion: The Power of Early Support; Sales in a Virtual Environment; Tech VC Panel: Raise Capital 10 Times as Fast As Your Peers; Founder Discussion: Matching Skills to Stage & Growth; Meet The Investors; and more.
Jason Caplain, the Co-Founder of Durham’s Bull City Ventures Partners, hosted the Tech VC Panel. He spoke with Dave Samuel, founding general partner at Freestyle; Emily Foote, principal at Osage Venture Partners; Ryan Moore, founding partner at Accomplice; Ted Wang, partner at Cowboy Ventures; and Tige Savage, managing partner at Revolution Ventures.
As Moore put it, he and Accomplice are helping founders get out of their own way.
One thing the panelists brought up is the dreaded cold email pitch from founders. As Wang said, mass mailings don’t work.
“It tells us you’re not really interested in us,” Wang said. “You’re just trying to raise money and you’re blasting something out, and it’s sloppy.”
Some panelists, like Samuel, require a referral first. In fact, the majority of panelists felt that the best way to get in touch was through a referral from someone they trust.
When founders are able to get their pitch in front of investors, the idea behind a startup is often less important to the check-writers than founders may think. Samuel said that for him, investment decisions are based 60% on the team, 30% on the market and just 10% on the idea.
Osage Venture Partners’ Foote said that for her, experience is more attractive than credentials in a founder.
“The entrepreneurs that are most attractive to us are the continuous learners,” Foote said.
The changes that have come along with the rise of remote work also have affected the tech scene. Savage said the world has gotten a lot smaller, making faraway deals and a distributed workforce more tangible than they ever previously were.
On Wednesday’s Day Two, innovators gathered to discuss Objectives and Key Results and listened to the Keynote Discussion with former Medtronic CEO William Hawkins and Inclusive Capital Founder Jeff Ubben, moderated by journalist Polina Marinova. Wednesday’s conference also streamed the pitches of startups Finmark, Gearo, InsightFinder, Peoplelogic.ai and Austin-based Cerebri (all the local ones have been covered by GrepBeat).
During the Keynote, Hawkins said there’s been increasing discussions in the boardroom about employees, the community and global issues at large.
In talking about how to create a successful board, Ubben also said companies need to be intentional about recruiting women.
“You should aspire to develop board talent,” Ubben said. “You should bring on the 39-year-old woman who has a lot of domain expertise but has never been on a board before, and you should develop her—and you should do that over and over and over again.”
When it comes to exciting new investment opportunities, Hawkins said that in life science, gene therapy and digital therapeutics are offering more capabilities than they ever had before.
Hawkins also shared advice for founders: companies get bought, not sold, so it’s important to look at the long term in building a company.
“You got to take the point of view that you’re building a company for the long run,” Hawkins said.
Companies also need to be sure they start with a real purpose and mission, he said.
“You need to make sure that at the end of the day, you know what you want to do and you want to create something that’s going to generate real value,” Hawkins said. “Value not just for your shareholders, but value for your employees and ultimately value for your community.”
When it comes to the two Keynote speakers’ charitable actions since reaching success, both have made a mark in their communities.
Ubben said there are two types of people in the world in terms of how they view their success. There are those who believe their success came from just themselves, and those who believe they were incredibly lucky.
“What I’ve learned is that those that view that they had so much luck involved in their success seemed to be the most generous,” Ubben said. “And I couldn’t have been more lucky in my career along the way.”