Chris McCall from startup Fotokite was voted team captain for Venture Leaders Technology 2018 – find out his first hand account of an intense week of networking, pitching and unfortunate clothing malfunctions!
Bags packed, demos prepared, decks ready (at least we thought so…). We were on our way to Silicon Valley! Ten of us, each of us representing Swiss tech startups and selected for the Venture Leaders Swiss National Startup Team headed over to the Bay Area to pitch our companies to some of the most respected venture capital investors in the world.
The group was buzzing with excitement as we all got on the plane and before we knew it, we were sitting in the incredible swissnex location on Pier 17 in San Francisco’s waterfront the next morning. We received a great introductory perspective on how things work in the Valley by an experienced and culture-bridging Phillip Stauffer from FYRFLY Venture Partners. Multiple-time founder, great investment track record, highly appreciated insight. This was a great start to the week and proved to be super valuable to the teams in shaping their approach to pitching VCs from SV.
Later an impressive discussion with Chris Gaertner, who runs Rothschild’s Global Advisory office in SF and then some direct pitch & feedback sessions. Teams were soaking up the ideas and thoughts coming in from all directions and managing to pull it all together into their next pitches- cover your market, why you and your team will make it, what is your core differentiation? And fit it all in a few minutes. Ready, go!
Tuesday opened with a trip down to Menlo Park and Palo Alto. Pitching started off with an incredibly sharp Ben Narasin at NEA, who gave a quick brochure about what he and NEA are looking for- so listen up! 5 minutes for each team plus Q&A, it’s all business time now. Everyone’s on edge, some good presentations, one entrepreneur starts off with his zipper down (but recovers brilliantly), and then the real valuable part – direct feedback from Ben. He blew every team away with his insight, pinpoint questions, and command of nearly every single market each of the teams approached him with. Incredibly impressive, and underscores the value that the Venture Leaders program was bringing to each of the teams by just getting us in the door to investors like Ben.
More focused meeting with top-line investors like Artiman, Bootup Venture, and then a round of pitching with Swisscom- packing things in while we’re there!
Wednesday opened up with another big one. Kevin Hartz at Founders Fund spent a few hours with the whole group and repeatedly handed out feedback gems to each team after their pitch. You could already see the teams getting better, clearer, focusing less on their deep tech and more on what that means to their business case and why they are uniquely positioned to execute.
Over to the high-rises. Pitching in downtown SF at Partech and then legal overview and Q&A with Foley & Lardner on how to make US investment in Swiss startups as headache-free as possible. Key takeaway: have good legal advice!
Thursday came around before we knew it, the week was flying by. Working with Tony Schneider at True Ventures was pretty inspirational- and teams began to understand that we hat think like an investor and focus on the core of what makes their decisions lead to a positive outcome. Pitches continued to improve and tune up moving into a pitch night at swissnex- fun for all and a great experience getting to watch each team’s pitch evolve over only four days.
Friday wrapped up with another highlight- a flood of pitches and feedback at Battery with Jeffrey Lu. More great feedback for teams to crunch on their way home, but not before some follow up meetings and then winding down the week with some really fun team time.
Some of the teams generated significant interest from these meetings (16 in total!) and while the real fruits of these meetings will only be evidenced later on, everyone could see the clear progress, newfound confidence, and valuable perspective that each team came out of this program with.
Stefan Steiner and Beat Schillig from Venturelab really put together an incredible program for everyone and were making it all happen with strong support from the program sponsors. Additional and significant thanks to Salome Aggeler and Linda Seward at Venturelab for keeping us organized and of course, as Swiss startups, on schedule.
The roadshow is offered thanks to the support of Rothschild, Kellerhals Carrard, Canton de Vaud, digitalswitzerland, EPF Lausanne, ETH Zurich, Gebert Rüf Stiftung, DPD and swissnex San Francisco.
Photos: Chris McCall and group photo: Pep Shot, All others: Stefan Steiner