I went yesterday to a breakfast organized by the Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs, SVASE.
For those of you outside the Bay Area, you have no idea the number of “networking opportunities” there are for startups around here. There are literally at least a dozen organizations that organize these events on a regular basis, and many more on an irregular basis. You can pretty much spend your life having breakfast / lunch / nasty appetizers with other entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, advisors, consultants, accountants, lawyers, recruiters, marketing specialists, sales specialists, HR outsourcers, bankers, presentation coaches, life coaches, and more lawyers. The quality of these events is, to put it mildly, highly variable.
So it is always a pleasure when one of these events goes right. SVASE does better than average, so when I saw that they’d lined up Will Price of Hummer Winblad to meet with a handful of entrepreneurs, I signed up for a slot. Will is one of the growing number of venture capitalists who blog, and he’s better than most. There were eight of us entrepreneurs, a couple of sponsors (Deloitte hosted, providing a great venue, good bagels, and an inadequate quantity of coffee), and almost none of the usual hangers-on (zero life coaches, zero lawyers). Will gave a 10-minute introduction, providing a mix of information (about what Hummer Winblad is looking for), advice to entrepreneurs (in how to find the right investment partner), and analysis of where the software market is heading. He was clear, direct, and insightful; if you read his post entitled “Questions to Ask,” and then poke around at other recent posts, you’ll get the general idea.
After the introduction, several of us each got 10-15 minutes to give a short presentation about our company (no slides, just talk), and to take questions from Will. This is a very useful, low-risk way to get feedback from a VC without blowing your “one shot” in the VC’s office. Will was patient with all of us, giving constructive comments to each company. Even with just seven entrepreneur presentations, there was an incredible diversity of content, stage of company, polish of presentation, software architecture choices, delivery models, etc. You could see Will trying cut through all these issues to find value, while giving his own views on the issues each entrepreneur will face in raising money.
Kudos to Will for a job well done, to David Whitney of Deloitte for an event well hosted, and to Zoli Erdos of SVASE for an event well organized.