I had the opportunity to experience a 4-hour event this past Wednesday evening that was truly brilliant. It was the Open Angel Forum inaugural event in Boulder, CO in which I revealed FireBreak by Odojo. A few of the other 5 companies (out of +100 that applied) have written great posts on the event here, here, here, and here. The event was pulled together out of the ether by Jason, Brad, and David who do more, for free, for entrepreneurs than anyone else I know.
Instead of repeating what my compatriots in this experience have written I thought I would post about the process and atmosphere that evening.
This whole process started with the founding of The Open Angel Forum (worth the read of the site to learn it’s history). After the first event in LA David posted a call for the 2nd event in Boulder. The application is VERY simple but I would recommend that if you apply for future events defiantly sit down with your team and advisors and do a 7min video pitch. This really helped me condense what we are doing down to the essence of the opportunity. Having built a few companies in the past and also having raised millions of dollars as well I am used to an “hour” pitch when I visit vc’s. Having done OAF I now have a condensed video I can share ahead of time, I can hit all the main points in 6minutes and still have time for a good demo, so I really only need 15minutes in the future. As you can see on the application valuation, competitors, and revenue strategy, the 3 hardest parts of a startup to discuss, are all required. One thing I noticed about the other entrepreneurs selected is that at least one person in the company (you can bring a “wing-man” to the event) had experience building another company, so covering valuation, competitors, and revenue strategy is easier to discuss. After I submitted my app I got a few emails from David clarify some points and then I had to wait. The selection process happened Monday night and I received the “your in” email on Tuesday morning. One thing I like about OAF is the “Fight Club” like rules. In the email it asks that you not share with anyone that you are a presenter until after you arrive at the event. You have 7 minutes of pitching and 3 minutes of Q&A. And what was really cool for me was that I was given an address and time to be there, I had no idea who was attending (other than Jason, David & Brad), so there was a mysterious air about the event.
Got to Boulder, grabbed an ice tea at Starbucks and headed into the event. Was met at the door by a CU MBA and he checked me off the list. Was grabbed by David to proof my slides and make sure I had everything set. Networked for about 30 minutes with the angels, entrepreneurs, and service providers. As a side note- in future events I think different color name-tags representing the 3 groups in attendance would help. I really wanted to make sure I thanked each service provider who paid to attend and underwrote the event in person so if I missed you on Weds- Thank You! Now back to the story…At 6:45 the other pitchers and myself were brought into “The Green Room” basically a holding room were we sat during the event. Jason and David gave us a background on the OAF and you could hear the pride in Jason’s voice for creating such a cool and well respected event so quickly. They shared the stats on how many applied and that we are the best who applied (The best for this event. I believe for any given event ANYONE with a well thought out idea that solves a real world problem, can articulate it, has gotten beyond the idea stage and has actually built a company around the idea, could make it to present) and that the angels in attendance are “the real deal” who are doing active investing. They gave us the pitch roster and we were left to wait our turn. While waiting a fellow pitcher made that joke “I wonder if we are going to have to record a Ford commercial”, in comparison to American Idols green room. That broke the ice and we all had fun talking about our companies and being at the event. We must have been pretty laid back because the CU MBA came in and asked us to keep it down, twice. One thing I noticed about the other entrepreneurs is that we all were trying to help each other out. We were making connections and recommending partnership ideas right and left.
My turn came to pitch and I talked about… you are going to have to wait until we launch to hear that piece :>) But when I finished my pitch, which you do standing up so practice standing so you do not move and sway, the questions started. I always say that the quality of questions convey how well you pitched. If you pitch badly then the questions will be few and off topic because your audience is confused. My questions were good and insightful, so I felt relieved that I did ok. Answered all the questions and went back to the green room.
After the last presenter all the entrepreneurs came out and we networked with as many angels as we could. Cards exchanged hands and I have always believed in having paper copies of my pitch on hand so I gave those out to the interested angels. Talked to numerous angels and was the last to leave. Got in the car, headed home, and could not sleep. This event, more than any other, had me to excited. I liken it to what the TechStar companies must feel all summer. Every year I think about applying for TechStars because it sounds so cool to be involved with, but having built numerous companies and having to many obligations I know that is not a realistic option. But after having done OAF I think I got to experience a little of the TechStars magic.
All in all I have no criticism for the event. Little logistical details can always be improved, but overall it just makes sense how it works. The simple application, the mysterious invite, the guarded door, the great people in attendance, it all combined to make a truly special event.